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Yes, Yes, Nannette! Take the IRTE to laughter.

For eight years, (that’s eight THEATRE years, which is -like- 25 in “normal” years), the Improvisational Repertory Theatre Ensemble has been one of the leading improvisational companies in New York and making the rest the country laugh out loud as well.

IRTE is a powerhouse group of theatrically-trained artists who come together to create spontaneous and uproarious retro-themed improv-comedy shows. Their brilliance at stage craft makes each event deeper and funnier than any other troupe of its kind.

IRTE writes, develops, produces, and performs a season of original themed improvisational shows, following the basic model of traditional repertory theatre. While they are New York based, they also tour the country with their clever on-the-spot antics.

When in NYC, they make The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, NYC, their home. There, the highly-skilled fighting force of fun-makers present a season celebrating the best of pop culture.

This year, artistic director Nannette Deasy and her rep of rapid fire revelers have grabbed another group of back-in-the-day-themed routines. They start with an interactive bachelorette party where the audience are “guests” of the bride-2-be (or NOT to be!); then they set sail on a send-up of disaster films; supply a sequel to their classic “stupid kid” show… only this time, it’s a slumber party … and – wait for it – shades of Tim Curry … IRTE meets a secluded cabin full of ITs!

Adding to the fun, IRTE features a musical guest and guest improvers as well. In the past, IRTE spotlighted cabaret artists like Tym Moss and instrumentalists like guitarist John Munnelly.

 

Tell us about yourself as an artist? 

Deasy_Nannette_4705_ret.jpgAfter college, I studied to be an actor at various studios and with various teachers. (Roger Simon, Sam Schacht and Terry Schreiber were most influential.) I joined Equity after appearing in an Off-Broadway play in the late 90s at LaMama.  At some point, I saw my first comedy improv show at Chicago City Limits and was really taken with the idea of unscripted comedy. It seemed really fun, funny and dangerous. During the late 90s, early 2000s there was a strong indie theatre and indie comedy movement on the lower east side of NY. I was impressed with a lot of what I saw coming out of that scene and with the thought that theatre could really be fluid and self-created.

 

 

 

What is funny? How do you get to be funny?  

vIRTEgo Circus at Tampa Improv Festival, L-R, Jamie Maloney, Nannette Deasy, Robert Baumgardner.jpgIt’s super difficult to tell what other people might find funny (although an audience will be quick to let you know either way). It’s best to just dig into whatever makes you laugh and let go of expectation. Personally, I tend to like somewhat over the top characters who have overly strong worldviews.

 

 

How do world affairs play into making an audience laugh? Is it better when times are hard?  

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Hooboy, I’m not sure I’d call it “better,” but yes, laughter and pure entertainment are really important in tough times. As a people, as a community, we need a release, we need a de-stressor. We need to escape, together in a darkened theater, even if it’s just for an hour and feel better for it. I know I do!

 

 

Have you even been in a situation where the audience just didn’t laugh?

What are you saying? (Clutches her pearls and faints). Yes, of course, what I think is funny is not always what other people are going to find funny. I’d like to think, though, that an (ahem) “quiet” audience is simply waaay too enthralled to risk missing a word we say, and a (cough) “angry” audience member (yes, we’ve gotten those) is just very, very moved (sometimes right out the door). LOL

 

 

As actors, more than improv’rs, do you create a “moral” or message in each piece or does that happen organically? 

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As an actor, I hope to deliver whatever message the playwright and director are trying to convey through their work. That’s part of my job. As an improvisational actor, I’m creating the work, myself, on the spot. Personally, I don’t have any agenda other than my own character’s selfish wants and needs in that particular moment. Consciously trying to deliver some sort of message, to me, can be distracting. However, I am a human being and I am affected by the world around me (I hope) and whatever is going on inside me in relation. That does tend to come out and express itself in performance if I’m truly being open.

 

 

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What do you hope the audience will take away from this piece?

I hope they laugh. I hope their chests feel a little less tight and their foreheads uncrease. I hope they get that warm happy feeling in their stomach from laughing really hard.

