Airport Blvd. Showdown(e): #teamtysons vs. #teamgrand

As comedians, we can get embroiled in dumb bits and running jokes that are only entertaining to those on the inside. In this case, nothing could be more important to the well-being of humanity and necessitate public debate than the ColdTowne rivalry between those who are #teamtysons (tacos) or #teamgrand for pre and post-show hangouts. In this blog post, we get takes from those on one side or the other of the Airport Blvd debate, as well as those who champion a new hero [insert echo effects: (hero) (hero) (hero)].
Please note: The views expressed are each respondent’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of ColdTowne Theater, because we’re partial to both.
Caitlin McNally, #teamtysons

Caitlin McNally, #teamtysons

Caitlin McNally
A #TeamTysons haiku:

I like to drink beer
Tacos are important too
Tyson’s has both though

Emma Holder
Tyson’s is great. They make good tacos, they have beer they are friendly. I like going to both places, but if I had to choose one, it would always and forever be The Grand. The Grand is more than just a dive bar/pool hall, it is a home. I joke that it is my Cheers but it’s true. Every bartender there knows my drink order and my name. I have been going there after shows and rehearsals since I started improvising at ColdTowne in 2008. The smoking ban had been in effect or was just going into effect but the servers at the Grand didn’t give AF and would bring you a little plastic cup of water for an impromptu ashtray if you lit up inside. That was 9 years ago and they (thankfully) don’t do that anymore. The Grand is now clean and renovated and has a great patio for smoking (not that anyone should smoke but I am not your mom), but that history is still there for me and the drinks are still as cheap as they were when everyone was smoking inside. I love that I have never played pool there but don’t feel out of place in a bar that is 70% pool hall. In fact, the pool hall gives you space you rarely find in a bar. The Grand is expansive, it is its own little universe, a microcosm of chill. You can always find a quiet spot to talk with friends, you can hide from people you don’t want to see but easily see anyone you do want to run into.I love that the Grand is at least partially female owned and operated. Rachel is one of the owners and she is awesome. TBH I don’t know exactly who else owns it because everyone who works there is so chill they could all be owners and I wouldn’t have any idea.

Emma Holder headshot

Emma Holder, #teamgrand

I only know Rachel is an owner because it came up in conversation when I was complimenting all the really awesome changes she has made. I like supporting a female owned business, but it’s more than just that. The servers and bartenders all hang out there when they aren’t working. This speaks to how great a place it is. The staff seems to like each other and like their place of work. That makes me happy. The Grand makes me happy. Whenever I do a cleanse and am not drinking, I still go to The Grand. Alcohol is great but honestly I just love this weird giant bar with an even bigger heart. They also have tacos and other food now and it is pretty good but you can still get a Digiorno pizza cooked in their legit pizza oven. #teamgrand

Ashley Blom, Food Writer
From a purely culinary lens, without question, Tyson’s is the clear winner. I feel confident in my authority to declare this as I am a local food blogger and published author (forkingup.com and “How to Eat a Lobster and Other Culinary Enigmas Explained” Quirk books 2017). So, trust me when I say this is no contest. Let’s break it down.

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Ashley Blom, Food Writer and author of “How to Eat a Lobster” #teamtysons

Tyson’s: While the jury’s out on whether or not their tortillas are made in-house, they’re definitely of a higher quality than price-comparable taco joints in the city. The breakfast taco selection is the clear star of the show, taking up the majority of the real estate on the board. And the expertly crafted Austin favorite is certainly worth a bite. However, their lunch and dinner tacos are equally unique and tasty. What other place in town can you get a crispy duck in any form for under $5? I challenge you to try. You’ll be hard-pressed to find any meat on their menu that isn’t deliciously cooked to perfection.

Their sides deserve a mention as well–the street corn and queso are both top notch. For those who don’t trust their house specialties can build their own, and as an added bonus, if you order enough of them they’ll name a taco after you. Even better, if you’re a troubadour of sorts they’ll allow you to sing for your supper–a taco a song.

Alcohol is purely secondary in my review, but their new selection of draft and canned beer has something for everyone. I recently found the new Austin Eastcider’s Blood Orange (they happen to be sponsoring Not the Gayest Show You’ll Ever See if you’d like to try a sample!) in their display. The crisp, light flavor of orange and cider pairs wonderfully with their braised beef cheek Barbacoa taco or perhaps a Diablo Shrimp.

Overall, Tyson’s provides some of the most unique and tasty tacos in town, and are the only option for hungry theater-goers either before or after a show.

The Grand: The markup on grocery store frozen pizza should be enough to keep any food-conscious person from even considering this place as a viable option for post-show snacking, or food consuming in general. They make no effort to hide the fact their offerings are Dijorno’s pizzas and, occasionally, a hastily thrown together taco or “nacho” akin to what you’d find at a movie theater, after being dried out under heat lamps for hours. And for about the same price.

I will give them credit for their alcohol specials–I’ve enjoyed a pitcher of cold draft beer many times while in their “Mafia Room.” This review is purely about the food, which comes off as more of an afterthought and quick buck than a solid attempt to appeal to anything more than a tipsy bar patron who forgot to hit In-n-Out on his way in.

But while their beer drafts and bottles are decent, the cocktails are definitely not their strong suit. They did not have the ingredients for an Old Fashioned, a popular cocktail, on at least 3 occasions, and anything beyond a simple gin and tonic seems a bit out of their range. No offense intended to the bartenders, the bar simply does not cater to those wanting something more than a simple beer.

