$99 Holiday Class Pass Goes On Sale Black Friday!

By popular demand – our HOLIDAY CLASS PASS returns for a limited time only Black Friday, November 24th 2017. Keep watching this space for the link!

We genuinely believe that improv classes can change a person’s life. It certainly has for all of our students, performers, staff, and faculty, and it seems like each day we see a new piece of writing espousing its benefits. (Read about a ColdTowne alumn’s experience with the pass here.)

To best share that magic, for a limited time we are offering Level 1 Improv or Sketch Class gift packages for just $99.

ColdTowne Improv or Sketch Class Gift Package – $250 $99  (offer begins November 24th and ends December 10th)

  • Eight weeks of Level 1 improv or  sketch classes.
  • Sign up to begin as early as January.
  • A Digital Gift Certificate
  •  Tee Shirt on the First Day of Class!

Black Friday madness deals can go right to hell! This offer is available through December 10th!

If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

Martini Ranch’s 2nd Full Length Revue Debuts This Weekend!

Following a sold out Austin run this past spring, ColdTowne’s mostly queer sketch comedy group, Martini Ranch, returns with a new revue, Queer & Now. A light-hearted blend of social commentary and silly giggles, the must-see show features original songs, brand-new sketches, and a whole lot of glitter.

We caught up with Martini Ranch director Keith Horvath to get some insight into the process and to hear his thoughts on the deteriorating state of the world (our words, not his).

Queer and Now debuts Saturday, November 4th at 8:30pm! TICKETS HERE.

This is Martini Ranch’s SECOND full length sketch revue in Austin. How did the first show came about? What can we expect with this second revue? It is! I can’t believe in less than a year we’ve created two shows. The talent in Martini Ranch is incredible.

For This is (Not) the Gayest Show You’ll Ever See I had it in my mind that I wanted to create a group that would stick together and write multiple revues. I don’t expect everyone to stay forever, but I wanted to get a group and a brand established. I don’t think any of the cast knew that was my intention, though. After they were cast, I revealed that I wanted to do multiple revues. I hoped everyone would want to as well. Good news: they did.

Our process is very Second City driven, as that is where I got the majority of my training. However, with everything I do, I incorporate my own style and blend other aspects of theater that I have learned over the course of my career. A general rehearsal will start with me getting titles for scene pitches, and then I go away for about 20-30 minutes while the group discusses their pitch (I don’t want to get ideas about where I want the scene to go before I see what the writer intended in the first place).

When I come back, we will either improvise through those scenes, or we will read a written script. After I give notes, the group goes home to edit, and we make adjustments along the way. It’s a very collaborative environment, too. I’m the director and technically have the most experience, but like any good sketch director, I trust the instincts and ideas of my ensemble (otherwise what is the point of having them write the show?).

Often, we will have group discussions and everyone will throw out their ideas, like a writers’ room. I make the final decisions, but the ensemble has permission to interject their ideas.

This allows for us to have a strong creative and collaborative group. The shows feel like we all own them. Even though each scene usually has one specific writer – multiple if they’re improvising it – we all have a say and all our voices are heard.

The first revue was just us getting our feet wet. A few of the ensemble had never written or performed sketch before, and I was blown away with their natural talent and writing ability.

We were informed, via a review, that our political material was not the strongest in our first show, so for Queer and Now, we decided to focus on having fun and being silly. I don’t want to give away too much, but this will feel very different from the last revue. I wanted to show how nothing is as it seems right now, and there are several layers to everything. I want the audience to kind of be mind-fucked while they are watching it.

It’s fast paced, and if anyone knows sketch comedy/big-time directors, they will see a lot of Mick Napier’s style. If you don’t know Mick Napier, look up The Annoyance and read his books. He’s brilliant, and one of the nicest people I’ve ever met.

It seems like everyone in Martini Ranch really bonded. Is that unusual? I don’t know if it’s unusual or not, but I pride myself on creating cohesive groups. It’s one of my strong-suits as a teacher and director. I think the fact that we are all queer (except Katie, who is an incredible ally) and have a mutual understanding of the struggles we go through helped us to create such a tight-knit group as well.

