Megaphone Marathons: Houston, Day 2

The second day of the Megaphone Marathons in Houston went off without a hitch. Earlier in the day, improvisers got together at the St. Arnold Brewery to try a beer or two from their wide array of selections. Little did I know this is a place where people took their lawn chairs and their kids and play skip-bo. You know, a typical Saturday for these folks. The fatigue of watching so many improv shows is always a factor, so bear with me. Anyways, here is the day two recap from this past weekend:

Starting off the night tonight was Checkbook (Austin) who recently traveled to New York for the Del Close Marathons. These five lovely young ladies start off with the suggestion of a compliment somebody received was “You remind me of Matilda from the books”. Immediately I knew this was going to be great. Everybody did a monologue of a character they would introduce throughout the set and of course it was an all-womens english boarding school. “Dildo person”, who wasn’t even a member of the school, has to take her clothes off to fix things, but Rose the Red Barton the school bully abused this fact by constantly breaking things. Not cool, Rosie.

Next up was superteam Ideal Boy (Houston) who just blew me away seeing them for the first time. These guys OPENED THEIR SET WITH A CD RELEASE. How badass is that? Scenes included stereotypes against lesbians (played by two dudes), a stellar good cop/bad cop played by both the accusers and Shyla, who denied offing her mom’s head. A bear did it instead. Also, I will always have a soft spot in my heart for endowing people to not have certain limbs. Buy their cd (don’t think it’s online yet).

Lucy (Austin) had an intriguing set highlighted by Atticus Rowe blowing everyone away by playing somebody just back from the war and singing a great impromptu “Proud to be an American.” Riding that post 4th of July power, Lucy pulled away.

The two-person Opposites (Austin) opens their sets in avant garde fashion playing trippy music and exclaiming why they are opposite of each other in every aspect. What ensued was an entertaining story wherein Patrick Knisely’s problem with oversized shirts and shoes and belts at Old Navy because they were cheap was remedied. Also, watch out for duck people and resumes.
Blink (Houston) met the Beatles, who weren’t the actual band, but something sexual. Apparently the secret service doesn’t like you instagramming the White House. Yeah for instagram for making it into a scene and yeah for blink for having a really good set.

It was getting a little late and people were a little tired, but surprise group Brown Like Me (Austin, New Orleans) came on stage and blew everybody away. Their opener made fun of the stereotypical racial scenes you might expect from two people with a much lesser level of intelligence than C.J. Hunt and Vanessa Gonzalez who help run the New Orleans and Austin theaters respectively. They both claim to be from Brown University, which is close to be being completely true. Scenes included a mailman and a woman with big popeye muscles both dreaming big dreams about moving to Hollywood. Another awesome scene involved C.J. picking up Vanessa at a coffee shop by knowing what her typical, very odd, orders were while she couldn’t make choices for the life of her.
BirkRich (Houston) were a two-girl troupe who played a couple people in a bandito gang. We also learned that people become vegan by watching the Walking Dead and that you can be traumatized by the game Mousetrap growing up.

The Bat (Austin, Houston, New Orleans) was formed during the Improv Wins conference this past January and is comprised of people from all three cities. The opening suggestion of a pleasant sounding word was “orgasm”, which is a bit dangerous if you think about it. You either have to go all the way with that suggestion or be completely clean. This was a mix of both, but always coming back to a sweet porno scene.

Abstract Rainbow (Austin) is a puppet variety show and Patrick played puppets as members of his wife Erica’s family and you know how family members can be.

Juicebox (Austin, New Orleans) were Reagan, Allen, and Chris Trew and they had a tough time painting Allen for a still painting because he wouldn’t stop opening his mouth. Don’t people understand how portraits work?

Butchershop Quartet (Austin) had one of the best sets of the night. Justin Strackany gave a great intro talking the team down, when they would actually really step it up. The four men were all rocket scientists working on a love potion, but also dealing with the realities of it being a dangerous thing you don’t want to mess with. Harsh past relationships were had to be dealt with, including a “science prom” gone completely wrong and a floozy servant of a mad scientist turning out to actually be a man.

Then the weird short one-off shows started…

DOA (Houston) must have done well considering it’s members, but I can’t read anything in my notes at this point.

Bird Dog (Houston, Austin) was an incredible group of Shyla and Megan Simon, who started off their set with a beautiful conversation talking about cute things like what their favorite movies were. Then the first scene starts with the line “Well this baby isn’t going to abort itself!” Megan also lied about wanting to fuck a cat and a broom closet conversation entailed the question “Have you ever let a guy eat you out while on your period?” by Shyla. I almost gave this set a standing ovation.

To close out the night was Vaudeprov (Houston), the vaudeville improv team. The mainstay in these super weird night cappers is Matt Gawloski who was born  for this role as a vaudeville improviser. Things got crazy on a blimp and he got hit by a pie. Also, pants were coming off for some reason. Couldn’t end the night better.

Houston was great. Austin and New Orleans have a high rope to jump

Houston Harold Weekend Wrap up

Houston Harold weekend 2012 has wrapped and it was the most successfully glorious Harold weekend that has ever happened, probably.







