Archive for the ‘Philly Improv Theater’ Category

2017 Festival Spotlight: Comedy and Improv, Part 2

Posted August 31st, 2017

This year’s Fringe Festival features features an abundance of comedy and improv. Check out just some of the riotous performances hitting our city next month. Find Part 1 here.


Elysian Fields @ The Adrienne Theater Second Stage
Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Like no improv you have seen before! A new dramatic one-act play channeling the works of the great American playwright Tennessee Williams is created before your eyes each night. Enter a world of tortured, desperate characters—ripe with unfulfilled dreams, desires, and the struggle to find escape from a harsh reality. The cast creates a show ripe with unfulfilled dreams, desires, and the struggle to find escape from a harsh reality. More info and tickets here.


Roll Play: An Improvised Adventure @ The Adrienne Theater
Roll Play

Roll Play is an improvised fantasy epic, combining the excitement of role-playing games with the spontaneity of live improv comedy. Guided by a mysterious Dungeon Master, the audience helps craft the world and its characters while dice rolls decide their fate. Join our heroes as they face mythical monsters, strange spells, ridiculous riddles, and more. Every show is a brand new adventure! More tickets and info here.


Dream Sequence @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
Cambridge Footlights/PHIT

Join “the most renowned sketch troupe of them all” (London Independent) transferring from the Edinburgh Fringe for free-flowing hilarity, excellent original writing & side-splitting character comedy. Don’t miss your chance to see this inventive new offering from the group that launched Monty Python and John Oliver! More info and tickets here.



The Flat Earth @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
The Flat Earth/PHIT

Favorites of comedy festival audiences across North America (multiple Best & Producer Picks), The Flat Earth return to where it all began—the Philly Fringe—and present a best-of extravaganza, showcasing material from a half decade of remarkable success: sometimes dark, often silly, occasionally experimental, and always impeccably costumed. Featuring Matthew Schmid, Jacquie Baker, Molly Silverman, Rich Lee, and Paul Triggiani. More info and tickets here.

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2017 Festival Spotlight: Comedy and Improv, Part 1

Posted August 29th, 2017

This year’s Fringe Festival features features an abundance of comedy and improv. Check out just some of the riotous performances hitting our city next month. Find Part 2 here.


2 INCREDIBLE 2 DREAMZ @ Space 1026
The Incredible Dreamz

Incredible Dreamz is a comedy collective featuring The Incredible Shrinking Matt & Jacquie and The New Dreamz. An exploration of loneliness and connection within the context of everyday relationships. Four performers create a ritual of life that slides between the mundane grind and surreal hallucination. Using a formula where 1 tittle twister = 2 wet willies and 1 homemade meal = 1 hand job, these drama bodies look for formula for love, understanding, comfort and control. This piece uses darker obsessions as material to peel back the pain and beauty inside the desire to be validated—the desire to be fulfilled and to land in a place that is full of froth. More info and tickets here.


TOWN The Adrienne Theater Second Stage
Jolie Darrow & Jack O’Keeffe/Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Welcome to TOWN. TOWN is in America, maybe. TOWN is an inviting place where nothing bad happens. The locals of TOWN are hiding plenty of secrets – silly secrets, sinister secrets, and they will all be revealed by the end of the metaphysical horror-comedy modeled after Thornton Wilder’s classic Our Town. More info and tickets here.


I’m Ok, Are You Ok? @ The Adrienne Theater Mainstage
Molly Scullion/Philly Improv Theater (PHIT Comedy)

Molly Scullion has been to therapy, and she’ll tell you all about it. In I’m Ok, Are You Ok?, Molly explores living and healing after trauma. With both hilarious and emotional stories, this show takes you far into the depths of just how weird our brains can be; they keep secrets from us, they explode on us, and yet, they’re always trying to protect us. Exploring some of the darkest times in her life, Molly Scullion brings forth a story about overcoming the past and finding strength and humor in pain. More info and tickets here.