Right now we are actually working on filming some of the scenes we’ve done and want to start having an internet video presence. We will also be writing another revue for next summer, so come see it! Tell your friends!

How does working on a revue like this in Austin compare to Chicago? In Chicago, there is a LOT more sketch and writing in general. I think part of that comes from it being a bigger city and having more opportunities – there are over 200 theaters in Chicago – and part of it comes from the fact that if you want to get on SNL or get picked up for Late Night, you’re more often than not a writer. All of the people I know who are working in mainstream entertainment/comedy are writers. Even if they are acting, they still write. Writing is the key to getting a professional job in this industry, and even if you don’t want to be a writer, writing every day will help you to articulate your ideas, and help you break down scripts as an actor.

Additionally, I feel many people down here aren’t used to longer rehearsals. Most are usually 2 hours, and Martini Ranch rehearses from 10a-1p every Sunday during our process. It may seem like a lot to some people, but there are days I wish we had another hour.

2017 America is a hellscape. True or False? True, but I also think a lot of this comes from Social Media. So much gets blown out of proportion, or is sensationalized, and too few people check a variety of sources. I’m sure we all know that person who shares a meme about x, y, or z and it has information that upsets us. But if we were to verify the facts, we would find it’s partially true, or not at all. Everyone is suddenly an expert at everything, and everyone is looking for someone else to blame and be a victim. I hate it so much.

For me, I always tell myself that things will get better, and things will change soon. There are two quotes that have always stuck with me. The first is from Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher who said: “No same man could walk through the same river twice, as the man and the river have since changed.” So no matter how dark things may get, there will always be hope down the road. We just need to look for the light at the end of the tunnel. Knowing that comforts me.

The other quote – and this one is something I personally always need to work on, because I’ve found myself getting so irritated and mad at everything recently – is a quote from the Buddha. I may be paraphrasing a bit, but he said: “holding onto anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; in the end you get burned.” I think this is accurate and poignant. When we are angry, we hold onto negative feelings. We no longer are as productive as we usually are,  and are distracted from the things that make us happy. An old friend of mine had further put this into perspective for me by saying: “Whenever I feel anxious, or depressed, or angry, I rationalize my emotions. I name them. I remind myself that I’ve been through this before, it hasn’t killed me, and I’ll get through it this time.” I find rationalizing emotions, particularly negative ones, helps me process so I can move on.

One other thing. I don’t think many people think about this, but no one can make you feel anything other than you. If I’m walking down the street and a stranger says I’m a dumb piece of shit, I don’t care. If my husband does that, I’d feel devastated. Yes, we have a strong bond, but I’ve allowed his words to affect me. Conversely, if I let that stranger upset me, then I’ll be upset because I allowed it to affect me.

Overall, my husband is the glue that holds me together right now. Without his love and support, I don’t know where I’d be.

Robotic Improv Invades Long Center!

A mashup of Battlebots and Whose Line is it Anyway?, Bot Party 3.0 features integrated teams of humans and robots competing in comedic challenges based off of audience suggestions. Originally produced in 2015 as a Machine Shop series through Austin’s Fusebox Festival, ColdTowne co-founder Arthur Simone founded the group as a nonprofit theater organization. Collaborating with Red Sky Robotics and social roboticists from Carnegie Mellon University, University of Texas & MIT’s Media Lab, Bot Party’s robots have been featured in SXSW Create, Austin Maker Faire & East Austin Studio Tour.

Bot Party 3.0 is presented in association with ColdTowne Theater, Fusebox Festival and IEEE Central Texas from November 3-5. We spoke with mastermind Arthur Simone about the genesis of the show.

