Meet Y’all We Asian: Headlining at Spider House in September!

ColdTowne Theater is home to so many of Austin’s most adept (read: hilarious) improv troupes. Over the years we’ve seen some of these comedy teams turn their improv comedy from your typical improv show to something bigger. Y’all We Asian, Austin’s first and only all Asian-American comedy troupe has done that time and time again. With sold out main stage runs and packing the house monthly for “Last Friday Night,” at their monthly residency, Y’all We Asian is taking the Spider House Ballroom stage on Fridays and Saturdays in September to bring their signature shows to new audiences. We talked to YWA to hear a little more about their roots and experiences as the only Asian-American comedy troupe in Austin.

How did Y’all We Asian form?
YWA was formed from a showcase we put on for Asian American Heritage Month two years ago. The showcase was called “Y’all We Asian”, and it was a show that featured local Asian American artists in town. The event invite quickly grew from ~60 people that we invited, to 300+ people in mere hours. We ended up selling out the show in 2 days and that’s when we realized that there was a need and interest in shows like this in Austin. One of the performers of the show, Christine Hoang, suggested that we make YWA into a troupe, and we thought, why not? And that’s how the troupe was formed. – Yola Lu

Tell me how each of you got involved in improv and how each of you have gotten to where you are today. What struggles did you face along the way? 

I had just moved to Austin after college and I was purposefully trying to do things that scared me because I felt like I hadn’t pursued that many of my own interests in college. I’d loved stand-up and improv comedy from afar for a long time, but I was so afraid of getting on stage. My friend took me to a few shows at ColdTowne and encouraged me to sign up for classes. Improv classes taught to trust in myself and my instincts and in the group to have my back. – Minda Wei

I was in a pretty low spot in my life at the end of 2014, and I stumbled upon a Groupon for half off an Improv 1 class at a theater in downtown Austin. I knew some folks from college who performed there and thought “why not?” I struggled most with feeling like I belonged; a combination of imposter syndrome and the fact I was an Asian queer spending most of my time surrounded primarily by straight white cis-men. Three years later, that theater I joined would suffer an upheaval in management that nearly tore our community apart. One wild revolution later, this Asian queer is now one of the 5 co-owners of Fallout Theater, a new theater borne from the community I had joined just a few years prior. -VS

I got involved with improv classes to work on my communication skills for my career. I was a very quiet person growing up and did not get a lot of the learning one can obtain from feedback of conversation. Letting my ideas flow out without thinking too much on them was something I struggled with quite a bit. I had only intended to get a brief taste of improv, but my friends encouraged me to complete the full course program at ColdTowne. Now I’m eager to continue developing my skills as a performer. – FI

I got started in improv in Seattle, but at the time, all that was taught in Seattle was short form. I wasn’t sure if it was for me and stopped taking classes. It wasn’t until I moved to Austin that I discovered long form improv. I actually bought a holiday special class for my boyfriend at the time as a gift, and when I saw his student showcase, I was so in awe that I immediately signed up for classes after. It’s completely changed my life in that I finally started building a community around me of talented and kind friends.- YL

How did you all come up with “Starring Y’all We Asian”?
Initially, we were brainstorming ideas surrounding Lunar New Year since our run started in February and our last run centered on the Asian summer vacation experience. ColdTowne was very generous in giving us an 8-week run, and we realized that it wouldn’t still make sense to be running a new year show in April. We were kicking around ideas, and Asian representation in Hollywood was a big topic in the last year, and something we had on our minds when we had won the BIP. We landed on character-driven so that we could explore the film leads and how our AsAm viewpoints would color their world. – MW

We also just thought it’d be fun to “yellow wash” a movie to flip the narrative, which was how we landed on this idea – YL

What is a random fact about some of your performers that we wouldn’t otherwise know?

There’s an ongoing joke about Kim’s 7 year old loofah that is literally falling apart that she still uses and keeps it together by tying it up with rope. I think she finally switched to some other thing that is more sanitary recently.

