SPOTLIGHT: THE FLAT EARTH

flatearthfacebookIn celebration of PHIT Sketch House Team The Flat Earth‘s new show and their recent performance in the Toronto Sketch Comedy Festival we’ve put together a very necessary and glorious Q&A to get all the juicy details of what it means to be The Flat Earth.

Can you tell us about your journey to Toronto and what that experience was like?
Imagine a classic, stereotypical family road trip – Dad did most of the driving, groaning about traffic while one kid got sick in the back. We held a mixtape contest, so we had tons of great music to listen to (between spins of Kanye’s newest). A quick stop in Buffalo for wings (of course) at the (I kid you not) Nine Eleven Tavern. The wings were great. We finally rolled into Toronto around midnight.

So how does The Flat Earth go about choosing what sort of show to create. Do you guys begin with a theme/focus and write toward it or do you make material and then look for the common thread after the fact?
We mostly write independently and decide which sketches we like/laugh at the most and then just re-write, re-write, group re-write and then cut it for something else. We often fantasize about putting together a concept show (our own personal “Pet Sounds”) – but always save that for “the next show”.

What sort of themes often find their way into The Flat Earth’s shows?
Sex and Death.

Are there any writing techniques/games that The Flat Earth uses to generate material?
We find that the best tools are procrastination and stupid internet videos.

If this current show was a Magic 8-Ball and had only one phrase it kept telling you every time you shook it what would it be?
Yes.

What makes The Flat Earth giggle?
Sex and Death.

How does The Flat Earth feel about the moon?
Which moon?

What does The Flat Earth hope audience members will take away from this show?
A pack of buttons ($5 available at the box office).
Seriously – travel is expensive.

What advice does The Flat Earth have for aspiring sketch writers?
Stick with poetry.

THERE YOU HAVE IT! The Flat Earth will be performing this Thursday, March 24th at 9:00 P.M. and Friday, March 25th at 9:00 P.M.

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SPOTLIGHT: PHIT CONSERVATORY TEAM WILHELM

12799449_1662795083969940_3437038271451326921_nPHIT Conservatory is an opportunity for improvisers that have completed the PHIT Training Center (Improv 101 through 401) and are interested in working as a team to create their own form. This most recent crop of improvisers: Andrea Duffy, Ashley Fee, Joe Tuzzi, Nick Elmer, Randie Welles, James Knight, Geoff Hartmann and Katie Cwirko (coached/directed by Kristen Schier) have come together to create their own form as the team Wilhelm. In honor of Wilhelm’s March run of shows at PHIT, we sought to shed some light on the team and their experience of PHIT Conservatory through a very illuminating Q&A.

What is conservatory?
The great artist Michelangelo once said “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is up to the sculptor to discover it,” which is to say that Wilhelm is a gathering of improvisers who are stones, and when we come together we also make one big block of stone. But we are simultaneously sculptors who must discover the unique statue we are meant to be together. We are sculptors of stone who are also made out of stone—agreeable, cooperative, reasonably priced stone—whose process demands weekly night communion at an appointed time in an appointed basement in order to playfully chisel and sand away at ourselves all while laughing hysterically. This is Conservatory. **It is also a glorious meeting of the minds in which we created a form based on what we liked and how we liked playing as a group.

Was the process of creating a new form daunting?
Only when Kristen would say things like “we have a show in two weeks we should probably figure out the form.”

What is the form that you guys created?
Every Wilhelm show is multiple improvised movies at once, in different genres. Little by little everyone’s movies collide. And there are special effects!

How does Wilhelm “get in the zone” as they say, for a show?
We stare deep into each others’ eyes, we laugh until we cry, we cry until we laugh. You know, the usual.

What sort of themes often find their way into a Wilhelm performance?
Spike Lee. Cops that are buds. Weird familial relationships. Bars: specifically conversations happening in them. Old people hanging out. And death.

What makes Wilhelm giggle?
Anything Randie says.

What is Wilhelm’s advice for aspiring improvisers?
When in doubt, montage.

What does Wilhelm hope audience members will take away from a Wilhelm show?
That they didn’t get enough and plan to come to the next show!

Catch Wilhelm’s next two shows at PHIT on Sunday March 20th at 5:00 P.M. and Sunday March 27th at 5:00 P.M.

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SPOTLIGHT: NEW PHIT HOUSE TEAM SWAN YEAR

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Once upon an Autumn 2k15 two new house teams were cast at the Philly Improv Theater. One of these teams – the enigmatic and yet very visually pleasing Swan Year – has graciously answered some of our #classic PHIT spotlight questions.

What is each member of Swan Year’s catchphrase?
“Now that REALLY takes the biscuit!” – Jack O’Keeffe (based on team consensus)
“Be your own rainbow.”  – Lizzie Spellman
“Hotsy-totsy!” – Rob O’Neill
“I don’t always check Facebook regularly.” – Kristin Firth
“Jim-Jam-Jubilee!!!” – Kris-Stud Muffin-Hodge
“…Yup, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, she’s probably just an improviser…” – Marcely Jean-Pierre
“What? We’re playing Samurai?!?!” – Sam Abrams
“That’s valid.” – Vito Salerno
“I’M FINDING MYSELF.” – Annie Paradis
“Hey!” (in the style of The Fonz) – Jamie Glasheen

How does Swan Year “get in the zone” as they say, for a show?
Playing “Oh I Feel so Good”, flawlessly counting to 20, personifying food, watching Jamie do physical feats, and talking about how we are all wearing plaid shirts.

What sort of themes often find their way into a Swan Year performance?
Kids who are at someone else’s house that should probably go back to their own house. Also delis.

What makes Swan Year giggle?
Comedy Central.

If Swan Year had a vision board what would be on it?
Lots of luxury showers. A happy family life. Our mortal enemies being disappointed with their lives. Professional photos of us moving our hips in slow motion while making very confident eye contact with one another.