 

What have you done to make it as universal as possible? Or Have you? 

I guess I’ve paid attention to what tickles me the most and hope that other people can relate.

What’s next for you?

We have IRTE’s season opener, Tammy’s Bachelorette, which is going to be, literally, a party for the performers and the audience.

 

 

The IRTE 2019 Season:
Tammy’s Bachelorette
pc-front-tammy.jpgConceived by Nannette Deasy
Directed by Robert Baumgardner
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS March 8, 9, 15 & 16, 8:00pm
Tickets $15 Online / $17 at the Door
The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, New York City
Blonde, beautiful Tammy Tucker is getting married, and you’re invited! She’s reunited all her besties, one male stripper and an ex-boyfriend or two to say goodbye to single life in this improvised and interactive Bachelorette Party of the CENTURY!

The Ship Be Sinkin’
sinkin-ship-front.jpgConceived and Directed by Robert Baumgardner
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS April 5, 6, 12 & 13, 8:00pm
Tickets $15 Online / $17 at the Door
The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, New York City
The largest cruise ship ever built is going down!! What did it hit? Who will survive? Why does that singer keep singing? Find out at the hilarious improvised comedy that will float your boat!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evil Clowns Have Feelings, Too
evil-clowns-have-feelings-too-poster-1.pngConceived by Izzy Church
Directed by Nannette Deasy
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS May 3, 4, 10 & 11, 8:00pm
Tickets $15 Online / $17 at the Door
The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, New York City
When their car breaks down in the woods, the Poolander’s family vacation comes to a screeching halt, forcing them to seek refuge in an old cabin in the woods until help arrives. Little do they know, that a bunch of evil clowns own the cabin and are having a really, really bad day. Join the IRTE jesters, fools and jokers in this improvised and totally terrifying comedy… for the whole family!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Go to Sleep, Stupid Kids!
Original Concept by Nannette Deasy
Directed by Robert Baumgardner
FRIDAYS & SATURDAYS May 31, June 1, 7 & 8, 8:00pm
Tickets $15 Online / $17 at the Door
The Producers Club, 358 West 44th Street, New York City
Jamie’s been twelve for THREE WHOLE MONTHS and has NEVER had a “big kid” slumber party. That’s all going to change in this improvised sequel to IRTE’s hit comedy “Happy Birthday, Stupid Kid!” Grab your sleeping bag and your best PJs and hope that Jamie’s dysfunctional family doesn’t embarrass him in front of the cool kids!

 

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William Considine, playwright, poet, and producer

 

Mary is divorced, estranged from her family and suffering with cancer. Her son Mike visits her during spring break. She asks him for concrete actions of moral support. Mike’s father and aunt caution him not to get involved. Old wounds re-open, and the bonds of family and love are rigorously tested. William Considine, pens this naturalistic, family drama and peppered it with elements of poetry and surrealism.

Poet & Playwright, William Considine, hands us deep drama from his own dark past. He opened up to Ai on bringing to life … his life. 

 

Tell us about yourself as an artist? 

Bill Considine.JPGI have written plays and poems for much of my life. I’ve also made poetry videos. I’m active in the downtown New York poetry scene. Four of my plays had staged readings at the Public Theater, and I’ve also had readings at St. Clement’s and La Mama, as well as play performances at Theater for the New City, Brooklyn Army Terminal, Limbo Lounge, Ear Inn, ABC No Rio and Dixon Place. In 2017, the Operating System published a volume of my plays, The Furies, which is available on Amazon and from the publisher. The Operating System has also published a chapbook of my poems, Strange Coherence. A CD of my poems with music, An Early Spring, is available on iTunes and from the label, Fast Speaking Music. I’m a member of the Dramatists Guild and the Polaris North theater artists cooperative. I was an attorney for many years, in the public sector, retiring a few years ago. I live with my wife in Brooklyn.

What drew you to write about such a topic? Is it – in any way – autobiographical? 

 I was compelled to write about this subject. Memories and emotions are strongly involved. Yes, it is autobiographical. For a long time, I was reluctant to address this, and to be so revealing, but I had to come back to it.