What drew you to working with Robots and AI in comedy? I had been doing improv with my dog Robin Goodfellow on a dare, anthropomorphizing his every move and endowing him as silent partner characters for scenes. Robin’s programming was pretty easy – food, water, cheese nibble resets in between scenes and bits. After that, I went through a Fusebox Festival Machine Shop program developing robotic characters for short form games, and I’ve relied on an entire community of roboticists, engineers and makers to build [Bot Party Robot] Annabelle.

What’s been some notable, weird, or incredible on-stage performance moments working with robots (or Dogs for that matter). If the battery’s weak or the network is slow the timing can really hit or miss, but convention floor events like SXCreate and Maker Faire have been great for a wide range of ages. The best interactions have been simple “Hey there’s” while dodging otherwise uninterested or too-interested groups of people. A subtle robot is a triumphant robot.

I’m surprised by the broader world of engineers and scientists you’ve become involved with. What kind of interesting advances have you learned about, and have you brought any of that knowledge into your other creative pursuits? I’ve always been interested in minimal theater and building from scratch. Here’s a ball! Call it a robot, why not? Where is the robot? Is it the ball or the machine system tracking the ball? Who makes decisions for this ball? Is it Big Brother or Skynet or Deep Blue? Maybe Etsy, is Etsy a robot? Speaking of, please visit my Etsy store or view my abstract expressionist oil paintings during the East Austin Studio Tour (I’ll be stop #31). Annabelle will be there too!

What’s your prognosis for Austin’s cultural climate moving forward? We’re f*cked! support local artists.

You’re also extremely politically active. What can working with robots teach us about politics, and what can politicians learn from robots? Robots have been in politics for some time already, right? Think about prerecorded, even heavily edited, robocalls to voters from easily-recognized public figures. At least some robots are capable of learning history!

I AM TX Film Sheds Light on Rarely Heard Perspective

Filmmaker and ColdTowne Graduate, Ryan Darbonne’s love for film has run deep since his first job as an usher at Regal Westgate movie theater in South Austin. After moving to Denton to attend the University of North Texas Film School, Darbonne returned to Austin where he has since made his mark in the comedy, film and music scenes.

Now after wearing several hats including co-founder of Cinema41, Film Department Director at Austin Film Festival and original member of hip-hop group, SPACE CAMP Death Squad, he is in pre-production for his next big project, a narrative short film called “I AM TX.”

We sat down with Darbonne to learn more about I AM TX and why he is raising money to fund the project.

Tell us more about who you are… as a filmmaker.
I am Ryan Darbonne. I’m an Austin-based filmmaker with over a decade’s worth of experience in production. I have written and directed a number projects that have been featured on Noisey, OVRLD and other online publications. In 2011, I co-founded Cinema41: An award winning (Austin Chronicle ‘Best Of’ 2012) community arts organization dedicated to hosting free screenings of independent films with diverse themes and served as the Film Department Director at Austin Film Festival in 2013.

What are you up to outside of film?
In addition to my film work, I have written, directed and produced several successful live shows at ColdTowne Theater, and I’m a member of the award winning all black improv troupe Sugar, Water, Purple.

I AM TX is a narrative short film about a fictitious black hardcore punk band, comprised of members Charlie, Sonny and Otis, on their last leg of tour. Told over the course of one day, we follow the group from the desert roads of El Paso, TX to a popular music venue in Austin.  Throughout the film, each character is forced to contend with cops, insufferable fans, and an ever persistent “woke” music blogger who all serve to reinforce the band’s position as outsiders in a mad, mad world.  

Inspired by personal experiences, I wrote this film to showcase the frustration, anxiety and often humorous/painfully ignorant interactions that go along with being a “cultural mulatto.”

So you mentioned before that the cast is made up of actual musicians, who are they?
The film stars three key figures from Austin’s music scene: Audrey Campbell of Pleasure Venom, Jonathan Horstmann of BLXPLTN, and Greg Williams of Chief and the DoomsDayDevice. We’ve been rehearsing for weeks and they’re an amazing group, who all have personal stakes in what the film is trying to convey.