One simply does not visit The Grand for food. If you have $10 in your pocket, go get three tacos from Tyson’s and then head to The Grand, if you must, to play some pool and sip some draft beer. #TeamTysons.

michaels-face

Michael Perkins, #teammcguiresclocks

Michael Perkins
Perhaps, the cognac is speaking for me and so I will be brief. My concern lies not with the space we inhabit but rather, with the time allowed us to do so. For those with interests akin to my own, please know that there is a place where they may be discussed. The space is secret. The time could never be for those who would blaze it with Grandfather Time.

Everything you need to know to find us is in this message. #teammcguiresclocks

Xaria Coleman

Xaria Coleman, #teamtysons

Xaria Coleman, #teamtysons

The Grand is dope, I’ve had my past couple of birthdays there and have hung out in the Mafia Room quite the bit. Pun intended. Buuuutttt Tyson’s is the bees knees and real OG’s remember when they had delicious burgeeeerrss!!!  Which, I will try to convince them to bring back. It’s better because they are a somewhat young growing business, they have been stepping up their game recently and you can tell they mean business, but they’re also about love. Their logo is literally a heart and the food fills mine with meet, cheese and love. Here’s my breakdown…

Xaria's comparison chart

Xaria’s comparison chart

Danielle Gonzalez

Danielle Gonzalez, #teamtysonsbutkindateamgrandnow

Danielle Gonzalez, #teamtysonsbutkindateamgrandnow?

A small but hopefully valid point. As someone who is new to the ColdTowne community with heaps and bundles of social anxiety, I felt (and feel) much more comfortable going to Tyson’s after a show. The Grand definitely has that “everyone knows your name we come here all the time” atmosphere, but only if that’s true. I remember being very nervous my first, 10 times?, going to the grand because it felt like a space with a history I wasn’t a part of. Tyson’s like that, which feels great for a dork like me. It’s a place where everyone can go, there’s no special things you should know. It’s just a place where you can eat and exist, never worrying if you’re out of place.

At the end of the day, it matters less to us which business you prefer frequenting before or after the shows at ColdTowne (not mentioned here: Sweet Ritual, Omelettry, Juice Peddler, Kome, Sala + Betty, House Pizzeria or ESP): what matters is that we’re in this love together and that locally-owned Airport Blvd businesses are our friends and neighbors and what makes Austin great.

Interview with Michael Jastroch of Victrola

Victrola is a weekly comedy podcast produced by ColdTowne founder and senior faculty member, Michael Jastroch, who recently appeared in the 2017 SxSW comedy lineup. In this post, we discuss Victrola’s start, the cast and their selection as finalists in the first annual Improv4humans/Earwolf competition.

How did you get started with Victrola?

Funny. I just had a facebook memory come up for this. Bryan Roberts posted in 2013 the phrase “Car Bits, Seriously.” It refers to a road trip we took to OKC along with Josh Krilov and Steve Donovan to perform sketch. The way there and back, we improvised dumb audio bits for seven straight hours – basically pretending to prank call us and it was maybe the hardest I’ve ever laughed.

Josh, Bryan and I started getting together to record audio bits from time to time with the intention of turning it into something –  a podcast or a stage show – but nothing ever came from it. Mostly because of lack of know how and proper equipment.

I have a few recordings from that time, and I may release some of them someday as curios. There’s a bit – unedited – we did that I eventually cut up into an audio add for ColdTowne. I can’t find the finished version, but the unedited clip is pretty solid.

A few years ago, I got fed up with doing shows and having no record of my work or “product” to sell. A decade of shows, and the only thing to point to was some vague memories. The kicker was one night doing a show one night with Irene White that may have been the best thing I’ve ever been involved with and realizing that even though 50 people saw it, it’d be forgotten in two months.

Film is challenging, because you need a lot of people to make it happen and having relied on goodwill and favors for most of my creative life, I knew it’d be difficult to put stuff out consistently. With podcasting, at the end of the day, if it doesn’t happen, I’ve only myself to blame.

So I bit the bullet, dropped $500 on audio equipment and podcast hosting, taught myself some basics, and made myself a rule. I’d never miss a deadline, even if I put out crap, I’d put something out. Recording sessions are deliberately kept fun and casual, so people never have to feel like a dick for not making it  – although everyone in the cast makes 9 out of 10 sessions. And here we are.

My only regret is Krilov moved so he can’t bit out with us.

Bryan Roberts, Jericho Thorp, Dalton Allen

Recording: Bryan Roberts, Jericho Thorp, Dalton Allen

What do you think each of the cast members brings?

I casted the thing mostly based on a history of hanging out and doing bits. How easy does this person play and get what makes something funny? So they all have that in common. Plus, they all have a few voices up their sleeve. We all make each other laugh, and that’s important.

Lance Gilstrap – the perfect straight man. Very few people can maintain that much anger on stage and keep the ball rolling. It’s a skill I envy.

Molly Moore – such great character work. You never know what’s going to come out of her mouth, completely sincerely, as whatever nutball she’s playing.

Bryan Roberts – perfect timing and delivery. He could make a phone book funny. He’s also great at constructing actual jokes on the spot.

Bob McNichol – plays three dimensional chess while the rest of us are playing checkers. He doesn’t say the most, but everything that comes out of his mouth is funny on another level. Plus, he’s got that amazing dry delivery that sounds so sweet on podcast.

Cortnie Jones – is such a great character actress and she swings for the fences with

Molly Moore

Recording over a weekend retreat in west Texas: Molly Moore (foreground). Michael Jastroch and Bob McNichol (background).

whatever she’s doing. If Molly plays the affable loons, Cortnie plays all the sociopaths.

