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.