Is it true that some of you like Taco Bell?
“No. That is a lie. We ALL like Taco Bell. Team Favorites include: Spicy Soft Potato Taco, Beef Quesarito, and a medium Baha Blast.” – Jack O’Keeffe
“I do not like Taco Bell. I understand if that means I’m kicked off the team.” – Sam Abrams
“I mean I GET it.” – Annie Paradis
“Yes, Quesarito/Doritos Taco 2016!” – Jamie Glasheen
“Only when I’m wasted at a piano bar.” – Lizzie Spellman
“They will substitute beans into anything.” – Kristen Firth
“It’s cheap. I’m cheap. If that’s not love I don’t know what is.” – Vito Salerno
“Spoiler alert: gasoline rationing was imminent.” – Rob O’Neill  (in reference to this link he wanted us to look at)
(Nods politely to all of this) – Marcely Jean-Pierre

What is Swan Year’s advice for aspiring improvisers?
Be nice and enjoy watching your team kill it onstage, whether it’s a house team, sketch team, or indie team. Do as many shows as you can! Trust your team. Treat each show as one big trust fall. Be nice to the tech people. Be SUPER nice to the tech people. Let yourself connect and be vulnerable – if you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you gonna love anybody else!

What does Swan Year hope audience members will take away from a Swan Year show?
That we are a group of well adjusted adults. Also that they think about how good looking we all are, and how mean swans are in real life. AND for them to laugh their butts off, how they get them back on is their own problem.

Be sure to check out Swan Year this Wednesday (and most Wednesdays) March 9th at 9:00 P.M. with PHIT house team Fjord!

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THE PINWRIGHT FAMILY NEWSLETTER

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Dirty Laundry is a comedic exploration of the day-to-day life of six family members: a mom and dad (Kelly Jo Little, Rick Horner), their two children (Molly Scullion, David Donnella), and the mother’s two older sisters (Susan LaPalombara, Mary Eklund). Played by cast members whose real-life ages match that of the characters, Dirty Laundry is a realistic and funny inside view of a typical Philadelphia family. Directed by Steve Kleinedler.

In honor of this month’s Dirty Laundry show, on Saturday March 5th 7:30 P.M., the Pinwright Family has kindly put together a newsletter to get us wonderfully up to date with their busy lives.


Dear Friends and Family,

Time again for one of our famous PF Chang’s! (Pinwright Family Catch-up, Holiday Annual Newsletter Gleaners for you first-timers!) As usual, as you read this, some of you will write back, saying you consider this late for the 2015 Holiday. We can’t please everyone, and we can’t make everyone like us. Or to put it another way, as Katie Couric says, “You can’t please everyone, and you can’t make everyone like you.” What a season. The dark leaves have started secluding the light, and Connie and Bob will Netflix and chill with Elaine and Peg for the next several months. Wait, now Bob is being told “don’t write Netflix and chill, Dad” by both Haley and Marcus. Well, whatever, then, we will binge-watch and purge. By the way, if you plan to buy instead of make holiday items, keep your fingers crossed that when you get gifts from Amazon, they finally use the Tamper Resistant Carton (United States Patent Application 20150048151) that Bob submitted. Isn’t it funny, how OSHA inspection# 313802720 at the Hub Folding Box Company is such a great example of how our lives intertwine?

Connie says we have to hold each other precious. Connie says if a fall off a forklift causing a slight amputation won’t bring us all together, well, what will!?!!? Prayers for Sam Pepper btw. Bob says together we are a huge fuse box, and each year is yet another colorful outdoor electrical wire (builder’s grade). Speaking of, one of Bob’s favorite holiday sweaters came apart in the dryer, thanks to Haley angrily laundering a textbook (Mader’s Biology) to prove suffrage was wrong. Marcus offered to fix it when he was home, but then became suddenly, immediately blasé. Elaine and Peg are healing nicely from their burns, and they say “hello” and “our hair is growing back” (thank you for not leveraging a penalty on the early withdrawal from the burn fund, Mansfield Bank!)

Peg and Madge decided to greet the New Year at a powerlifting competition in Las Vegas. They are both looking for some new hobbies and ways to get into better shape in 2016!

Elaine wanted to point out that Bob made her write something for the PF Chang (who reads these anyway, she said), so here it goes. The winter really sucked. Marcus and Elaine took a road trip to visit Haley at Lehigh in February (in a Zipcar (neither of them own a car) and Connie didn’t trust them to drive her minivan, haha, just joking Con) and they got stuck with a flat tire on the PA turnpike. No spare. (Good thing because Marcus and Elaine don’t know how to change a tire, hahaha). Bob had to come bail them out.  Yes, friends and family, Bob is still the handyman and rock of the family. (He still looks great in his short, short running shorts from high school track, too, Stacey! Sorry Bob, it had to be said.)

Summer presented its own set of challenges. With the specter of Haley leaving for college looming over us all, we had decided to rent a cabin in the Poconos for a family retreat. Peg was the first to back out, deciding instead to go motorcycling in the Bonneville Salt Flats with Madge. Marcus was next, saying he couldn’t possibly pick out a new bathing suit in time. We left it at that. Elaine had already committed to accompanying her boyfriend to meet his biological mother for the first time. A week before the trip, Connie and Bob had to ground Haley for failing to adequately pack for college. (Haley’s claims that there was a month and half until move-in day went unheeded, as did her protest that an 18-year old is un-groundable.) This of course subsequently lead to Connie backing out so that she could supervise Haley’s packing. Faced with staying in Poconos by himself for a week, Bob elected instead to stay home and finally fix that pitching machine he’s had in the garage for the better part of a decade.