Jericho Thorp – One of the best character improvisers in the city. Such a great listener and so wonderful at making even the nuttiest stuff grounded in truth.

Me – I don’t know anymore.

Also, Dalton Allen, who helps with the editing and is unofficially now in the cast has a wonderful dry wit.

What do you think is the biggest deal about Victrola as a comedy podcast?

The great thing about podcasts is they are so easy to start. The horrible thing is they are so easy to start. Meaning, it’s real easy to assume you’re charming enough to carry on unscripted comedy – scenic or banter. But the truth is, that’s not only difficult to do, if you’re not a known quantity, no one gives a shit.

I didn’t want to do another four dudes talking around a microphone podcast. That niche is filled. So what makes us a big deal is when we put stuff out, the extra effort has been put in to make it as funny as it can be every time. Otherwise there’s literally no point in us existing.

If you could have one special guest superstar, who would it be?

All of Superego, who are huge inspirations. We were doing these bits and thinking about releasing this before we heard Superego, but they showed us the way forward.

What’s up with Improv4Humans and Earwolf?

Yeah! We are among the top three finalists in the Improv4Humans Contest4Humans. Which is awesome, because locally and nationally we were up against some heavy hitters. It’s a real honor and very validating to make it this far.

We’re recording a set on Tuesday the 28th. If we win, we get flown to the Del Close Marathon in NYC to record with Matt Besser. Which, given that we’re laboring in obscurity far away from industry or celebrity, would be very validating and hopefully expose us to a wider audience.  We don’t do this to be famous, but so much work goes into the thing, audience is nice.

How many sandwiches have you eaten at once.

More than 2, less than 6.

What do you have strong opinions about?

Everything. It makes me a better teacher and director, but occasionally paralyses me as a performer.

On the podcasting tip, one thing I hear all the time is how awesome Victrola sounds. Which to me is nuts, because I literally have no idea what I am doing and basically watched two youtube videos.

Which means if your podcast sounds like shit, you don’t care enough to watch two youtube videos. If you’re going to phone it in, isn’t there a better way for you to spend your time?

Recording: Lance Gilstrap and Molly Moore.

Recording: Lance Gilstrap and Molly Moore.

ALSO – I support crowd funding thing as a concept, but I think we’ve gone too far. What happened to – you know – paying your dues. I’m annoyed by people who have never made anything asking for handouts for friends and family. Make a few things on your own dime before you start begging for funds. You’ll learn more.

If Victrola wins and gets to go to DCM, what are you going to do to celebrate?

Go to New York on Matt Besser’s dime is all the improv reward I need. Maybe finally get one of those fancy VIP DCM wristbands so I don’t have to wait in line 6 hours to watch shows I used to be able to just pop into back in 2005.

Victrola records for the Improv4Humans finals tonight at ColdTowne at 10pm.  Check out the Facebook event here. Even better, subscribe to the podcast for weekly goodness.

Heavy Metal Drummer: Michael Dolan of Rezuranger

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.

Bad Ass Producer: Lindsey Moringy of “The Do Over”

Lindsey Moringy is #purehustle.  From producing sold out festivals (BettyFest) to packaging sold out show runs, (there’s also that little music festival she produces, too), she’s a powerhouse of strategy and execution. Also: She’s really funny. As The Do Over wraps up its run, we asked her to school us on how she approaches being a producer and to see why she’s just so dang good. 

Tell us about your background in performing and producing.

Lindsey Moringy, She puts the "pro" in producer

Lindsey Moringy, She puts the “pro” in producer

I’m a graduate of ColdTowne’s Conservatory, and am currently taking more improv classes at The New Movement. I also am one of the producers of BettyFest, an annual comedy festival that celebrates women performers. By day you can find me doing digital marketing for some of your favorite music festivals. By night you can find me performing with:

  • The Do Over (every Saturday in January, 8:30pm at ColdTowne!)
  • SheSheSheShe (see us 2/28 at ColdTowne  in SHE! True Hollywood Story!)
  • Stool Pigeon (see us at ColdTowne every Sunday at 8:30pm!)
  • Baby Bob Saget (lol we play wherever people want to see us)

I WILL NEVER NOT USE AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SHOW PROMOTION AND YOU SHOULDN’T EITHER, READER FRIEND!

How did you get started?

I started taking improv classes to have an excuse to turn off my brain and force myself to have fun once a week, and I really fell in love with Austin comedy and the people who do it. I basically realized I had no hobbies, and that I was letting work stress me out all the time. I told myself that I wouldn’t join any troupes (tbh I was scared no one would want me), but then during Level 2 at ColdTowne I was asked to be in SheSheSheShe with my main babes Megan Mowry, Laura de la Fuente, Linzy Beltran, Stephanie Ard, and Jessica Vasami. I’m SO grateful they asked me to join and that they have constantly supported me ever since. Now I know so many incredible fellow improvisers who allow me to be a big ol’ dummy in front of random strangers and sweet friends on a regular basis, and that’s strangely empowering.

Tell us about the show. How did you come up with the concept?

The Do Over (FREE Deep Eddy Vodka – THIS Saturday at 8:30pm!!) is really the brainchild of a group of people, not just me. It’s also an Adam Sandler movie available on Netflix, but we didn’t know that was coming out when we first titled the show – luckily, I’d say we won that battle. My two boyfriends, Linzy Beltran (comedy boyfriend) and Aaron Walther (real life boyfriend) helped me refine the idea and build the cast.