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Tall Tales: An Interview with Clayton Storyteller

Posted August 10th, 2017

Clayton Storyteller hails from Brunswick, Georgia, and has been telling stories for decades in the south, and now, in Philadelphia. He worked as a performer in Las Vegas, backpacked for two months around Europe, and is a two-time USDA Nutrition Study guinea pig. In his Fringe Festival Show Don’t be Cruel to Your Puppy…Lemme Give YOU A Twisted Tale, he has prepared three different programs of stories, each a mix of all kinds of tales. “Program A has westerns and ghost stories, B has science fiction, and C has darker, grittier, more violent tales, plus strange romances,” says Clayton. “Some tales are wilder, some milder, but they have no political or philosophical point, save entertainment.” Each program ends with his signature tale, “A Safe Sex Story,” which will also be available as an illustrated chapbook. He’ll be telling stories beginning before the official Fringe Festival kick-off on September 5th, and will continue to tell them every night afterwards until September 23rd, from 5:30 to 6:10 pm at the Philly Improv Theater. Audiences can come and hear his wild stories as an appetizer before the many events at the Philly Improv Theater and many locations in the nearby area. He hasn’t been to Philly since passing through on a 7th grade school trip, “a half-century ago.” I talked with Clayton about his life and work, and how he happily ended up as a newcomer to the 2017 Fringe Festival.

FringeArts: Where were you born? Where did you grow up? Were there storytellers in your family? 

Clayton Storyteller: I was born in Tampa. We moved some miles south to Bradenton when I was a toddler, then at age eight up to metro Atlanta, where I spent most my life (so far). I’ve been in Brunswick, Georgia, for last twenty years and enjoy it immensely. My southerner father went to Detroit for work and married a Michigan bride. We didn’t have any Deep South or Appalachian tradition of storytelling in our family. What fostered my love of stories was my mother, who was an avid reader and passed that on to my brother and me. Erle Stanley Gardner was her favorite author. A golden memory of my childhood was looking at black-and-white photos on a wooden stereopticon in the loft of an old library.

FringeArts: How did you learn to tell stories, and when did you start telling them?

Clayton Storyteller: Literature was always my favorite class. In my five-grade high school I wrote dark, dreck poetry—copies of which fortunately no longer exist—and funny stories. I was flattered when I was an 8th-grade “sub-freshman” and a 9th-grade girl in my science class—name sadly disremembered—liked one of these stories enough to copy it front and back on a piece of paper during a study period. Our friends in the desks around us laughed at this, but she scribbled on, repeating, “But it’s so funny!” This was some nonsense about a blackboard named Charlie who was actually green and the silliness goes on from there and is also now lost. That was the girl’s only interest in me, alas! I was a shy kid. My interest in actually telling stories started when I joined Toastmasters in the mid-80s. I also joined the Southern Order of Storytellers about then, which had several “cluster group” meetings in metro Atlanta neighborhoods, where aspiring storytellers could practice stories and get feedback. I started writing my own stories for storytelling, eventually working into all verse tales.

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Talking about The Talkback: Interview with The Berserker Residents

Posted June 5th, 2014

“We are satirizing everyone we’ve ever worked with and also our own lives as artists. No one is safe.”

Clockwise: Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain, David Johnson

Clockwise: Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain, David Johnson

For the next three Sunday evenings, the Berserker Residents will present in-progress showings of The Talkback at FringeArts (140 N. Columbus Boulevard). Philadelphia-based artists Justin Jain, David Johnson, and Bradley K. Wrenn joined forces in 2007 and created The Berserker Residents, performing a fantastical blend of physical theater, puppetry, music, sketch, and prop comedy. The group is in residence at FringeArts in June to finesse their 2013 Fringe Festival hit, The Talkback, before taking it to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

Part-scripted and part-improvisation, The Talkback begins at the end of a show the audience has never seen, leading the audience through a discussion of the unseen show, which then goes completely awry. Curious, we went to Justin, David, and Bradley for the inside scoop on creating The Talkback, and what they’ll be working on while at FringeArts.

FringeArts: What was the inspiration for The Talkback?

Brad: It started back when Justin was a FringeArts LAB fellow. We had found ourselves in a rut. We were making the same show over and over. We spent a week or so exploring new ideas and trying figure out how we could mix things up and make ourselves uncomfortable. We finally hit on the post-production discussion as a format.