Haley dropped out of college, btw, and moved in with Elaine, so that’s sort of good news, at least for the two of them. Don’t worry though Connie keeps them well stocked with casseroles and baked ziti. Also, Elaine is to blame for all of this.(Don’t get rid of that part, Bob. Aunt Dot will get a kick out of it. And it’s true, the blame part that it wasn’t my fault).  Nobody said anything about Haley dropping out for awhile which definitely didn’t help the whole “crisis” situation she was going through, but now she is doing pretty well–playing soccer again and running. She is working at City Sports where a manager is leaving soon and we all think she will get her job when that happens. “Thank God she (Aunt Elaine) let me move in,” Haley said. “I love my mom dearly, but absence makes the heart keep a normal and good amount of fondness for her.” Haley does want to go back to school soon, but right now feels good. Haley feels good.

Oh yeah—Connie and Elaine planned a surprise birthday party for Peg at Outback Steakhouse but Peg’s best friend Madge RUINED IT by telling her about it. (We know you did this on purpose Madge—Connie and I saw the email when we were looking through Peg’s inbox). It was a great party anyway, no thanks to Madge. Peg doesn’t look a day over 50 and is a great catch, so call her up guys. (Not you, Karl, you burned that bridge, but some of you other high school guys!) Connie is becoming more like mom every day, may she rest in peace. (Elaine means this in all the best ways, Connie!) Elaine is still the disappointing mess you all remember, but for some reason the family hasn’t disowned her! (Hahaha. No, it’s all good. Lots of Pinwright love all around. Did I do okay with this, Bob?)

Oh how Connie loves fall! She remembers collecting leaves with Haley and Marcus to make fall center pieces with leaves. Maybe now that Haley isn’t in school, they will do that again. Hopefully it’ll make Haley want to come to dinner more often. Connie did have a thought about homeschooling Haley but one of us has to call someone and find out if you can do that for college. Bob is doing really well at work. He has invented a new folding pattern that he hopes to patent.  Fingers crossed!  Marcus is doing so well at Best Buy. His boss seems really pleased with him. He doesn’t have a girlfriend yet but we’re working on that! Connie wants to be a Grandma and imagines Bob as a Grandpa! Holy Smokes!!! If any of you readers know any nice girls (except you Elaine, we said nice!!  LOL) let us know! As for Peg, she is just a ray of sunshine in our lives.  She is currently down the shore with Madge. Don’t worry, we have bail money,  LOL!! We went down to the shore last month (Sea Isle!) and had a very relaxing time. As for Connie, she is just trying to keep everyone together. Oh and she is still volunteering at the library. That is all for now, drop by anytime. Our house and kitchen are always open! Oh, I want a puppy!!  Shhhhh, Bob doesn’t know!

As we write this we each realize once again how blessed we all are. Life continues to have its “ups and downs”, but overall there is a great deal to be grateful for. We see again the truth that even in dealing with adversity we grow. The important things are still love, forgiveness and friendship. We spent years not talking to our neighbors the McDougalls, and after their poor family dog Sparkles was hit by an Audi last month – well, reaching out to them has made us realize that friendship is more important than an old grudge. Our thoughts are with the McDougalls during this holiday season.

Our love and warmest regards,
The Pinwrights

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SPOTLIGHT: FEBRUARY LAUNCH PAD TEAM SEVEN POUNDS OF SHAME

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For all of February, as part of PHIT’s Launch Pad program, PHIT stage has been the proud home of indie team Seven Pounds of Shame. The Launch Pad program is an opportunity for local indie improv teams to participate in a three-month intensive development, coaching, and performance period with PHIT. As part of the Launch Pad program Seven Pounds of Shame has been coached by Kevin Ruth of PHIT house team Hoffman.

In honor of Seven Pounds of Shame’s final Launch Pad show we have put together a lovely Q&A to help you get to know this dynamic team.

What brought you all together as a team?
Shame.

What sort of themes often find their way into a Seven Pounds of Shame performance?
Poop, albino pets, nakedness, 90’s references.

How does Seven Pounds of Shame “get in the zone” as they say, for a show?
Contemplating the goings on of Fred Schneider.

What makes Seven Pounds of Shame giggle?
Duty, pianist, titmouse.

What is Seven Pounds of Shame NOT ashamed of?
Being awesome and inserting shame into every sentence.

What is your advice advice for aspiring improvisers?
Shamelessly take every opportunity to perform.

What do you hope audience members will take away from a Seven Pounds of Shame show?
Their trash, we are anti-litter.

Get tickets for Seven Pounds of Shame’s last show this Wednesday 7:30 P.M. here!

 

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MAKE AMERICA GOAT AGAIN

To celebrate this glorious show Aubrie Williams of Goat Rodeo has answered a few of our very important very goat questions.

If this show was a vision board what would be on it?
A bakers dozen of Goats with a nice heap of American flags added in, and then the smiling faces of all of the Goat Rodeo writers & performers. Maybe a pizza to keep us extra motivated.

How does Goat Rodeo go about choosing what sort of show you all want to create. Do you guys begin with a theme/focus and write toward it or do you make material and then look for the common thread after the fact?
We usually create lots of material, and then vote on what we like best and then Sam & Bill work their magic on creating transitions that create a seamless world for the show. We usually have about 30-40 sketches on the table per show, and about 6-8 make it in.

Can you describe your ideal goat candidate?
Someone with really shiny hair, who promises we’ll have longer recesses and free pizza every day for lunch!

What are some big policy changes primarily regarding goats that Goat Rodeo would make if America becomes Goat Again?
Goats would be allowed in movie theaters and on carnival rides regardless of their height, and every workplace in America would have a goat greeter in the lobby!

What do you hope audience members will take away from this show?
Laughter and patriotism.

What advice do you have for aspiring sketch writers?
Write anything and everything, and don’t censor yourselves. Write as often as you can and dedicate time to rewrites.

If Goat Rodeo were feeling blue what would, without out a doubt, make Goat Rodeo laugh on the spot?
I think any one of our writers or performers. Rehearsals and shows are always hilarious because of these Goats, and it’s always a super fun and laid back atmosphere.

You have two more chances to MAKE AMERICA GOAT AGAIN with PHIT Sketch House team Goat Rodeo:

Thursday February 18th 9:00 P.M.

Friday February 19th 9:00 P.M.

THE TIME IS NOW.