You see, I’m a bigtime worrier. I have had a lot of moments in my life that I wish I could do over: the passive/shy way I’ve reacted to sexist remarks, not applying for out-of-state colleges,  not eating breakfast this morning, etc. I figured other people must have similar thoughts, and that it would be fun to build a show that focuses on what your life MIGHT have been like had you made the other decision, if you had one do over. Viewing yourself in an alternate reality can be fun and also terrifying, but always entertaining.

I pitched the idea to Will Cleveland who at the time did not know me. He agreed to direct the show, and I’m so glad he did – it wouldn’t be the same without him. He helped guide the cast into creating the form that the show ultimately took. He keeps us grounded and relatable. Emoji prayer hands.

What is your approach to producing? What’s a definite do and don’t?

My main secret is that I always bring La Croix to rehearsals. No one will ever be dehydrated on my watch!

DO: Trust the people you pull into your show to do a good job with it.

DONT: Get so trapped in your own head about producing a show that you forget to have fun when you’re performing. Also, don’t be stubborn about your idea because it’s going to morph with other people’s input and turn into something even better than you could have ever imagined.

Complete this sentence “a good producer is _______ and ________.”

Receptive and Creative.

What’s next for you? Are you particularly excited about any upcoming projects?

Ronnita Miller and Xaria Coleman of Damn Gina perform

Ronnita Miller and Xaria Coleman of Damn Gina perform at BettyFest, 2016

I’m going to be working on BettyFest (follow us on Facebook and Instagram @bettyfestatx!) and performing as much as I can, because at the end of the day that’s why I’m here. Not to force show promotion on you 24/7, but to have fun with my frahnds. Oh, and I’m def going to catch Damn Gina’s show Night Watch when they take over the main stage slot at 8:30pm every Saturday in February – they are unstoppable.

Don’t miss the final weekend of The Do Over, this Saturday (1/28) at 8:30pm.

Improv encourages, and is elevated by those of completely different backgrounds, race, age, gender identification, sexual orientation... Through improvising and learning improv, we get to discover what we have in common with each other, and how different our perspectives are.

Teacher Spotlight: Nathan Sowell#

Announcing the Jan – June ’17 Mainstage Schedule!

2017-mainstage-830

As a year of bang-up, award-winning programming comes to a close, we are excited to announce the selections for the ColdTowne 2017 Mainstage, from January through June 2017.

All the Mainstage shows are Saturdays at 8:30pm.

The 8:30 Mainstage shows are:
January 7 – 28
The Do Over
Produced by Lindsey Moringy
Directed by Will Cleveland
The exciting return of The Do Over, a show that asks what would happen if you could revisit decisions, small and large.

February 4 – 25
Damn Gina! presents Night Watch
Produced by Damn Gina!
Directed by Erica Lies
Part police procedural, part Interrogation, Night Watch is produced by the B. Iden Payne award-winning Damn Gina!, Austin’s first all-black, female improv group.

March 4 – April 8
Razurangur – An Improvised Heavy Metal Odyssey
Directed by Cody Dearing
Produced by Kristen Henn
From the director of Slaughter Your Shorts (2014) and Buddies! (2015) and the producer of Gardenalia (2016) comes a comedy that follows a heavy metal band both on and off stage.

April 15 – May 6
La Frontera Final (The Final Frontier)
Directed by Mical Trejo and Ben Bazan
Produced by and Starring The Prima Doñas
The Prima Donas, an all-Latinx comedy team presents this improvised comedy about space travel and their fateful return to earth. Unscripted and presented in a combination of English and Spanish.

May 13 – June 17
The Last Video Store
Directed and produced by McNichol & May
From two-time “Best of the Fest” winners McNichol & May, The Last Video Store centers on the personalities that work and patronize a beloved video store as it reckons with its relevance in the digital age. Inspired by Cheers, Spaced and High Fidelity each show uses elements from famous independent films.

Tickets for each show will be made available in the weeks prior to the opening of the show.

Stay tuned for the Saturday 7pm line up and season tickets!

 

 

ColdTowne 10th Anniversary: Weekend Line Up (Oct 20th-23rd)

Celebrating 10 years of the next big thing in comedy with four days of sketch, improv and standup from favorite performers past and present.

Evenings sponsored by our friends at 4th Tap Brewing Co-opCrystal Creek DistilleryShiner Beer and Tito’s.

2006: There was no iPhone, W. was president and the only comedy clubs in town had a two drink minimum. After a series of test runs, five comedy nerds opened a theater in a dusty store room in the back of a video store. It was put together with salvaged lumber, chairs and $400 they had pooled from the FEMA payouts they received after Katrina. Ten years later, ColdTowne has graduated over 455 students and performers, runs more than 21 shows Monday thru Sunday and welcomes over 800 audience members per week. this weekend, ColdTowne will turn ten years old, celebrating with a specially curated line-up of best-of and reunion shows.

See you here!