What do you – the author – experience when writing characters of such deep emotion? 

Frankly, it was often painful, to recall tense moments, to relive them word-by-word, and recreate them honestly. I wrote this play a little at a time, over the course of decades. Each character lived in a rich web of memories and feelings. I was very concerned with being true to the people and e-examining my own assumptions or habits of thought.

What do you hope the audience will take away from this piece?

I hope the audience will take away a sense of the complexity of family relationships, and a feeling that even the most difficult encounters can arise out of love and with understanding, can regenerate love.

What have you done to make it as universal as possible? Or Have you?

I have tried to be true to the particulars, to be factual. I think the universal is found in the particulars. Art that is rooted in the soil can flower for everyone to see.

What’s next for you?

I hope this play will continue to live. I have another full-length play, a verse play, Women’s Mysteries, that I plan to take up, to find staging for it, too. And there is always more to write.

 

Magnetite LLC presents
Moral Support, A new play by William Considine
Medicine Show Theatre, 549 W. 52nd Street, 3rd floor, New York City
February 21, 22, 23 @ 8:00 p.m. / February 24 @ 4:00 p.m.
February 28, March 1, 2 @ 8:00 p.m. / March 3 @ 4:00 p.m.

 

moral support poster_full text

Once More Unto The Breach!

Blood on Sword.jpgQuisqueya Productions presents a limited showing of a re-imagined version of Shakespeare’s HENRY V. Shakespeare’s definitive parable of war and warriors will directed by Broadway veteran, Mary Lou Rosato, at the legendary American Theatre of Actors – one of the last great theaters of the famed off-off Broadway movement – for a special limited run, February 21 – 24 (Thursday – Saturday @ 7:30 p.m. with special matinees on Saturday & Sunday @ 2:00 p.m. – Invited previews start Feb 18) The ATA is located at 314 W 54th St, New York City. Tickets available at https://www.smarttix.com/Event/hen393. Te event is listed on SHOW-SCORE and OPPLAUD.

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Presented in contemporary dress with allusions to period style, Quisqueya Productions hopes to show – in this stunning new production – the duality of mankind; the eternal battle between modern thinking and warlike desires. Producer/performer, Laris Macario, who appears as Henry was quoted as saying “Henry gets caught up in his own legend … as we all do,” Macario has accepted the challenge of playing several of Shakespeare’s men of conviction, who see their missions as a way to justify a place on the throne and, in many respects, come closer to God. Others in his canon are Marc Antony in Julius Caesar and Lucius in Titus Andronicus leading the pack. “In these uncertain times, the story of a valiant soul leading the common man to victory is that much more necessary,” he concluded.

Broadway luminary, Roger Rathburn appears in this production directed by another Broadway notable: Mary Lou Rosato.

The ensemble cast includes, Sylvain Panet-Raymond, Sam Tilles, Julian EvansMegan Smith, Kaitlyn Farley, Joe Penczak, Jared Kirby, Patrick Hamilton, Yosef Podolski, Diego Tapia, Mark Guerette, Suzanne Kennedy, and co-founder of the company, Tom Kalnas.

We were able to grab Tom during their break-neck schedule of rehearsal, character exploration, fight-choreography and production meetings. Tom was clever but to the point. Here’s out warrior-to-writer chat:

kalnas_head.jpg

Tell us about yourself as an artist? 

I’m from Pittsburgh. I write, sing, act, and improvise. Acting is impulsive. I strive for a simple and believable style. As a writer, I focus on media, marketing, politics, and technology. I write plays about self-branding and online identity.

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What drew you to do Shakespeare and especially this play? 

I missed Shakespeare. I missed the challenging text and the unbridled satisfaction of performing Shakespeare in a believable way.  I’m like those opera singers who love to perform Handel.

As for Henry V – I’m in the mood for a war play. The show raises excellent political questions, morality questions. It’s a complicated, challenging, rewarding production.

Henry V.jpg

In what way is Henry V timely today – also, what lessons can we learn from it? 