We generally aren’t big fans of improv, it makes us weak in the knees just thinking about it. But our aim was to disrupt our usual patterns, and we love playing with an audience. The form also allowed us to be ourselves, literally. We aren’t playing characters really, we keep our real names and plop ourselves into a fake theater company at the end of a fake show.

Dave: We often rehearse long blocks of stream-of-consciousness improvisation that make us laugh and push the boundaries of our own comfort as far as what is funny—and go on way too long. At one point we thought: how can we make this a show?

FringeArts: How did The Berserker Residents form?

Brad: The Berserker Residents didn’t form. The Berserker Residents have always been. Just like time or love or war. We were forged in the heart of a dying star and we’ll be here long after this feeble experiment called humanity has been snuffed out.

Dave: Brad and Justin wanted to create a show and they knew something was missing. ME!

Justin: In 2006 we came together to make The Jersey Devil for the Fringe Festival of that year. We do divide the labor. An unseen Berserker is Meghan Walsh, who also takes on some of our administrative work.

David Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain

David Johnson, Bradley K. Wrenn, Justin Jain

FringeArts: What is the process for creating a show like The Talkback, which depends so much on the audience?

Dave: The Talkback is a lot like stand-up comedy. It cannot be created in a vacuum. The show lives and learns in front of a live audience. The early days of this show were like imagining the worst stand-up comic you have ever seen, bombing alongside two other crappy comics, and none of them know how to leave the stage. Now we have better material, more confidence, and ripped abs.

Brad: It’s maddening rehearsing this thing by ourselves. We have dummy questions on a chair in front of us as we rehearse, and we each take turns wandering into the audience to pretend we are asking questions.

Justin: I love seeing what has stuck since that first showing in 2012. The usher character, the way we fuck with audience members, the dance, the all-bets-are-off logic that the show takes in the middle. All of these things have survived each revision and are essential to the show. Creating an audience-participatory show without an audience in the rehearsal studio is extremely difficult.

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A Micromanaging Comedy Lover’s Golden Opportunity: Audience improv with Matt Holmes

Posted July 11th, 2013

Have you ever been to a comedy show and thought about how much more infinitely talented you were at the comedic arts than the performers onstage? Alas, acting classes cost hundreds and the emotional damage suffered from the season finale of Game of Thrones has left you marginally less extroverted than is required of a professional performer.

MattAnd-improvSince 2008, Co-founder of Rare Bird Show, Philly Improv Theater team member, and regular fixture in Philadelphia improv Matt Holmes has been jolting audiences from quietly disgruntled passivity in a whimsical experiment that plucks a single audience member from the crowd and plants them onstage to create a boisterous, hour-long improv comedy show. Matt&, quickly attracting buzz as must-see innovative comedy, has toured in eight states spanning the country. In its milestone 50th performance, Holmes brings the daringly probing comedic feat to the upcoming 2013 Fringe Festival, starring himself and, possibly, you. FringeArts recently stopped in with Matt Holmes to get insight on the upcoming show, its stylistic evolution thus far, and a look back on his improvisational career and inspirations.

FringeArts: How did you first get into improv?

Matt Holmes: I’ve always been really interested in comedy. I remember staying up to watch The Tracey Ullman Show and getting really into Laugh-In reruns and tapes from the first cast of Saturday Night Live one summer. I was an eight-year-old who knew every stand-up’s act from TV. But, I was pretty shy until I was like sixteen or seventeen. I started coming out of my shell slowly. Improv really opened me up and trained me to be personable when I have to. I was in a college improv group after trying out on a whim. Then I formed a group with some other did-improv-in-college types, also kind of on a whim. Along the way, I did a bunch of projects and a lot of teaching, and of course, was always learning more and more myself.

FringeArts: Do you remember where you were when you first realized that this was what you wanted to do?

Matt Holmes: I don’t think there was one specific instance where it all came together. There was probably a point where the loose creativity of improv clicked in my mind as a particularly good fit for me, and there was probably a point where a certain project really felt like it was working, but I can’t think of one exact moment. It’s been more like growing a plant than getting hit by a lightning bolt.

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Preview Time!

