Interview with Keith “Keebler” Horvath, Director of This is (Not) the Gayest Sketch Show You’ll Ever See

Cast of Not the Gayest: Ashley Blom, Laura de la Fuente, Luke Wallens, Mason Kerwick, Javier Ungo. Not pictured: Katie Stone

Keith “Keebler” Horvath is a veteran of the Chicago Comedy and Theatre scene. Keith has nearly twenty years of theatrical training and experience, and has devised and directed over three dozen original sketch revues, plays, musicals, and solo shows, and has coached dozens more improv groups. He is a former director of Sketch Cast and Coached Ensembles in The Second City Training Center, and was AD for BlueCo, one of The Second City’s National Touring Companies. Also: He lights up the room.

Director, Keith Horvath

Director, Keith Horvath

In this interview, we chatted him up about his newest hit machine “This is (Not) the Gayest Sketch Show You’ll Ever See” (which is like fourteen of those little fireball emojis, according to everyone who has seen it).

Hi, how are you?

Sleepy, as I’m sure everyone is. Everyone is hustling to make their dreams a reality and therefore sacrifice sleep most of the time. Right?

Absolutely, same here, but it’s all good stuff, right?

Without a doubt. I’ve fallen in love with Austin, and I’m so happy I moved here to continue pursuing my art.

Can you tell us a bit about the show?

Sure! This is an original sketch comedy revue that’s inspired by the LGBTQ community. We have been in process since December of last year, and we’re very excited to share what we’ve created with the Austin community. You will see sketches that have been written by the actors performing in the show, and I facilitated the process along the way. It is a very organic process that yields a lot of material, so it was difficult for me to whittle down to the running order we have. There was simply too much good material because I am fortunate to have such amazing writer/performers and crew. Luckily on April 29th, which is our last performance, we will be showcasing some of the material that did not make it into the final running order. Some of those scenes may end up in our next revue!

What motivated you to focus on the LGBTQ community?

I really wanted to showcase the LGBTQ community because there’s a lot the general population doesn’t understand about us. Even within our own community, there are so many different aspects of what it means to be LGBTQ that we are all constantly learning, evolving, and growing each day. With that in mind, our goal was to encompass as much of the community as possible and to give a voice to those who may not otherwise have the chance to express themselves. While we have a lot of scenes that focus on queer issues, you’ll also see scenes about our political climate, scenes about family dynamic, and scenes that poke fun at the status quo of our communities. The purpose of a revue is to showcase variety, and I think we accomplished that quite successfully.

So the show isn’t completely improvised? What is the difference between improvisation and sketch comedy?

Cast of Not the Gayest: Ashley Blom, Laura de la Fuente, Luke Wallens, Mason Kerwick, Javier Ungo. Not pictured: Katie Stone

Cast of (Not) the Gayest from L: Katie Stone, Ashley Blom, Laura de la Fuente, Luke Wallens, Mason Kerwick, Jake Garrison, Javier Ungo.

No, the show has scripts the actors improvised and wrote themselves. Sketch comedy differs from improvisation in that sketch comedy is almost always written, whereas improvisation is made up on the spot. Sometimes sketch comedy revues have improvisational scenes, or utilize improvisation in some way, but not always. Sometimes people create premises before the show, then improvise with or without audience suggestion – we call this ‘sketchprov’. For (Not) the Gayest, we mostly brought in ideas for scenes, or a ‘pitch,’ and would improvise around that premise in rehearsal. From there we would test out scenes in front of an audience and reimprovise in rehearsals to find the structure that worked best for that particular scene – very much so in that Chicago/Second City style.

Why was it important for you to utilize Second City’s sketch comedy techniques/methods?

Growing up I had always wanted to be the next Jim Carrey or Robin Williams. As I got older, I discovered that a lot of my comedic heroes, especially those on SNL, had come from Second City. When I officially moved to Chicago – I grew up in the south suburbs, but no one knows where “Mokena” is –  I learned SO much about not only theater and acting, but comedy, and even life. I was immersed in this satiric lifestyle that was allowing me to challenge myself to get to the heart of what I wanted to communicate with the audience.