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SPOTLIGHT: DYNAMITE SERIES (UNTITLED) #10

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As part of the Dynamite Series @ PHIT, (Untitled) is a show that strives to merge the worlds of improv comedy and visual arts into a unique collaborative experience. Local visual artists across many disciplines share their work with the cast to inspire an improvised theatrical show, the artist then creates a piece of work during the show in response to the action happening on stage. Director Rachel Semigran (PHIT House Team Sabotage) leads a highly trained team capable of falling into different forms or styles to compliment their exploration the purpose and permanence of art and comedy.

In honor of this month’s installment of (Untitled)  and in honor of (Untitled) being named one of Philly’s 13 Comedy Shows to See This Spring (yahoo!) we have collected a few favorite memories from the cast members of this unique and invigorating show.


Hark horse! A sock speaks!
The universe shatters with
Guy Fieri’s tears.

– Ryan Barlow


 

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This is a favorite moment from one of my favorite shows, the one we did at Indy Hall. It’s Andrew and I as mom and son being caught in the vines, and as they wind tighter and tighter, we are having a “serious” conversation. I let him know that he was not an accident. Great because one of the paintings that day had a figure wrapped in vines, so it came directly from that. This picture was drawn by artist Mike Jackson as he watched the scene.

– Karen Coleman


Performing with Untitled is a privilege, getting to bring so many artists from other parts of Philly together with our silly wild fun shows. The cast is wonderfully supportive and will run with the strangest ideas. Plus, watching visual artists get celebrated for their work onstage never fails to make me smile like a goof . Saul (the artist from our last show) is a friend from work, and when he came out everyone chanted his name. He was beaming for days, and is now thinking about taking an improv class.

– Sam Abrams


 

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Danny Coeyman illustration.

– Zachary Uzupis


You can also check out this response from last month’s artist Saul Rosenbaum made after his experience here!

(UNTITLED) #10 is on Saturday, February 13th at 7:30 P.M. Purchase tickets here!

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PHIT Seeking Sketch Producer!

PHIT is excited to announce our search for a new Sketch Producer to join our amazing Artistic Team. The Sketch Producer reports to Jessica Snow, our fearless Artistic Director and supervises all of the sketch comedy programming on PHIT’s stage. They are responsible for providing assistance to our sketch house teams, selecting the great indie sketch teams – both local and visiting from out-of-town – that appear on our stage, sending performance offers and tracking acceptance of those offers and seeing the shows they book to offer feedback to actors and crew of the performances. The Sketch Producer consults with the Artistic Director, other Producers (improv & variety), Executive Director, and performers. A more detailed explanation of the position is available in the Sketch Producer Job Description.

Submissions for the new Sketch Producer are being accepted beginning immediately through Monday, February 15th, 2016 at 11:59 p.m.. We ask that any interested applicants send the following in an email to contact<at>phillyimprovtheater.com with the subject line “Sketch Producer”:

  • a resume
  • a one-page letter explaining your comedy philosophy and why you would be a great Sketch Producer for PHIT

Interviews for qualified candidates will take place during the weekend of February 19th-21st. A final decision will be announced by March 1st.

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Intro class sale: Improv 101 & Sketch 101 Only $199! That’s $100 off now through now February 8th, 2016!

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And just like that, it’s February. Valentine’s Day, presidential primaries, and Punxsutawney Phil’s annual visit are breathing down our necks. One week ago, we were under a mountain of snow. Today, Spring is just around the corner, and the spirit of new growth, we’re having a sale on our Spring Session!

That’s right. Don’t let the plants do all the growing this Spring! Branch out with an improv or sketch class at the Philly Improv Theater. Whether you’re interested in comedy, looking to try something new, or just trying to meet some new people, we got your back! Our classes are creative, inclusive, and, above all, FUN–and for the next week all intro level classes are only $199 through February 8th, 2016! That’s $100 off the full registration cost and you still get access to practice groups, free show admission and more!

Are you hesitant to enroll because you’re thinking “what’s improv or sketch and how can it help me?” you should know that we have a ton of free workshops you can register for THIS WEEK that will give you an overview of what to expect in an eight week class. You’ll have fun, learn something, meet new people and you won’t pay a dime.

This intro class sale includes several special classes such as Musical Improv 101 with Jerome Kurtenbach and Improv For Actors with Tara Demmy. If you’ve been doing improv you can give sketch writing a whirl. If you’e been writing, learn to write on your feet with improv classes. Improv and sketch are basically cousins and there’s something to be gained from learning both. If you’re looking at an Improv 201 through 401 class or Sketch Writing 201 it’s worth noting that this will be the last session at the current prices.

As always, if you’ve enjoyed your time at PHIT please share this information with you friends, family, or even strangers. You can follow us on Twitter @PHITComedy and Facebook and easily retweet and share this information. We count on this organic sharing of information to grow our audience. We can’t do any of this without you!

Hope to see you in a class or around the theater soon!

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ARE YOU A STUDENT AT PHIT IN SEARCH OF STAGE TIME?

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Whether you’re a new student enrolled in 101 or finishing up the PHIT program in 401, The Dean’s List is the perfect space to put into practice everything you’ve been learning in class. Each week three students are selected to perform with three of our glorious instructors. Steve Kleinedler, the host of The Dean’s List, sat down with us to give us the run down on one of the city’s most supportive shows.

I know you know a lot about words Steve – if you could describe The Dean’s List in three words that I MOST LIKELY have never heard of what would they be?

Lucent, lambent, crackerjack — although I might have also just described a campfire.

What was the inspiration behind creating The Dean’s List?
Back when PHIT was still at the Shubin, on Sunday nights we had a show called The Deans. Whichever instructors were available would perform, which was fun, but no one was ever available for rehearsals, so the shows lacked consistency. I was asked to host a show that would involve instructors and students and was given the latitude to develop the format.