Posted August 13th, 2012

I can’t hardly believe that it’s already preview time! If you’re involved in some pre-Fringe preview or showcase action, be sure to email me at NickG[at]livearts-fringe[dot]org, and I’ll be sure to plug you here. To get us started, the WaitStaff are bringing together a slew of people for their take on The Match Game, while giving you a taste of:

ComedySportz Philadelphia

Fringe Wraiths
Jeff Coon and Ben Dibble Must Die
Ivona, Princess of Burgundia
Raw Stitch
I Hate Monologues and The Alphabet Plays
Wawapalooza 6: The Great Almost
The Grimacchio Variety Hour
Real Housewives of South Philly Play Match Game!

You get two nights of previews from this crew. Sunday, August 19, doors at 6:30 pm, show at 7:00 pm; Thursday, August 23, doors at 7:00 pm, show at 7:30 pm. Both shows at L’Etage, corner of S. 6th and Bainbridge Streets. $15. Click here for info and tickets.

–Nicholas Gilewicz

Caroline Rhoads: A Seriously Funny Lady

Posted September 8th, 2011

Caroline Rhoads photographNot only is Caroline Rhoads a member of Philly Improv Theater (PHIT), she’s also in Josh McIllvain’s Fringe show, DEER HEAD. DEER HEAD is a series of ten-minute plays which center around compelling, serious dialogue that is also humorous. DEER HEAD pushes the envelope by presenting seemingly average characters who experience dysfunctional interactions with others, be it a disillusioned co-worker or the lingering awkwardness of a previous relationship.

Caroline, 24, grew up outside of Hershey, PA. She attended a performing arts high school, where class often ended with improv games. This is when Caroline realized how much she enjoyed improv: “I remember loving the freedom it gave me. Unlike a play, where every choice you make must be in line with the character’s intentions/personality- there are no wrong answers in improv. I like how as a performer you are encouraged not to think, which is very liberating.” In college, she began improvising with the Stephens College improv troupe, Happy Tuesday Players, and has also studied with the famed Second City. After graduation, Caroline moved to Philadelphia to pursue acting, and along the way, joined Philly Improv Theater. She performs with PHIT’s house team Asteroid!

Caroline’s favorite comedic actor is Steve Carell, whom she first saw in “Little Miss Sunshine.” She noticed that “his dramatic and comedic performance were impressive. You can be a great comedian and a strong dramatic actor as well…in some cases they fuel one another.” For Caroline, the most challenging thing about improv is layering in texture to a show or scene (like climax, pace, callbacks, etc.) but still maintaining the mantra “don’t think.” She says, “the hardest thing for me is remembering the gifts my fellow performers give at the top and then bringing them back at the end of a Harold. I’m just so wrapped up in how much fun I am having that I have to stop and say, ‘wait, Caroline, let’s focus on structure too!'”

Caroline also just wrapped up filming for a movie called “Natural Rejection,” a sci-fi thriller with a moral twist. It’s her first feature film as the lead. Hopefully you’ll see it on dvd by next summer! Caroline is also pursuing several teaching opportunities: she plans on joining Theatre Horizon and Walking Fish Theatre in the Fall for some after-school programs.

–Christina Snyder

DEER HEAD runs September 14-17 at the Performance Garage, 1515 Brandywine Street, Spring Garden. 7:00 pm, $15.

Asteroid! finishes its run September 13 and 14 at the Mainstage at the Adrienne, 2030 Sansom Street, Rittenhouse Square. 8:30 pm both nights, $15.

Puppet Improv: Friends of Alcatraz

Posted September 7th, 2011

Just when you thought the Philly Improv Theater couldn’t get any cooler, they decided to add a puppet improv show to their repertoire.

There’s a cat named Alcatraz, who is perhaps the most desirable cat in the world. Alcatraz and his friends have kicked off a night of comedy, complete with the option to watch the show on screen or on stage. And in case you were wondering, yes, this is the first fully improvised puppet show ever seen in Philadelphia.

While the show includes puppets, these are of the kind that may corrupt your small children. Forewarned is forearmed.

Friends of Alcatraz runs now through September 17 at the Adrienne Theater Main Stage, 2030 Sansom Street. Times vary, $20.

–Christina Snyder