Henry uses the rhetoric of a wartime leader. As any mainstream American politician knows, delivery is everything. Rhetoric is sacred today, as it was in Shakespeare’s time. In Henry V, an island nation follows a man into France to fight an unnecessary war. But, hey, they’re happy about it. Most of them support the cause. Or at least, they support King Henry’s agenda.

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What is the importance of Shakespeare in terms of being presented in the indie theater scene? 

You don’t need a college education to appreciate Shakespeare. You don’t need a ton of money. You need good actors and a good stage.

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What’s next for you and your company? 

Ask Laris! He’s the one with big ideas.

 

Funny and Fresh

MESHELLE “THE INDIE-MON OF COMEDY”

FUNNY A$ A MOTHER…COMEDY TOUR

The Triad Theater, 158 West 72nd Street, New York, NY  10023

February 1, 2019

Inola McGuire reviews! 

The performance of Meshelle “The Indie-Mon of Comedy” Funny A$ a Mother…Comedy Tour and her two special guests, John Moses and Mike Troy out of Brooklyn surely gave the audience a lot of heat on a frigid winter night at the Triad Theater.

There was a well-dressed and diverse audience that welcomed the performers.  John Moses started the show with his brand of comedy, and some of his jokes were taken from his own life experiences.   The audience responded quite well to his salacious puns wholeheartedly before he gracefully concluded his rendition eloquently.

Mike Troy stroked the audience with his comedic style of jokes straight out of Brooklyn because he has mastered how to relate his personal interaction with his family into his comedy, but he reminded the audience of the homeless problem in New York City.  In his analogy, homeless animals have gotten better treatment than homeless people.  It was hilarious and the audience wanted to hear more of his tell-it-like-it-is jokes.

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Meshelle’s presence on stage brought a special heat to the audience in more ways than one.  Members of the audience, mainly the women, got some great advice from Meshelle in her comedy in order for them to love themselves unconditionally.   The bantering in her comedy was unique and the audience showed its appreciation with laughter.  Meshelle’s comedy was the next best thing to a homily on Sundays, for there was food for thought for all in attendance.

Overall, it was a great show that forced each member of the audience to reflect on his or her carnal, natural and spiritual self!  I am confident that everyone has gotten an antidote from the dynamic comedy to use in the improvement of their lives.

 

Too Much Dressing

The Bare Truth

By H.G Brown, directed by Laurie Rae Waugh

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

The new Off-Off-Broadway comedy The Bare Truth tries to wring two-plus hours of sitcom-style comedy out of a pair of Florida grandparents who announce to their excessively shocked adult children that they have become nudists.

The wanly funny show, having its world premiere at the American Theatre of Actors, lacks the courage of its naked ambition in several ways. For instance, there is no actual nudity—not even when the main characters are offstage. The grandpa (Ken Coughlin) appears at one point in swim trunks, and the grandma (Francesca Devito) appears in a low-cut caftan, but that’s about it. The needed scene where the children react in comic horror at their parents’ bare skin is simply not present.

51293320_2266569573374570_4992066154865360896_n.jpgInstead, the characters sit around Coughlin’s set (he’s also the lighting and sound designer) and argue about the more interesting things happening offstage. A doubly unnecessary scene at the top of Act II recaps everything that we heard had happened in Act I.

As a pair of wacky (and fully dressed) nudist neighbors, Mike Durell and Amy Losi add some liveliness to the proceedings. But Johnny Blaze Leavitt and Autumn Mirassou are just a pair of pills as the main characters’ uptight offspring. The role of comic foil has a long and honorable history. They could have done much more with their roles, and author H.G. Brown should have given them more to work with. But the script, which feels like it was written for a 1960s TV series like “Love American Style,” doesn’t afford them much of an opportunity. Is casual naturism still considered this big of a deal?

51385362_2266569526707908_1928301786028834816_n.jpgThe Bare Truth, which also features performances by Rooki Tiwari and Manny Rey, played at the American Theatre of Actors complex at 314 West 54thStreet through February 3.