Get your all-weekend badges here (includes limited edition, commemorative t-shirt with art from Carlos LaRotta).

coldtowne10_weekend-schedule

SHOWS: DAY 1 – Thursday, October 20th (ColdTowne)

8:30pm: Parallelogramophonograph (Hideout – ATX), The Knuckleball Now (ATX), Opposites (TNM – ATX)
buy-tickets
10pm: All-Time Greatest Sketch, hosted by Bryan “Lubu” Roberts (ATX/NY)
buy-tickets
11:30pm: The Roast of Steve Scott, from “What’s the Story Steve?” (ATX)
buy-tickets

SHOWS: DAY 2 – Friday, October 21st (ColdTowne)

7:00pm: Movie Riot (LA/ATX), Glamping Trip (LA/ATX), Toxic Chakra (ATX/CHI)
buy-tickets
8:30pm: Bad Boys (ATX/PORT), Elevator Action (LA/ATX), Big Beautiful Warlock (ATX)
buy-tickets
10pm: Live at ColdTowne with Carina Magyar: Erik Krug, LaShonda Lester, Matt Bearden & Chris Cubas (Standup)
buy-tickets

11:30pm – 9:30am Saturday: 10 Hour Comedy Lock-in (See Calendar for shows)

SHOWS: DAY 3 – Saturday, October 22nd (ColdTowne)

7:00pm: Nice Astronaut (ATX/HOU), Oh, Science! (LA/ATX), After Midnight (ATX)
buy-tickets
8:30pm: The Frank Mills (CHI/ATX), Control-Alt-Delete (NYC/ATX), Sugar, Water, Purple (ATX)
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10pm: Midnight Society (NYC/ATX/LA), ColdTowne (ATX/NOLA)
buy-tickets

SHOWS: DAY 4 – Sunday, October 23rd (Spiderhouse Ballroom)

7:00pm: All-Star Stool Pigeon with monologist Patrick Terry of P. Terry’s. Hosted by Mac Blake (ATX/NYC/LA)
buy-tickets

9pm: ColdTownie Awards (Open to the public) – With ticket to All-Star Stool Pigeon at 7pm

Midnight Society: Don’t Call it a Comeback

Midnight Society formed in 2007, and have since built a reputation among audiences and improvisers for the quality of their work. With shows that can deliver grounded scene work, absurdity and raucous physicality in the course of a single show, their command of the stage is never in doubt.

Recently adding super talents Molly Moore and Sanjay Rao, they’re experiencing a new wave of attention and regularly packing it in Saturday nights. We sat down to talk to them about their history, favorite shows and adding cast.

Tell us about how and when Midnight Society formed.

Lance: Midnight Society was the second student troupe formed at ColdTowne in 2007. This means that we each auditioned and the theater selected the members. We were lucky enough to have been put on that one student troupe that stayed together more than a year or two. The group has been through a lot of changes, but have the same excitement for playing that we had nine years ago.

Photography by Roy Moore (ahpook667)

An early version of Midnight Society at Out of Bounds. Photography by Roy Moore (ahpook667)

Who, among the current cast, are the original members?

Lance: Lance Gilstrap, Jericho Thorpe, and Joel Keith are all original members.

What does the current cast look like? Why were those cast members chosen?

Lance, Joel, & Jericho: The current cast includes those aforementioned original players plus Molly Moore and Sanjay Rao. Molly was chosen because she makes brave choices and backs them up. She is goofy as hell, but also great at listening and calling out absurdities.

We picked Sanjay because he’s got serious stage chops. He commits to game like a monster and brings full emotion to absurd choices.

But we mostly picked both of them because they’re SO funny and we have so much fun playing with them. We click.

Who inspires you, individually or collectively?

Molly: I am inspired by people who look like they’re having a lot of fun being with each other on stage. I think joy and engagement are the most translatable energies both between performers and out into the audience, so when I see groups able to really harness that, I am one happy camper.

Sanjay: I get inspired all the time. There are great improv shows happening all the time and with the internet you can catch great stuff that happens in other cities too. I love Fuck That Shit from UCB and Cook County Social Club from iO. But I also get inspired by movies, television, and books. I love watching great acting and great characters. Lately I’ve been really into Daniel Day-Lewis as Bill the Butcher, Robin Williams in Good Will Hunting, and Ian Mckellen as Macbeth. It changes all the time but I get really excited when I get into something new. Who knows what it will be next?

What is a favorite memory?

Lance and Jericho: We have so many favorite memories (The “Comet Creepers” Show, That time Jericho lifted and then threw the entire cast using the force, etc…), but we thought it would be more fun to ask the two newer members.

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Jericho uses his powers. – OOB 2013.

Molly: My favorite memory is when we were all 9th graders in a band classroom and Lance realized that he forgot to get his permission slip signed for our band trip to like, Fiesta Texas or something, and we all realized that we forgot ours too and everyone freaked out on stage and in the audience. It was like everyone was experiencing the same collective memory with a great singular howl of regret.

Sanjay: I’m fairly new to the group but I already have some great memories with Midnight Society. The first thing that comes to my mind is a mono scene we did where we were working at a restaurant. Our suggestion was Pokemon Go. The show had nothing to do with the game up until about halfway through when Joseph Dailey mentioned people were coming in here just to play Pokemon Go and not ordering any food. In response, Lance Gilstrap, who was playing the owner of the restaurant, created a sign that said something like “You can’t catch a pikachu unless you take a seat and chew!” and not only did the audience lose it but I lost it as well and I’ve always felt I was pretty good at not-breaking during shows. I couldn’t help myself.

Why should someone see your show?

Molly: Parking is very easy, beer is very cheap, we’re very cute, flirty, good listeners and honestly I don’t know what else you could want from a Saturday night.

Sanjay: Midnight Society has been a staple in the AIC for so many years. Molly and I have brought in some new blood and our rapport has been quite honestly amazing. We’ve been putting on some amazing shows. So if you want to see some great improv at a great venue on a Saturday night then I guarantee you Midnight Society will not disappoint. We’re getting such good feedback with the stuff we’re doing on stage that I’m so excited to play every Saturday night.