(Not) the Gayest cast members: Laura de la Fuente, Ashley Blom and Katie Stone

(Not) the Gayest cast members: Laura de la Fuente, Ashley Blom and Katie Stone

This is such an important part of comedy, in my opinion, the heart. Without it, the audience can’t connect with the scene or the actors; we would be saying jokes that didn’t make sense, or lacked a point. The power then, of improvisation, is it takes away the impulse to be funny, and instead focuses on people, relationships, and emotion. Improvisation forces you to connect with another person on a deeper level, and react in an organic way. This honest connection creates a visceral, empathetic response in the audience, allowing them to go on the journey with us. So, by using improvisation, we cut through the BS of trying to be funny, and instead become real people. The in-the-moment reactions to the situations within the scenes generate a heartier laugh, one that comes from deep within and is uncontrollable – a genuine laugh. Once we have this in place, we are then able to structure our scenes and our comedy within a framework that helps us organize our comedy. Within sketch, we generally have an average of 4 minutes before the lights go out and we move on, so there isn’t much room to (for lack of better terms) “half-ass” it.

Did I go off on a tangent? Sorry.

That’s ok, it was relevant. 

Oh, good.

What do you hope the show will accomplish?

I hope when people see the show, particularly those who are not directly part of the queer and trans community, they recognize and appreciate how much depth we all have as humans. It is easy for us to lump an entire group of people into one category, so this show invites the audience to take a step back and realize that everyone has depth, everyone is three-dimensional, everyone is complicated.

I think a key takeaway is that people are more than just their orientation or gender identity. For instance, I am an avid video gamer, and I am also bisexual. My husband and I like to watch TV, take our dog for a walk, go on hikes, and we enjoy trying new wines. When put together, we see that my orientation is a very minor (but important) part of who I am as a person. There’s so much more to me than who I am married to, and I want more people to see and understand that.

Remember: “Ogres have LAYERS” – Shrek

Did I sound like Shrek?

Close enough?

I’ll take it.

How has the rehearsal process differed from when you were in Chicago?

It’s been surprisingly similar to how I ran rehearsals in Chicago; the only difference is that I’m not struggling to find a place to put up a show, find rehearsal space, or procure actors dedicated to a show. I have not seen as much overbooking down here as I did in Chicago. There are a LOT of people in Chicago who are interested in doing work, then show up late, don’t show up at all, miss several rehearsals, all because they are doing too much at once. I have heard through the grapevine that this happens in Austin, but if that’s the case, I’m impressed with how hard the actors work down here to make all of their obligations a priority!

What’s been the best part of working with ColdTowne on this show?

People who know me know I am not one who tends to be sappy unless I am being sarcastic…however, the people at ColdTowne have truly changed me for the better. The pure love for this work has reinvigorated my passion for creating comedy, and the support from the ColdTowne community is overwhelming in the most wonderful way possible. ColdTowne is a theater that embraces diversity and inclusion, is open to new ideas, and most of all, is a fun place where people hang out, exchange creative philosophies, and create amazing art. I came from Chicago, considered the “mecca” of improvisation and sketch comedy, and I couldn’t be more impressed with the level of professionalism and aptitude the artists at this theater showcase day in and day out. We may not be millionaires, but we are creating theatre GOLD! There are several performers I’ve encountered already that could easily rival the talents of the many-many-many-many proficient improvisers in Chicago. I can say with authority that Austin, and ColdTowne in particular, is a really special place doing amazing things. I will always be loyal to ColdTowne because of the opportunities I’ve been given, and the warmth and passion of this community that looks out for each other.

That’s great to hear! Anything else?

Go see the show, and I have great hair! Ask to touch it the next time you see me*, it’s soft as FUG!

*I will decline if I have not showered that day.

You can ask to touch Keith’s hair and get the full experience of ColdTowne’s latest sketch show run every Saturday at 7pm through April 29th. Tix recommended at least one week in advance, as presales are already high for upcoming shows. Get em here.

 

ColdTownies Doing Cool Sh*t: “Beach Day” Director Dalton Allen

Dalton Allen, Filmmaker and CT performer.

Dalton Allen is a student and performer at ColdTowne Theater, and graduate of the University of Texas Film Program. “Beach Day”, a piece he wrote, performed and directed (with collaborator Matt Stryker) was recently selected for the SxSW Film Festival, wrapping up this weekend. We asked him about the film in this brief chit chat.

Dalton and Matt in Beach Day. From the SxSW 2017 Film website.

Dalton and Matt in Beach Day. From the SxSW 2017 Film website.

Tell us about the short.
The film’s a short, absurdist comedy about my friend and I, who go to the beach on a slow day. It doesn’t go as planned.

What was your inspiration for making it?
My co-director and co-star Matt had the initial premise. We hadn’t made anything for ourselves for a long while so we just wanted to dust the cobwebs off. It was all found on the day. There was no script; we would shoot something and then talk through the beats of what comes next and then shoot that. It very much mirrored improv that way – we worked purely on instinct and discovery.