What advice do you have for a student that has been picked and has never performed on stage before?
Have fun: everyone (including the audience) has your back! The audience is filled with your classmates, friends, and other performers, and they want to see everyone succeed; the atmosphere is extremely supportive. At the beginning of the last several sessions, students who have just taken their first 101 class have been picked, and each time, they’ve knocked it out of the park.

What is your favorite part about hosting the The Dean’s List?
I get one word of inspiration from the audience, and then get three inspirations based off of the initial word, and sometimes my requests take unintended turns and I end up delving into phonology or something weird, so that’s always fun. My favorite part though, is watching students trust their guts, especially during the montage, and doing some really sophisticated work that they might not have realized that they were capable of doing. It’s great to see the exact moment when everything clicks.

What is the most challenging part about hosting the The Dean’s List?
Making sure my shirts are right-side-out and properly buttoned; it’s a struggle.

If The Dean’s List was any teen heartthrob from the 90’s who would it be?
I’m too old to have teen heart-throb from the 90s. It’s crafty like Dr. Kimberly Shaw from Melrose Place but in a less nefarious way. Heartthrobs… let’s take a look at our Dynamite! magazines from the 70s: it would have to be Kristy McNichol. Or Parker Stevenson. Or both. Not Shaun Cassidy.

What is your advice for aspiring improvisers that are just getting started in the PHIT Training Center?
See as many shows as you can! Take advantage of your PHIT student passes, and most shows around the city are affordable. Connecting what you learn in class with what you see on stage is a critical element of the learning process. Find people you like working with, and meet up with them to see shows and rehearse.

The Dean’s List is every Sunday at 7:00 P.M. as part of our SUPER FREE SUNDAYS at PHIT. Check out the schedule here to see who the opening act is each week!

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Session 2 Classes Enrolling Now! Try Before You Buy With Free Workshops!

A few weeks ago we started our first session of classes for 2016 and we’re already a couple weeks into enrolling Session 2 classes! Whether you are new to improv or sketch or have been around for a while, I’m pret-ty sure Session 2 will have something for you.

Improv Class 2In addition to our regular (and awesome) slate of improv and sketch writing classes, there are a few more great things coming in Session 2 including the return of Musical Improv 101 with Jerome Kurtenbach, a brand new Duos Class with Kristen Schier, the first 2016 section of Sketch Writing 201 with Paul Triggiani, and more to be announced soon! As I always say, if you’re interested in a higher level class it’s best to register early. 201-401 classes tend to sell out long before their start dates. This is also the last chance to get into a class at current prices before prices increase next session! Later this session we will also begin accepting applications for the next round of the PHIT Improv Conservatory instructed by Steve Kleinedler, which will begin classes in May. There will also be lots of one day workshops and practice groups for current students and anyone in between classes to learn a new skill or freshen up an old one.

Are you new to improv or sketch writing and unsure what you’d be getting yourself into? We got your back! We have a ton of free workshops you can register for that will give you an overview of what to expect in an eight week class. You’ll have fun, learn something, meet new people and you won’t pay a dime. Check out this list for upcoming Free Intro to Improv and Free Intro to Sketch Writing workshops. Also, be sure to check out our Diversity Program. We are now accepting applications for the next round of scholarships!

We’re always eager to hear about your class experience. If you have any class related questions, comments or concerns always feel free to email classes@phillyimprovtheater.com and Mike Marbach or David Donnella will help you out. Hope to see you in a class or at a show soon!

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PHIT KIDS & TEENS PROGRAM ENROLLMENT AND FREE OPEN HOUSES!

KIDSKnow a funny kid, class clown or creative young mind? The PHIT Kids and Teens program is currently offering Free Open Houses and classes this spring. In honor of classes beginning on March 12th Rachel Semigran took some time to answer some FAQ regarding the PHIT Kids and Teens program.

1. What inspired you to start the PHIT Kids and Teens program?
I’ve always loved working with young people. I have a Master’s degree in Applied Theatre from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama and I have run after-school theater programs at Philadelphia high schools, so I know first-hand just how big of an impact performing arts can have in these age groups. I felt like it was a natural step for the theater to take. It was also a perfect combination of the things I am most passionate: arts accessibility and improv comedy.

17352993029_6975e471e1_z2. When are classes/open houses?
Our FREE Open House will be on Saturday, February 27th from 10:00 A.M. to 11:oo A.M. Here, parents get free coffee and doughnuts while I let them know about all of the wonderful things we offer. The kids and teens get to try out a one-hour workshop with our awesome faculty. For free. Have I mentioned that it’s free yet? It’s free. Our spring session classes run on Saturdays from 10 A.M. to 11:30 A.M. from March 12th, 2016 through May 7th, 2016 (no class March 26th, 2016). They’re also currently $50 off for early registration!

3. What can a Kid or Teen expect when taking a class? 16918975063_5b4b00850f_z
Caring, invested and experienced instructors. Everyone who teaches with us is a PHIT company member and some of whom are full-time teachers outside of their work in comedy. Our program strives to create a safe and inclusive space for anyone who walks through our doors. Whether someone is a total school play star or a first time performer, we meet them where they are. Along with learning performance basics, creating hilarious characters, playing short-form games and being introduced to the skilled technique of long-form improvisation, students can expect to have a lot of fun and tons of laughs all while making really great friends. Students get to meet peers from all walks of life, from all over the city and the suburbs and become an ensemble together. My favorite part of the job is seeing a few shy students walk in on their first day and then spot them on the day of the class show running to their new friends and commanding the stage with pure joy and excitement.17351744080_4975cfc95a_z

4. Are there shows for Kids?
We are currently developing family-friendly programming at PHIT. Keep your eyes and ears open! We also have graduation performances on the last week of classes for friends and family to see what the students have been learning. They’re always so much fun. Kids are natural comedians so you’ll see some of the funniest, most inventive stuff coming out of someone who can barely reach the kitchen sink. It’s inspiring, really.