HHW H-Town 2012 kicked off Saturday morning at noon with intro workshops and focused character work with Amy Birkhead and Lisa Friedrich before moving on to Organic Openings with Eric Muller.

The afternoon workshops wrapped with Matt Donnelly’s Speed Harold which was packed with performers from all over studying Donnelly’s modified Harold.














Audiences started packing in Avant Garden around 8pm to see Houston’s Rogue Improv, the Speed Harold workshop’s production and an all-instructors performance back to back. The shows were magic. The performers were gold. The night was young.

The crew took to the darkness but unbeknownst to them the clocks planned to turn ahead. The bars had no intention of acknowledging it the fun way, like when this happens in the fall. Refusing to stop the engaging conversations and entertaining banter HHW’s followers did what they had to do, take it to the house. Things got really fun, weird, meat and cheeses were introduced, but mainly stayed fun.

Sunday came around just as one would expect it to- too early but charged with the electricity of another education and performances. Shyla Ray delighted with interconnectedness and theatrical cohesiveness, Dan Grimm dazed performers, demanding truth and emotional depth and Matt Donnelly returned for really cool beat work. Group scene and device deconstruction is a mouthful but Donnelly didn’t call it that so it was just real cool.
Sunday night wrapped up the weekend like TNM Houston wraps up every weekend- with Improv Zero (a Free intro course for any and all) coupled with the Shootaround, an all-in performance for all improvisers, and a Megaphone Show.

HHW pulled out all the stops for the weekend fenale; TNM Nola’s Stupid Time Machine performed, and acted as the monologists for the theater’s flagship show, the Megaphone.

If the above images above don’t display the deep affections the TNM community has for one another, the harold, the art, and out of town guests  look at these. We heart Harold.


Fancy New Edits


The festival-talk got flying at Hell Yes Fest in New Orleans a few weeks ago and the discussion group turned its attention to a re-occurring conundrum: what to do about lame sweep edits? They take energy out of scenes by causing improvisers to “wait” to be edited. They look a bit silly. If the folks on the side miss one everyone feels sad. And, in general, they just don’t get anybody excited.

Editing at the Megaphone Marathons 2010

So what other options do we have? Recently folks in The New Movement have been playing with French Edits (editing by entering a scene/every entrance is an edit), Fluid Edits (the scene “morphs” into another scene rather than being “edited” in a traditional sense) and other permutations. But, nothing had really clicked on a grand scale. Then we got to talking about a level one class recital Katelyn and Skippy in Houston just had.

By lots of bad luck, Katelyn and Skippy were the only two improvisers from their class who were able to come to their level one recital. By lots of great fortune, they have fantastic chemistry and it was more fun to challenge them to do a short two person show than to combine them with improvisers from another class. Being impossibly brave, these two ladies agreed to do their first public improv set ever, as a duo. Right before they went up, Skippy turned to me and said “Wait, how do we edit?” Of course this was a simple question, if you’re in a two or three person group you have to self-edit. So I replied “Just look her in the eye and walk toward each other.” It was flawless. There was no confusion and their recital was a joy to watch.

So that is the new standard edit. In Houston our level one through five students have all been instructed in self-edits and they’ve replaced sweeps as the assumed way of transitioning from one scene to another. Among the major advantages of this development is an empowering of the improvisers on stage.


No longer waiting to be “saved” by their peers the improvisers in a scene must get used to feeling their shared highening path and finding their “out.” It also encourages students to think of their role in the scene as totally active: just as we encourage improvisers to begin a scene with confidence and authority, they can now always practice ending their scene in the same way.

I expected there to be some confusion about how to edit in this way or a tendancy for students to “bail” on scenes before they’d fully developed. That hasn’t been the case! Edits are still sometimes missed by the improvisers on stage but with less frequency than with sweeps and implementing the new system has been just as intuitive as the old reliance on the sweep edit ever was. However, there seem to be two principal drawbacks to self-editing all the time. The first is that there might be some confusion when playing with improvisers from other comunities where sweeps are the only accepted edit. I don’t think this is too much of a threat though, just like eliminating a standard sugestion, it is easy to understand this small diffrence and adapt to it. The second drawback is that sweeps have so long been a major part of our vocabulary that they’ve become esential in discribing other types of devices and the role of support work. It becomes increasingly important to stress the active listening and suportive roll of the on-sides performers when they’ll no longer be counted on to trot across the stage.

The end of the sweep edit’s dominance will be painless and fecund. As improvisers, starting at level one, learn how to feel the end of their own scenes they’ll no longer be intimidated by performing in smaller groups or taking ultimate responsibility for the pacing of their own scenes. Furthermore, self-edits seem to encourage a more focused attention on the piece as a whole. Improvisers who previously might have been thinking “When should I edit their scene?” appear to be increasingly engaged in listening, not for the end of the scene, but to its content. Therefore, they are more ready to tie together threads between scenes than to merely anticipate their end.

 Sweeps are dead, long live the Self-Edit!