Who inspires you as a film maker or comedian?
This is a tough question for me because I always want to get comprehensive, but that’s impossible. At least for Beach Day, and I think I can speak for Matt too here, we’re big fans of recontextualizing things that wouldn’t themselves be funny but the situation they’re happening in makes it so it is. Also, playing something that’s deeply silly as straight as possible.

Edgar Wright comes up a fair bit between us. Wright has such a mastery of using the medium of film itself to help frame and tell a joke and he doesn’t waste a frame doing it (in much the same way, I’m a huge fan of Satoshi Kon). That efficiency really appeals to us. We’re both filmmakers first and comedians, or anything else, second, so we’re very concerned about using the camera dynamically to help us be efficient and dense with our comedy.

Beyond SxSW Film, where else can people catch your short?
We’re considering right now if we want to continue with a festival run or move on to something else. However that bears out, the short I’m sure will appear on YouTube at some point in the near future. It seems the natural home for something so silly. If anyone wants though, you can always contact me and I can send you a private link.

Heavy Metal Drummer: Michael Dolan of Rezuranger

Michael Dolan, Level 2 student.

Michael Dolan is a Level 2 student at ColdTowne and currently featured in our MainStage show, Rezuranger. He shared with us how he happened into classes, and–eventually–his role in our Saturday MainStage production.

On July 22, 2016 I visited ColdTowne Theater to see my friend, Lisa Williams (Family Meeting), perform with her troupe The High Five at a CageMatch (now Throwdowne) show vs. Rezurangur. That was the first time I got to see Chris Baldenhofer and Delaney Jo Hernandez perform. I was so impressed that night by Chris and Delaney to make two person scenes much fun! I didn’t realize it then, but Delaney and I had actually been camp counselors in 2008 for a youth retreat, and it was awesome to reconnect with her. I also remember thinking Kevin killed it that night during the performance with The High Five.

That show made me realize I wanted to do improv and couldn’t keep putting it off. I was still unsure about signing up for classes. I remember the two reasons I went ahead and did it: 1) I met Michael Jastroch during the 10 year anniversary weekend and remember thinking he was super witty and his characters were amazing. He’s a great teacher. 2) Kara King told me I wasn’t that funny in the ping pong/domino room at the Grand, so I had to prove her wrong. I signed up for Level 1 in the Fall 2016 class start.

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Dolan in Rezurangur press photo.

Towards the end of my Level 1 class, I saw that Rezurangur: An Improvised Heavy Metal Odyssee was looking for improvers and musicians with a specific request for a good drummer. It was the perfect show for me since I’ve been a drummer for almost twenty years and played in a metal band called Uglytwin for almost 3 years. I knew it was my destiny.

After a very nerve-wracking audition with Kristin Henn and company, I was very unsure about getting into the show because I didn’t talk much during my multiple person scenes. Like everyone, I’m my own worst critic. On top of that, I saw a ton of excellent performers at that audition.

About a week later I remember getting the e-mail from Kristin announcing that I had been cast for the show. I was so ecstatic that I immediately started to send friend requests to every member of the show on Facebook, just to see who all was in the show with me. When I saw Chris, Delaney and Kevin, I was super excited to work with all of them, since they were all part of the reason I invested in classes at ColdTowne. I had the chance to see a lot other cast members in Rezurangur perform at ColdTowne, and now—having had a chance to work with them—I’m certain this is one of the best groups of people I’ve ever had the chance to share a stage with.

Now, as a Level 2 student, and about to move into Level 3, I am so excited to keep going through classes, and eventually graduate. I love this community of people and always enjoy watching every show especially Missed Connections ATX, Loverboy, and Damn Gina. Come see Rezurangur: An Improvised Heavy Metal Odyssee!

Michael Dolan is an Austin native and has been a student at ColdTowne since 2016. He’s a drummer with 20 years’ experience of many different genres. He’s a beauty school dropout, graduate of Texas Bible Institute and doesn’t use any of that knowledge at his job doing Software Quality Assurance.

He’s performed in the Bit Show and now with Rezurangur: An Improvised Heavy Metal Odyssee Sat. nights at 8:30pm only at Coldtowne Theater from March 4th through April 8th. $10 online, $12 at the door. Buy tickets here.

Don’t Let the Night Catch You: NightWatch Producers, Damn Gina

Members of Damn Gina in NightWatch: Ronnita Miller, Xaria Coleman and Maggie Maye.