5. Why is it important to have a program for Kids and Teens? 16919002873_ab4ed75cc2_z (1)
Improv makes you fearless. It improves your listening skills, writing abilities and helps you work well with others. It’s an art that says, “Your idea is great and I want to support you 100%”. Embracing and celebrating young people’s creativity and their individuality is crucial to promoting positive development. Academically and personally, improv comedy has so many wonderful applications for young people. It takes the pressure off of learning lines or scoring points, it just allows students to explore their own genius and make others laugh in the process. I also know there are young people in our city with a passion for comedy and I want our program to reach them and help them explore their talent.

It’s something I wish I had as a kid or teen because I would have probably had a little more self-confidence, and better yet, I could have met people my age who shared my love of making weird faces and talking in funny accents. I was a goofy kid to say the least.

Head to our enrollment page here for more information and to register for classes!

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PHIT is Open!

Following the conclusion of winter storm Jonas overnight PHIT will be open today, Sunday, January 24th, 2016 for all classes, rehearsals, shows and other events. We look forward to seeing you!

Students who cannot make class because of difficulty traveling in their vicinity should contact the Class Registrar to schedule a make-up session in another class section later this week.

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Creating a Welcoming and Safe Environment in Comedy

Recent events in the PHIT community and throughout the Philly comedy community have focused attention on how we all as comedians deal with issues of discrimination and harassment in the comedy world. The conversation isn’t just a local one – across the country women and men have been speaking out against injustices in their communities and specific institutions and individuals who are part of the problem.

I recognize that these are a deeply personal issues. Like many of you, I have family and friends who have suffered discrimination or harassment and have seen the toll this kind of aggression can take on someone. People’s opinions on how best to address discrimination and harassment can vary widely and wildly, but at the end of the day the common goal in all attempts to address these issues always seems to be greater tolerence, understanding and respect for every person. I’ve been encouraged this week as I followed or heard about conversations online and around town that strived for constructive, open dialogue regarding these types of concerns and had these end goals as their focus.

I believe it is important for me to contribute something to this conversation on behalf of PHIT  – to speak about what we are doing to fostering greater diversity in comedy by creating safe and welcoming environments for all types of comedians. As the founder and owner of a comedy theater I understand I have the primary responsibility to ensure that we are creating a culture and environment free from any type of discrimination and harassment at PHIT. I want to be unquestionably clear: the health, safety, and security of our entire community is important above anything else. Creativite pursuits require trust and support, and our first job before all others is to create this type of environment so that the learning, creation, and performance we each come here to pursue can occur.

I am the first person to acknowledge that in the past we were not always as proactive as we should have been in addressing these types of concerns, and first person to admit that when it comes to issues as important as discrimination and harassment we should always strive to do better when handling such sensitive issues. In the past year PHIT implemented a Discrimination and Harassment Policy and trained all of our Company Members (those performers, instructors, and staff with consistent involvement at the theater as members of house teams, hosts of variety shows, teachers or key volunteers behind the scenes) in how it worked. The policy applies to anyone affiliated with our community – from audience members, to students, performers, teachers, and staff.

I fully understand that implementing and following through on a policy isn’t cause to declare victory.  Real change requires a shift in culture through a commitment to supporting victims, who are predominantly women,  and setting a standard of behavior that makes it clear this type of behavior is completely unacceptable and indefensible. Effecting these changes requires education, consistency, and time.  There is often talk of blurred lines in comedy and as a fellow comedian I fully understand those challenges and in no way want to stifle the creative process.  However I feel very strongly – and no one will be able to convince me otherwise – that creating a safe, respectful environment for everyone and offering creative, alternative comedy are not and should not be  mutually exclusive.

If any member of our community has a concern related to discrimination or harassment they can always contact me directly or reach out to another member of our community who helps to run or supervise things at the theater if they are more comfortable making an initial report to someone else. This list of people would include:

Jessica Snow, Artistic Director
Mike Marbach, Education Director
Kristen Schier, Improv Producer
Joe Moore, Variety Producer
Jack O’Keeffe, Production Coordinator
Rachel Semigran, Kids & Teens Coordinator
David Donnella, Diversity Coordinator/Class Registrar
Maureen Scullion, HR Consultant
House Managers (Tom Hannigan, Rick Helpa, Teresa Nutter, Courtney Painter)
Instructors
House Team/Dynamite Series Directors

It is my hope that we can all work together to provide a safe environment that treats every individual with dignity and respect on our stage, in our classrooms and anywhere the PHIT community gathers.

Sincerely,

Greg Maughan
Founder/Owner
Philly Improv Theater

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FRIDAY & SATURDAY SHOWS CANCELLED!

Snow-DayThe mayor has declared a state of emergency in Philadelphia starting at 9pm. Blizzard conditions are expected soon. All shows Friday night, January 22nd, 2016 are cancelled. All classes, practice groups, rehearsals, shows and other events, on Saturday, January 23rd, 2016 are cancelled.

Enjoy the snow and be careful out there!

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THREE NEW VARIETY SHOWS THIS WEEK

Puppets, Lady Bits and Porn! This week brings three new variety shows to the PHIT stage. To celebrate the arrival of three new shows we have put together a Q&A with some of the hosts.

Beth & Ralph’s Porn Stash: Hosted by Betty J. Smithsonian and Ralph Andracchio12528065_10100373302845327_677219647_n

What is the show about?
It’s about two local funny people watching the odd clip of porn and not necessarily making fun of the people or the situation, but using it as a springboard for a deeper discussion about the human experience.

What inspired you two to put this show together?
What inspired us was the two of us having such a great rapport, wanting to work together, and also wanting to create a show that would catch people’s attention and spark conversations.

Is there anything the audience should come in expecting?
The audience should expect frank, fun discussions about life, sexuality, and why at the end of the day we’re all just looking to get off and be happy.

Sell me your show in one sentence.
Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul, your porn choices are.

Beth and Ralph’s Porn Stash can be seen Thursday, January 21st at 10:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here!

Lady Bits: Hosted by Rachel Semigran, Alyssa Jackson, and Sue Nelson.