What is your goal with this film?
The film is a DIY project made by and starring punks of color. Hollywood has come a LONG way in its portrayal of people of color, but there has yet to be an accurate portrayal of what it’s like to be black and alternative; to straddle two sides of a cultural track.

Why should people support and back this project?
This is a chance to support and help nurture diverse voices on film. Those wanting to back the project have until Nov. 10 to donate on Indiegogo at indiegogo.com/projects/i-am-tx#/

If you don’t have the means to donate, please share our campaign page and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

Instagram and Facebook: @iamtxfilm

 

 

Classic TV Meets Classic DC

This November, Austin’s home for improv and sketch comedy ColdTowne Theater is excited to present Barney Miller Dark Knight – a theatrical event that is exactly what it sounds like. Part classic ‘70s sitcom and part gritty DC Comic, Barney Miller Dark Knight threads storylines from the caped crusader and the 12th Precinct.

Barney Miller Dark Knight was conceived of and created by ColdTowne Theater’s Executive Producer Dave Buckman. We spoke with Dave about his inspiration, classic sitcoms of the 70s and his plans for the midterm elections.

Barney Miller Dark Knight runs Saturdays at 7pm at ColdTowne Theater.

What was the inspiration to mix Barney Miller with the world of Batman?
I had to look and search in my email to see when the first time “Barney Miller” came back into my consciousness. It was December 2011. I wrote my step-brother-in-law an email thanking him for a Secret Santa gift. I casually mentioned “I am working on writing a stage show that is a Dark Knight version of Barney Miller.” Three weeks later I ordered Season 3 off o Amazon in hopes finding what the internet told me was the best episode of the series, S3E6: “Werewolf”. I couldn’t tell you how that combination jumped into my mind, but it’s been there for six years. And then one night in 2015, I ran into Leng Wong at SpiderHouse. It was night time, but she was wearing aviator sunglasses and wearing a maroon leather jacket. I thought to myself, “Holy shit! That’s [Jack Soo’s character] Nick Yemana… right there in front of me.” I went home and finished the first draft that weekend and started the process anew, adding a few more storylines, exchanges and jokes from other episodes. We’ve been improvising on top of that script, sprinkling in Batman and Gotham references ever since.

What’s the attraction to classic sitcoms?
I have always loved sitcoms. Another dream show of mine is putting up staged versions of the classic ABC line up: Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley, and Three’s Company using the same reparatory cast for all three shows. Like someone would play Fonzie, Squiggy and Mr. Roper in the same night. I love those three in combination, because they represent three very different types of comedy: realtionship-based, pure physical and bedroom farce. Some of those old shows hold up 30-40 years later. Welcome Back, Kotter does not hold up so much. Mork & Mindy is not a strong as I remember. But Barney Miller, Soap and Golden Girls are still killer, because they had really good writing and really good actors. Not comedians, actors. Also shout out to Sgt. Bilko/Phil Silvers show. One of the few black and white sitcoms that is better than anything on TV today.

Any concerns adapting pre existing properties? What do you do to make it fresh?
I hope to god we get a cease and desist letter. That would be great. So no concerns at all. As I was combing through episodes (thank you Sundance channel!) there was a lot of misogynistic, homophobic and semi-racist jokes and storylines that were allowed on television 40 years ago, but that would make my stomach (and yours) turn watching them now. So excising and rewriting those things were necessary for making it palatable and presentable in 2017. I hope this show launches a national revival of Barney Miller, the way The Annoyance Theater launched the Brady Bunch revival in the 90’s.

What are you looking forward to – creatively speaking – in 2018?
I’m going to direct an original sketch revue with Second City’s style of writing/improvising for a few months to get to some sketches and songs for ColdTowne next May. It will be about the 2018 mid-terms. I am hoping to cast some of ColdTowne’s best firebrands and flamethrowers to write it with me. It’s working title is Kill Rightey. My wife Rachel Madorsky came up with that title a few years ago, and I’ve always wanted to use it for a political sketch show. Next year, I get to.

TICKETS ON SALE NOW