Damn Gina has been filling houses and winning audiences since the five founding members (Cené Hale, Maggie Maye, Ronnita Miller, Tauri Laws-Phillips and Xaria Coleman) met and started the troupe at ColdTowne in 2015. Quickly establishing themselves as audience and scene favorites, they have played all over Austin and recently won the B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Improv Troupe, 2016.

Our interview with Damn Gina’s Ronnita Miller and NightWatch director Erica Lies follows. You can also check out their recent interview with the Daily Texan.

Damn Gina's Maggie Maye and Ronnita Miller in NightWatch. Photography by Steve Rogers Photography.

Damn Gina’s Maggie Maye and Ronnita Miller in NightWatch. Photography by Steve Rogers Photography.

What inspired you when creating NightWatch?
Ronnita L. Miller – This show was inspired by a show we put up in December 2015 where the members of Damn Gina did monologues and scenes based on our own interactions with police officers. In these stories, we shared insight as to how people of color are treated in routine situations such as traffic stops and how our treatment may differ from our white counterparts.

Drew Wesley is rumored to play the investigator/detective and the whole cast is a super solid crew. Can you tell us about the cast and what they bring to the show?
Ronnita L. Miller- The whole cast is encouraged to play investigator/detectives and suspects. We have a great cast of very strong improvisors. We all get along very well. The cast is looking for interesting points of view that are presented at the top of the show when we profile the type of suspects that might commit the crime that we are investigating.

Erica: The cast is amazing. I don’t know how we got this lucky, but every person brings so much both in terms of character work and bringing great details and premises to scenes. They all make me laugh til my stomach hurts.

Ha, Drew is wonderful, but whoever heard that rumor must get their news from Donald Trump. I wanted to be conscious of whether what we’re making onstage just recreates the power dynamics of wider society, and the last thing we need is another story where a white dude has power over women of color. So instead everyone switches roles.

The members of Damn Gina play the lead detectives and the rest of the cast plays everyone else, including sometimes other investigators, the police commissioner, the  DA. Sometimes that’s Drew with his sweetly bungling detectives, and other times it’s Linzy Beltran as a cop that gets too close to her cases, or Rachel Austin as a Doogie Howser teen cop.

Maggie Maye, Laura de la Fuente and Frank Netscher in NightWatch. Photo by Steve Rogers Photography.

Maggie Maye, Laura de la Fuente and Frank Netscher in NightWatch. Photo by Steve Rogers Photography.

Is this a police procedural? What was your inspiration for the show?
Ronnita L. Miller – I would say it is a procedural. We tried to watch as many detective and procedural television shows to get a sense of the lingo and the tone. We didn’t want to repeat what we did in December 2015 because we each only have a finite number of stories and didn’t want to repeat those stories as they may lose impact. We thought it would be fun to use stories from the audience on times in which they were falsely accused to illustrate how personal bias and other factors can come into play when investigating a crime.

Erica: I see it as a procedural because the “crime” is wrapped up by the end. Even if the person caught and arrested isn’t actually the guilty party, the case is closed. Even so, I also wanted it to have elements like more modern crime shows that also delve more into the cops’ lives and their motivations. But here we’re twisting the procedural a bit, too. In cop shows, the crimes are always high stakes — murdered women, organized crime syndicates, so many serial killers — and the police almost always get the right people. We wanted to use the suggestion to both treat something small and ridiculous as high stakes, but also to look at a story that isn’t quite tied up as neat and pat as a procedural. We also wanted to mess with the tropes of crime shows. They’re so common you could make a bingo card out of them — masculine hero with a dead wife, excessively tough lady cop, “the DA’s breathing down my neck!”, the renegade who dares wear jeans, the captain saying “turn in your gun and badge.” Even just the mood and the deadly seriousness of those shows, it’s all ripe for mockery.

NightWatch with Xaria Coleman, Maggie Maye, Ronnita Miller and Laura de la Fuente

NightWatch with Xaria Coleman, Maggie Maye, Ronnita Miller and Laura de la Fuente. Photography by Steve Rogers Photography.

Why NightWatch?
Ronnita L. Miller – NightWatch came from a few different places. I think all the members of Damn Gina grew up hearing their parents say something along the lines of “Don’t let the night catch you…” which was meant to be a warning not to be running around at night where you could be mistaken for someone up to no good. If we think about Trayvon Martin, you can understand why this warning is so important. My parents had a rule that I could not be out after the streetlights came on or I would be in trouble.