AlyssaJacksonBigWhat is Lady Bits?
Lady Bits is a variety panel show for ladies, by ladies, anyone who identifies as a lady, and for those who love ladies.

When did Lady Bits first happen?
The first version of Lady Bits was during the Black Friday Comedy Marathon in November.

In one sentence, what is your show?
It’s like The View, but younger, and later, and funny.

Coming into the show is there anything one should expect?
To find out what’s really going on inside the minds of a handful of lady folk through delightfully funny bits, games, and good ole fashioned conversation. They might even learn something along the way, be it from the hosts, guests panelists, or the expert for the month!

This month’s Lady Bits will feature Sexologist Timaree Schmit. Schmidt earned a Ph.D. in Human Sexuality Education from Widener University, the a culmination of a lifelong search for rational, sex-positive, empirically-based knowledge about sexuality. She now works as an adjunct professor, guest lecturer, writer and consultant. More information on Dr. Timeree can be found on her website.

See Lady Bits with Special Guest Dr. Timaree Schmit on January 22nd at 10:30pm. Tickets can be purchased here!

Puppet Slam: Hosted by Joe Moore

1. What is it about?JoeMoore
Puppet Slams are typically like open mic for puppeteers, but I’m using the name lightly. I’m bad at naming things and co-opting that name kind of worked. Ours is more about giving people the chance to try something new on stage, or to flesh out pieces. I want to encourage people to not just try pieces with puppetry but sketches or monologues that might be more experimental. I know so many talented comedians in Philadelphia who are also incredible artists and it would be cool to see them combine both disciplines to make something unique.

2. What inspired it?
I honestly just wanted to see it happen at PHIT. It seemed like the perfect home to nurture a show like this and there are so many creative people in the city doing puppetry and other neat performance art, but there are a limited number of platforms. I figured this would be a fun way to bring them together under the PHIT umbrella. There’s also no consistent puppet slam or anything like it in Philly right now so it seemed like a good idea. But I’m a total idiot so who knows.

3. What should the audience expect?
I don’t know! Which is kind of the exciting and terrifying part of this show. It’s different with each performer and group. There will, however, definitely be lots of puppets. There will be live acts and some videos. I’m super excited to see where this goes, the performers are split down the middle, there are seasoned professionals and people doing this for the first time!

4. If you had to sell it in 1 sentence, what would that sentence be?
This show will be so much fun you will never want to leave the theater so you will have all your mail forwarded there and you will call out of work to wait there until the next one and it will unlock your truest potential as an artist and it will consume your whole life forever and ever and God will bless you the chosen one so why not come huh?

Get your tickets for Puppet Slam this Friday, January 22nd at 11:55 PM here!

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SPOTLIGHT: JANUARY LAUNCH PAD TEAM RAGE FRIENDS

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For the month of January, every Wednesday night at 7:30 P.M., PHIT stage will be the proud home of indie team Rage Friends (coached by Hunter Steffes). The Launch Pad program is an opportunity for local improv teams to participate in a three-month intensive development, coaching, and performance period with PHIT.

To celebrate Rage Friends’ current work with PHIT we have put together a lovely Q&A to help you get to know this dynamic team.

What brought you all together as a team?
A Rage Friends Fairy Godmother thought we all worked well together and once we hung out as a group, we knew we had something pretty great going on. We really like working with each other, supporting each other and we always have fun together. The last year has been an absolute blast.

What sort of themes often find their way into a Rage Friends performance?
Rage Friends shows tend to utilize relationship based scene work with strong characters and even stronger accents. We often end up outdoors but no matter what, there is always an adventure.

I most recently saw you all perform at the PHIT Diversity Ball and was very intrigued by the form that you guys used – could you speak more about that?
Since we began as a team, we’ve been refining our form where we attempt a Harold. We’ve recently adjusted our opening and we’re very excited to debut it for our Launch Pad shows!

How does Rage Friends “get in the zone” as they say, for a show?
Whenever we are all together we get a little giddy and hyped which we channel into productive energy for shows. We like to draw on our friendship and we know that we are totally supported by each other throughout the performance. However, we sure do love a rousing game of Big Booty and our Coven version of Pass the Face.

Does Rage Friends have any New Year’s Resolutions?
Make mistakes. Listen intently. Live in the moment.

What makes Rage Friends giggle?
We giggle often! Our favorite giggles come from each other, double entendres, bad rapping, German accents, apple dumplings, musical references incorporated into daily conversations and basically anything.

If Rage Friends was any teen heartthrob from the 90’s who would it be?
We feel like a Zach Morris.

Do you have any advice for aspiring improvisers?
We think that it is really important to have fun and be able to laugh at yourself. We also think it’s important to make mistakes and push past your comfort zone because that’s where the fun happens. Also, if you like performing with a group of people, get a team together. It really is such a great learning and growing experience.

What do you hope audience members will take away from a Rage Friends show?
We basically want everyone to leave the theater and want to be our friend.

Want to check out a Rage Friends performance at PHIT? Purchase tickets here!

Below are shows Rage Friends will be performing in after their Launch Pad run:
Friday, February 5 – The Dungeon
Tuesday, February 16 – Free Improv at the Grape Room
Thursday, February 18 – American Sardine Bar: Uncanned

Can’t get enough Rage Friends? Have no fear! They have created a Buzzfeed Quiz just for YOU to find out which Rage Friend you are! Take the quiz here!

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SPOTLIGHT: THE WADSWORTH CONSTANT

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The Wadsworth Constant (part of the Dynamite Series at PHIT) is a show unlike any other in which veteran performers Kristen Scheir and Nick Gillette blend absurdist theater and improv comedy to create an experience that embodies the truth, wildness, and humor of what it is to be human.

In honor of their January installment that is fast approaching Kristen and Nick have indulged us in a very illuminating Q&A.

How is your act different than other improv shows our audience viewers may have seen?