Lance: Honestly, I think you should just come to see us for Molly and Sanjay.

Midnight Society plays Saturdays at 10pm each week* and will perform in the 10pm time slot on Saturday, 10/22 in the Anniversary weekend lineup #coldtowne10.

*Toxic Chakra will play for MS on 10/8.

BettyFest Interview with Patio Talk: A Legendary Improv Troupe who Happen to be Female

BettyFest was founded in 2014 by Patio Talk (Chrissy Shackelford, Juliet Prather, Amy Wright, and Kasey Borger), a comedy team based in New York City that originally formed at ColdTowne Theater in Austin, TX. Their members have been trained at UCB NY, iO Chicago, and of course, ColdTowne. We sat down with the ladies of Patio Talk to learn more about how they came together as a troupe, why they started BettyFest, and what their hopes and dreams are for the future of women in comedy.

AND SAVE THE DATE: BettyFest is an all-night-long event happening on Friday, 10/14 at 6pm at Spiderhouse Ballroom, featuring all-female improv and sketch troupes. All ticket sales will be donated to SafePlace, so be sure you buy yours now: http://bit.ly/2b5PEYY

How did Patio Talk become a troupe? Can you give a little history on how it all started?

Juliet Prather: We were all obsessed with how the others played so we made a Cagematch team just to have fun and get a chance to play together. It felt like magic so we decided to never ever break up. I guess it’s important to note that unfortunately at the time none of us had gotten to really play with just women or had seen only women performing together that much, so we think that was a big part of what brought us together and what made Patio Talk feel (and still feel) so special.

Kasey Borger: We really came together like any cagematch team, we just really enjoyed each other’s style of play, respected the heck out of each other and wanted to have some fun. We didn’t intentionally set out to be a team of only women, but when we did we realized it actually played a big role in how we played together and probably the fact that we didn’t get to see that or be a part of it often made it feel so magical.

Chrissy Shackleford: We met up and decided to submit to cagematch. We met up at Spiderhouse cafe to come up with a name and landed on Patio Talk because we liked the format of opening with everyone on stage character matching. Our first rehearsal (or one of the firsts) was at Juliet’s place. We just sorta goofed around and did some scenes and I remember it feeling so fun and easy and I was so legitimately amused by everything everyone else was doing and that’s something that is really rare that we just stumbled upon – this insane on stage chemistry we all have together.

Amy Wright: We talked about the form at Spiderhouse and wanted to do something very easy and fun that was as freeing as a montague without it just being a montague. My favorite moment from one of our initial cagematch runs began with Chrissy as a single mom hosting a sad Christmas and ended with us all going to the mall to see our deadbeat dad playing Santa. We respect and love each other offstage and it translates into onstage chemistry that’s hard to find just anywhere.

Where did the idea for BettyFest come from?

KB & JP: There are so many nights when you can show up to a comedy theater and see a lineup of all male performers and no one bats an eye, because that’s just the norm. We wanted to create a night that made it seem like seeing a lineup of all women performers was just as normal. That idea inspired the original tag line “a night of comedy by comedians who happen to be female”. We wanted to make it seem like that was something you could just accidentally waltz into as an audience member and enjoy just as much, because guess what, you can and you should. We thought, wouldn’t it be ridiculous if a comedy event read “A Night of Comedy by Comedians Who Happen to be Male?” It’s completely unnecessary because it’s pretty much what someone would unconsciously expect to see at a comedy theater. We wanted to sort of point out the ridiculousness of it. Who cares if the performers are all women? Women rock lol. Our idea was to showcase some of the most talented comedians we knew and, whoops, they all happened to be female. We wanted to make sure that, yes, it was about women but not just “lol a night of women”, but a night of very talented women who are comedians first and foremost.

KB: One thing that really stuck with us was when a teacher came to see a cagematch show that happened to be two teams of women up against each other and commented that he noticed the energy in the room was different when it was a night of all women performing. That was important to hear for me because it illuminated how rare of a night this was that not only was it taken note of that it was all women, but it also truly felt different than other nights at ColdTowne. We wanted to bring that same energy again in a bigger way.

CS: Agree with everything said, one thing that was important to us was that on the actual night of the show there was really no mention of “ISN’T IT CRAZY THAT WE’RE ALL WOMEN?” or “HERE’S A NIGHT TO CELEBRATE WOMEN IN COMEDY!” It was just a killer show with big laughs.

AW: Also a large part of it was an effort to encourage more female-identifying teams to perform at ColdTowne. We wanted to motivate women who might not have played otherwise/women who might be new to the community/women who might have been a bit intimidated by the typically male-dominated scene to play together. We hoped BettyFest would inspire these teams to continue playing together after the show.

What was the first BettyFest like?

JP: So fun!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! It was good.

KB: It was the best!!!! The turnout and support really blew us away for being such a new run of shows. One thing that was so cool was to see women look around them in their classes or in their theaters and create teams of people they thought were talented, respected the heck out of, wanted to have a good time with and whoops! they were also all women. It was just great to see right in front of us a bunch of teams of women whereas our experience coming up in the theater was watching mostly teams of all men. This is not to say these teams wouldn’t have already come together or were already together, it was just really great to look at the submissions and see how many talented women there have always been in the community and then see them teaming up.

As far as actually creating the festival, we treated it very seriously and put a lot of work into the marketing and making a show that would sell out every night. We learned a lot from that and took what we did for the first show into the second and improved on that. It was a great learning experience, personally.