If you think about police or neighborhood watch patrols, they usually take place at night when the streets are empty and danger is more pronounced. So we took those inspirations and combined it with the Game of Thrones Night’s Watch and it became NightWatch.

What else should we know about the show?

Erica: It’s raucous and fun and the whole cast is just so insanely funny. So, come prepared for an ab workout.

Damn Gina’s NightWatch plays the ColdTowne Main Stage through the end of February, every Saturday night at 8:30pm.  Advance tickets are recommended.

Missed Connections ATX: Best of What You’re Missing

Missed Connections cast member reads a Craigslist post during the show

ColdTowne Theater’s newest main stage show, Missed Connections ATX explores the sentimental, fantastical, and downright raunchy nature of austin’s most impersonal personal ads. We sat down to talk to show’s director, Chelsea Bunn, who handpicked a list of her favorite ads that aren’t going to make it into this run of shows.

Chelsea Bunn, Director of Missed Connections

Director of Missed Connections

First of all, tell us a little about the show?

The show has a five act structure and marries short- and long-form improv. Each act is inspired by ads from Craigslist’s Missed Connections section, which the cast has never seen before!

Over the course of collecting ads for the show, how many ads do you think you’ve read?

Probably over 1,000! The show spans Central Texas, so in addition to Austin, I’ve also been pulling ads placed in Round Rock, Georgetown, San Marcos, and San Antonio.

Wow, that’s a lot of personal ads! Have you noticed any trends?

I’ve seen plenty of dick pics (reader beware! lol). A lot of Missed Connections seem to occur in gyms, barber shops, and grocery stores– where it’s generally expected that you mind your own business. I will say that I have no interest in entering a 24-Hour Fitness or Gold’s Gym locker room or sauna ever again… Some Central Texans are very free sexually!

Missed Connections cast member reads a Craigslist post during the show

Missed Connections cast member reads a Craigslist post during the show

OK, tell us about this list you’ve prepared for us…

Alas, we could only cram so many wonderful ads into our six week run. So, I curated a list of some personal favorites that aren’t making the run of shows. I hope you enjoy– and come see the show!

Ladies & Gentlemen, without any further adieu, Chelsea’s list:

I saw you on the game show this past week!!! – m4w (Austin)
I saw you on The Price Is Right this past week (I think it aired 1/11/17). You are gorgeous!!! Bubbly personality too! That’s a rare combo. Are you single? This is the weirdest way to meet, but my whole life has been full of really cool, yet weird stories. Hopefully this will be an ongoing story!!! Your first name starts with a “C.” If you see this, please reply with your full first name as the subject of your email. Also, please tell me more about yourself and send me a picture of you. I’m a great guy who will dispel all of the Craigslist stereotypes! I’ll send a picture with my reply to you along with more about myself. Thanks!!!

Your Name is Joe & Your Wife Works in Leander (Leander)
I don’t really know you but i know & work with your wife at a doctors office. Since i work with her, i don’t want to create work related drama, because i need my job. So i’m hoping someone on here knows you and can relate the message back that your wife is having an affair with someone here.

I don’t want to create unneeded issues for anyone else for my lack of detail on who & where. So if you think this is you, and want me to verify. Reply with your wife’s first name and if it’s her, i’ll reply back with her last name & vehicle she drives in.

Missed Connections cast during the opening weekend.

Missed Connections cast during the opening weekend.

Early morning..I need to learn basic vehicle maintenance – w4m (Southwest Pkwy)
Thank you to the man that changed my tire in the cold this morning. I don’t know who you are, and doubt you will see this. I was scared and cannot thank you enough! You were gone before I had a chance to stop and pay you because I had my mom on the phone. I feel so bad because it was freezing cold, still dark and you still helped. Thank you so much, I was really worried when you first stopped..(too many horror movies I guess)

Guy eating potato – w4m
I’m sorry for staring at you while you enjoyed your potato.

It looked really good. I’m going to get a hot plain jane potato soon.

that was some party. sad it had to end. – m4ww (my Dr. office)
The dr said everything would be fine in a few weeks. I should have known better. you guys are too tempting.

Lastly, and not for the squeamish…

farting in my mouth – m4w (my bed)
age: 35

I miss the way you hold your ass open and held your stinky farts in till I put my lips around your puckered asshole and then push out a hot steaming bomb in my mouth and I’d lick the inside of your ass while you blow out.

For more Missed Connections entertainment, check out Missed Connections ATX Saturdays, February 4 – March 11 starting at 7:00pm. Tickets are $12 at the door and $10 online.