Family Secrets

Till We Meet Again

By Glory Kadigan

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

The new Off-Off-Broadway drama Till We Meet Again starts out like a pleasant family comedy with a crusty grandpa and a sweet and dotty grandma taking care of a precocious and wisecracking granddaughter. But somewhere along the way that mask slips off. Deeply buried secrets rise to the surface, unexpected connections between characters appear, violence erupts, and the cute-as-a-button little girl turns out to have the strongest backbone and the keenest understanding of humanity of them all.

50073963_522640818245117_2767030382640496640_n.jpgDirected with a sure hand by Tony-winning actress Tonya Pinkins (who does not appear in the play), Till We Meet Again  is structured around a series of school papers being written by the granddaughter (a multi dexterous Mehret Marsh) who is studying World War II at school. She interviews her grandparents as part of her research, and those interviews awaken ghosts of the past, including one literal one. A long-ago misunderstanding and a misplaced sense of duty may have thrown a switch that sent the grandfather’s entire life careening down the wrong track—or perhaps it was the right track after all. Visiting the road not taken is always a tricky proposition.

There are many layers to the character of the grandmother, and June Ballinger plays them all: funny, flirtatious and earnest, but underneath determined and even dangerous.  David L. Carson must play the grandfather as a man slipping into dementia—or is he? Are his memories of a lost love (Gina LeMoine) hallucinations? Agonizing memories? Or actual hauntings?

Jumping continually in time and space on a nearly bare playing space, this production could easily have become a muddle without Pinkins’ smart staging. She’s made a strong choice with this play, which asks what price is paid when we do what duty requires at the cost of what our heart desires. It’s a big question.

Till We Meet Again, which also features performances by Mary Monahan and Perri Yaniv, is scheduled to play at the 14thStreet Y through January 26, but deserves a life beyond this production.

Robert Viagas on Choir Boy

Choir Boy

By Tarell Alvin McCraney

Reviewed by Robert Viagas

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It turns out that all-male, all-white prep schools, such as the one revealed in all its awfulness last fall during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh, have no corner on the market for bullying, violence and illicit sex. Choir Boy, the new Broadway drama with music, goes behind the ivy-covered walls to explore what happens when a gay student at the all-black Charles Drew Prep School for Boys tries to confront homophobic hostility among members of the school’s championship choir after he is appointed their student leader.

Choir Boyis not technically a musical, but is nevertheless drenched in music. In between the confrontations, the young men give lush, close-harmony, a capella performances of several gospel classics, notably “His Eye Is on the Sparrow,” plus pop hits “Boys To Men,” “Autumn Leaves,” and “Love Ballad.” These songs are used to reflect and comment upon the action of the play as the young gay man, Pharus Jonathan Young (the angel-voiced Jeremy Pope) comes into conflict with his straight rival and antagonist Bobby Marrow (the smoldering J. Quinton Johnson), who also happens to be the nephew of the beleaguered headmaster (Tony Award winner Chuck Cooper).

The school’s traditions of honor and achievement are old and a source of intense pride. All the teenaged students aspire to grow up to be “Drew Men.” One of the unwritten Drew taboos is “snitching” on a fellow student, and the strain between this tradition and Bobby’s survival eventually lead to an epic clash.

However the road to get there takes several interesting twists and detours.  Tarell Alvin McCraney’s script deals not only with the issue of bullying,  homophobia, and sexual repression; it looks at black history and the world beyond Drew’s walls where these young men will someday have to make their way. The conflict between Pharus and Bobby is fought on the concert stage and in the classroom as well as in the locker room. Pharus also has no small ego and it irritates his classmates that his obvious talent seems to support it.

Pharus and Bobby disagree over whether the spirituals they sing were purely religious in nature or if they contained coded nuts-and-bolts directions on how to escape slavery and journey to freedom. The underlying question is whether their slave forbears used purely spiritual means to transcend their slavery or if they took concrete steps to win their freedom. The difference adds another stick of dynamite to the coming explosion.

Presented on Broadway by Manhattan Theatre Club, Choir Boy was previously produced Off-Broadway by MTC in 2013. Directed by Tripp Cullman, Choir Boy plays a limited run through Feb. 24 at the Samuel L. Friedman Theatre.