And as far as just the logistics of the show, it was the exact same as the second iteration and, if I’m not mistaken, this third iteration– with a stand-up and two improv teams comprised of all women.

CS: Dude, it was dope. It was the first time I had seen a show sell out so fast that we had to turn away basically a whole second audience the night of the show – which was a great marketing tool – because if you’re already at the theater and the show sold out then hey why don’t you just buy a ticket for next week’s show! Which was so rewarding because we all worked our asses off to produce that festival. We put so much time, effort, creativity, and money into marketing the shows and it was such a joy to see the theater straight up lit for the fest.

AW: It was so moving to see the support from the community. Everyone got hyped up and involved. We learned so much from the first year and, like Kasey said, we really tried to step it up for the second year. The photobooth idea we borrowed from Waterbed and it really made it feel like an event. It was also a great marketing tool because people started sharing BettyFest photos on Facebook and Instagram. It was sweet to see a bunch of people with profile pictures of them holding maxi pads and champagne for a while.

What do you hope for in terms of the future of BettyFest?

KB: I hope no boy identifying boys are ever allowed!!!!!! Lol jk! But seriously, I just hope that it keeps on truckin’ and everybody keeps on having a good time with it. It’s our lil bb and something that is still so important to us. It’s great and exciting to see it blown out so much this year and in such capable hands. Maybe my true hope is that it actually becomes so completely redundant because of how many nights a week women are playing in comedy theaters that it becomes a relic of comedy’s past??!!??? Idk I guess I have a lot of hopes and dreams.

CS: I’d love to start burning penises at the 10th annual BettyFest. I think it’s great that it’s moving over to a bigger venue – since that was the biggest problem we faced that very first year – high demand and not enough seats. I guess I hope that in its future it still means as much to everyone involved as it meant for us creating it.

AW: I hope to see BettyFest end sexism in comedy by the year 2035. If this does not happen, I’ll assume it’s bc no penises were burned or even singed just a little bit. I hope that more and more teams form and begin rehearsing in order to submit for BettyFest and then they eventually take over the scene and destroy all barriers and live full, happy lives.

What are you all up to now? Any plans on making a surprise appearance this year? 🙂

JP: We’re all doing the UCB thing and working on our own stuff, but we still play a lot together which is rad. I feel really lucky to have Patio Talk, and I think BettyFest was a big huge influence on the entire team and the love we have for each other. But no, no surprise appearances planned. Unless that was a sneaky invitation ??? Hehe.

KB: I am incredibly famous now and you can catch me in the hit TV show “Seinfeld” or signing autographs for my current autobiography ”Still Kasey After All These Beers”. If we do all make an appearance it will literally be a surprise to us all!!!

CS: I’m moving from Brooklyn to Queens soon so understandably that’s pretty emotionally taxing for me. I mean, I’m taking my brand from Lena Dunham to Leah Remini, for crying out loud. Other than that I’m still grinding away, I teach at UCB now and my “solo” comedy show just got picked up for a run at UCB Chelsea starting this fall which includes surprise performances from Kasey, Amy, AND Juliet….so basically Patio Talk will live forever.

AW: I’m filming a partly improvised film in Connecticut and then heading back to NY to continue with UCB classes. PATIO TALK FOREVER. TEXAS FOREVER. CLEAR EYES, FULL BEERS, STILL KASEY.

More on Patio Talk from the archives.

Congrats Cené, Danny and Dave!

ColdTowne Alumna/Alumnus Get Hired
We are late to the party, but are incredibly excited to announce that Loverboy’s Cené Hale was recently hired as a cast member for Boom! Chicago – Amsterdam, joining them in August. She follows in the footscene-300x200teps of former cast members such as Jordan Peele, Becky Drysdale and Seth Myers, to name a few. If you’ve seen Cené, you know what a talent she is. She’s already performing in the cast at Boom! and we enjoy living vicariously through her photos of thcatlow_dannye city.

Just recently, former student and Bad Boys founding member Danny Catlow was added to the cast of the Second City – Chicago tourco. Since arriving in Chicago a few years ago, he’s been seen all over Chicago and performs regularly at the revered Annoyance Theater.  We couldn’t be more excited for Danny and the recognition of his talent in a city filled with the good stuff.

Thank You Out of Bounds!
Closer to home, ColdTowne Executive Producer Dave Buckman recently wrapped up another hella successful Out of Bounds. We hope you made it to a show during the festival because it was boss for anyone with a propensity to laugh. Bringing Austin some of the finest acts from all over the world to your from doorstep for a jam-packed week might seem like magic, but that magic takes a lot of work, and along with a team of committed staff and volunteers, the producing team is responsible for pulling it all together.

Dave is a long-time member of the producing team along with Jon Bolden (Bad Boys, noted director), Roy Janik (Hideout Artistic Director) and leader Ruby Willman (LA-based producer and teacher). He has been key in booking many of the headliners that wow Austin-audiences each year and keeps the students and performers at ColdTowne supplied with inspiration and audiences supplied with good times. Thank you Dave and team!

Interview with Title Fine: We Got Game’s Laura de la Fuente

Title Fine: We Got Game is ColdTowne’s newest MainStage production. Featuring an all-female cast of eight players and one coach who play game-based improv in the off season, the cast is entirely composed of women who played sports in high school or college. We interviewed some of the cast to talk about their athletic experience and how they developed their characters for the show. We interviewed Laura de la Fuente of Express Yourself and all-lady super group SheSheSheShe to find out how she sported as a kid, and how she approaches her character, Madi “HAM” Bacon.