KS: Well it is slightly different because we are aiming at improvising an absurdist play. The show isn’t really your traditional improv show. Comedy isn’t our chief goal with the show. We try to play the show where ever it lands.
NG: The Wadsworth Constant has its own pace. I’ve heard the phrase slow comedy more and more these days, and I’m starting to think we fit pretty squarely in that description. Many improv shows are like juicy chicken nuggets served hot right away. We sit on an egg, hatch a little chick, hand feed it until it’s grown, then slaughter it, throw the head to the dog, pluck and gut it, dry rub it with all-spice, spit roast it over coals, and serve it hot by the end of 50 minutes. I think it makes for more memorable shows.

What was the catalyst / inspiration for creating this act?

KS: At least part of it is that I really wanted to work with Nick. I have admired his work as an actor/improviser for a long time. We both had some similar vocabulary with our theater backgrounds and improvised absurdism seemed to fit what we both were interested in exploring. Ralph created the Dynamite Series as a way of connecting different communities and pushing the boundaries of improv so it was a perfect vehicle to showcase Wadsworth. We were trying something new and more theatrical.
NG: Kristen asked me if I wanted to perform in a Beckett inspired duo, which leads me to believe she can read minds.

When you are performing are there specific elements or themes you are aiming to hit?

KS: Absurdism definitely has its troupes. Sparsely populated worlds, repetition, a sense of timelessness, darker themes of death and decay and meaninglessness. We are certainly mindful of these characteristics going into the show but they are not our focus. We try, however, not to steer the show to heavily towards them. It can seem inorganic when we do that. Steve Klienedler coaches us on occasion and gave us helpful feedback one rehearsal. I know I mainly try to be very present, listen really hard and react honestly. He encouraged us not to be a palimpsest of absurdisim but to discover it as we go. This has been a key note for me in how I approach the show because I definitely tend to be heavy handed.
NG: Beckett’s plays are rife with characters suffering something they’re missing, and unable to satisfy. We play with hunger, loneliness, dread of the unknown, and the inescapable looming curtain of death drawing slowly over each and every one of us. For some reason, it’s hilarious.

What do you hope audience members will take away from a performance by The Wadsworth Constant?

KS: Well I do hope whoever comes to see The Wadsworth Constant enjoys the show on some level. I hope they find something meaningful – but then again, I hope we do too. I don’t think we have a consistent thing we want an audience to take away because the shows really are so different.
NG: I hope people get a chance to laugh and commiserate at our bizarre shared human condition. We’re all in this weird soup of reality together, which when you see on display as Kristen and I play it, naked of emotional armor and trapped in an irreproducible living moment, appears for what it is, bled of the comfort of familiar context, sad and wondrous and strange and vital to behold.

Do you have any advice for aspiring improvisers?

KS: Love your choices and commit to them. Listen to your scene partner. They are a genius. Play.
NG: Take a risk. Be affected. Play hard, listen harder.

If The Wadsworth Constant were a sandwich what would it be?

KS: The Wadsworth Constant would be a moldy pickled herring sandwich. The only food you have left so you have to eat it.
NG: Bread, meat, cheese, meat, cheese, meat, cheese, meat, cheese, meat, cheese, meat, bread.

If you were feeling blue what would, without out a doubt, make you laugh on the spot?

KS: Bad commercials. Accident lawyers,used car commercials, self-made low budget bad commercials. They are funny and sad.
NG: This meme. https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/236x/8f/b8/3d/8fb83dae33c84a203836abf1d8b7867a.jpg

The next performance of The Wadsworth Constant is on January 16th at 7:30 P.M. Get tickets here!

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SPOTLIGHT: DECEMBER LAUNCH PAD TEAM ROBOBRO

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This past month, Launch Pad team RoboBro, coached by Tom Hannigan (Outside Voices), has captivated Philadelphia audiences with their commitment to the characters they create and their infectious playfulness. The Launch Pad program is an opportunity for local improv teams to participate in a three-month intensive development, coaching, and performance period with PHIT.

In honor of their final Launch Pad show this upcoming Wednesday, RoboBro has taken time to answer some hard-hitting questions.

How did you guys know you were destined to perform together?
Once Mercury was in retrograde and Jupiter was ascending, the water crystals spoke their truth and we were merely vessels for their energy. And once that happened, and our auras all glowed the same burnt sienna, we knew this was something we needed to explore.

What sort of themes always find their way into a Robobro performance?
The Connecticut penal code turns up in scenes with surprising frequency.

How does Robobro feel about the new Adele album?
Please don’t ask.  It’s really tearing the group apart.

Panera or Subway?
Until now, we were unaware that the team is almost equally divided between Subway-eating street urchins and old-money aristocrats who prefer to eat “real” food.  It’s really tearing the group apart.

What makes Robobro giggle?
Geoff.

If Robobro was any teen heartthrob from the 90’s who would it be?
Ryder Strong.  He was a good friend, and that’s what really counts.  Plus, Will Friedle is overrated.

Do you have any advice for aspiring improvisers?
Eat a twelve inch cheese hoagie from Wawa before every show, do six minutes worth of a squats during a show, and have Tom Hannigan as a coach. That last one is real.

What do you hope audience members will take away from a Robobro show?Forgiveness, understanding, compassion, patience, love… the same things one hopes anyone takes away from a traumatic event.

Don’t miss RoboBro’s final Launchpad show on Wednesday, December 23rd 7:30 PM. Get tickets here!

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WHICH BIG BABY ARE YOU???

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We’ve all been there. Sitting in the audience of a Big Baby show, fully enraptured and delighted with the world they have created, but there is one thing you can’t help but wonder as you watch these talented beings and that is WHICH BIG BABY ARE YOUHave no fear! We’ve partnered with Big Baby to create a quiz in which this life goal can finally be realized. Just in time for their 100th show on December 19th! 

TAKE THE QUIZ HERE!

Feeling SO thrilled about this 100th show that you wanna wear it on your body? That’s totally doable! Order a Big Baby T-shirt here!

 

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