Laura de le Fuente, who plays Madi "HAM" Bacón,

Laura de le Fuente, who plays Madi “HAM” Bacón,

What sort of sports did you play as a kid? 
I played rec soccer in Plano, TX for eight years on a team that was really really dominant in our league for all eight years. We were called “The Phantoms”. And, before every game we would all put our hands in and say “ONE! TWO! THREE! (then whisper) *phantomssss*” Now that I think about it, that was a really creepy chant.  No wonder we won all the time.  That’s a good lesson – “Fear intimidates.”

I also played basketball and volleyball in middle school and softball as a freshman in high school. I did marching band in high school which is a hell of a workout in the Texas heat, so I’m adding this as a sport. I marched with the trombone, and I marched hard.

What is a favorite story from traveling with your squad? 
-While riding in the back of the bus trying to be a cool kid, the actual cool kids taught me how to make little baby feet in the foggy windows with your fists. I still make them whenever I’m in a car with foggy windows which I’m sure EVERYONE loves bc then when the fog subsides you have the cutest trail of little baby foot prints on your windows forever.

What drew you to this show? 
It’s a cast of bad-a** ladies led by a bad-a** lady coach. What more could you want?

How did you go about creating your character for the show? 

Laura de la Fuente as "HAM"

Laura de la Fuente as “HAM”

My character, Marisol (Madi) Bacón (but you can call me Ham), is loosely based on my softball coach in high-school who would say things  in a deliciously deep Texas accent like “Unhook the plow!” and “Five  minutes early is ten minutes too late!” Plus, I love how heartfelt she was about saying sports clichés like she was the first to ever say them, and her sincerity to loving softball as a way of life is something that’s in Ham for sure.

Do you think you’d be friends with your character in real life? 
Ham would make me laugh real deep, and I’d appreciate her sincerity with a fond heart, so yes.

Who do you think will like this show? 
Everyone.  Jesus, this cast is so funny and this show is so funny I seriously can’t think of a better way to spend every Saturday night at 8:30P in August and September than at ColdTowne Theater.

Freedom from PowerPoint: Talking Team Building with Michael Jastroch

Michael Jastroch is a founder of ColdTowne and has lead ColdTowne’s corporate training since 2006. We chatted him up about how he got started, his approach and why he thinks improv is a good tool for facilitating team work.

How did you get started helping teams?

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Team building consultant/facilitator, Michael Jastroch.

From the age of eighteen on, I stumbled my way into and through a variety of management positions, first as operations director of the country’s largest sailing programs and later as the managing editor of several print magazines in New Orleans. More recently, I was the Executive Director of ColdTowne Theater, where I helped wrangle a few hundred performers and teachers.

 

(Sailing, print media, and improv. Say what you will about me, but I definitely have a nose for growth industries.)

In 2003, I started taking improv classes to become a comedian and accidently reaped a ton of professional benefits. The core principles of improv – positivity, trust and empathetic listening – work in tandem to help create an egalitarian work environment, where teams are empowered to take bold risks and work together to find creative solutions to problems.

Cultivating those principles in myself over time transformed my management style. I found that by listening and saying “yes” more often than I say no, my teams became adaptable and motivated. More importantly, my outlook changed from work being a slog to something I could look forward to.

How do you approach a custom training or team building?
We design our programs around the specific challenges facing the company – e.g. if a sales team is having trouble with discovery, we use improv tools to help them stay present with the prospect or client. But, my “real” job is to create an environment where the team can cultivate  better communication on their own. To learn how to be a better teammate, and in the end, learn how to be a better person.

Why ColdTowne?
I take a great deal of pride in the facilitation the ColdTowne team does for companies. From small boutique design firms, to large organizations with thousands of employees, I’ve seen first hand the transformation that occurs when people stop fighting and start genuinely listening to each other.

Any favorite memories to share?
One of my favorite memories is when the entire Whole Foods regions adopted a “Yes, And” rule for their meetings, making a commitment to stay positive and build on each other’s ideas instead of doing our usual default “that could never work.” It was transformative to them.

Why improv?
Improv provides the necessary practice to unlock our best selves.

Also, it’s a lot of fun and there are no PowerPoint presentations.

Interested in talking to Michael about your upcoming team event or company gathering? Email him at coldtowne@coldtownetheater.com.

Beware of Female Spies each Saturday in January

Inspired by the shows Archer, Alias, Veronica Mars, Torchy Blane, and Get Smart, Beware of Female Spies is an improvised comedy take on the classic spy genre with a romantic screwball comedy twist.

At America’s top spy agency, Special Patriotic Operations Over Foreign Secrets, a whip smart female spy is the top agent. Unfortunately her fellow agents of S.P.O.O.F.S. aren’t always seeing the mission in the same way. Each week she must fight calculating villains and patriarchal double standards as well as the sexual tension between herself and her male counterpart.

Starring: Seth Johnson, Nicole McCracken, Alejandro Garcia, Liz Dykes, Aaron Walther, Taylor Overstreet, Brett Tribe, Chrissy Shackleford, Sanjay Rao, and Ashley Nugent. Directed by Emma Holder. Produced by Seth Johnson and Katie Thornton.

Beware of Female Spies plays at 8:30 every Saturday in January at Coldtowne Theater. $7 and BYOB.

Discounted Improv Class Holiday Gift Packages Now Available!

This holiday season we want to make improv classes as affordable as possible.

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