Also, one of our members, G-Su Paek recently got selected for the CBS Diversity Showcase! He’ll be moving to Los Angeles in the next week, so his last shows are actually this weekend if people want to see him before he departs. He got cast out of thousands of people who auditioned and we couldn’t be more proud of him. 

Y’all We Asian performs regularly at ColdTowne, but don’t miss them this month on Fridays and Saturdays in September at Spider House Ballroom.

BIGFOOT, THE MUSICAL OPENS MAY 25

From the minds of Amber Ruffin (Late Night with Seth Meyers), David Schmoll (Boom Chicago) and Kevin Scieretta (The SecondCity) comes the Austin premiere of BIGFOOT, THE MUSICAL. Produced by ColdTowne Theater and Austin SketchFest, this exclusive six performance run is only the second production of this musical comedy that premiered at the Majestic Repertory Theatre, in Las Vegas in 2018.

It will be directed by ColdTowne Theater’s Executive Producer Dave Buckman (The Second City, Boom Chicago) and ColdTowne Theater’s Artistic Director Will Cleveland (UCB New York). Musical Direction will be provided by Ammon Taylor (The Paramount Theater).

The musical comedy offers the origination story of America’s most famous mythological creature. You’ve heard the myth and legend…but do you know the man? In the perpetually economically depressed town of Mud Dirt, the perpetually ill Francine is the mother of an eight-year-old boy who has the body of a fully grown adult. Due to a glandular problem brought on by radioactive waste buried nearby, the boy continues to grow larger and larger through the years and is covered by hair. As the town’s mayor drives Mud Dirt into bankruptcy with his alcoholism and gambling, he uses the overgrown Bigfoot as a scapegoat and turns the citizens into an angry mob that pursues the youngster into the woods…and into infamy.

“I wrote Bigfoot because I wanted to have a good time,” said Ruffin. “I wondered if I could write a musical where every song was a party, and I think I did. Bigfoot is a musical about never losing hope even when things are terrible, even when you’re all out of money and friends, and everyone hates your guts. It’s a good time musical about hope.”

Amber Ruffin has written for Late Night with Seth Meyers since 2014, becoming the first African American woman to write for a late-night network talk show in the U.S. In addition to writing for Late Night, Ruffin also appears on the program, and her segments “Amber Says What” and “Jokes Seth Can’t Tell,” are both wildly popular. She will also be handling the 10th Annual Austin SketchFest performing a one woman show and will be in attendance on opening night!

BIGFOOT, THE MUSICAL
PERFORMANCE SCHEDULE
May 25 – June 29, 2018
Saturdays at 8:30 p.m.

TICKETS AVAILABLE ON EVENTBRITE
Tickets to Bigfoot at Austin Sketch Fest
Tickets to Bigfoot mainstage at ColdTowne

A NOTE FROM WRITER DAVID SCHMOLL

Amber and I worked together at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam, and shortly after she left Boom, she emailed me and asked if I could help her put some songs together for a show she was working on (King Of Kong: A Musical Parody). Because she was in LA and I was still in Amsterdam, and there was a 9-hour time difference between two people who were already pretty busy, we ended up doing it all by email. During the course of developing those songs, we sort of fell into the system of writing that we’ve used for everything we’ve worked on going forward, including Bigfoot:

She sends me a video of her talking about the song idea, and what style of music she has in mind. Then she sings the lyrics acapella. I watch the video and transcribe, as best I can, the melodies I hear into Logic, and from there I figure out what key the song should be in, and what chords should accompany the melody. Then I send her a rough draft of (usually) just piano, bass and drums, so she can check to see if I got the melody right, and if the chords I chose feel right to her.

After that, there’s usually a bit of back and forth to get the melody and chords locked down. Then I start arranging and orchestrating the song. I send her a rough cut, she sends me some notes, I refine the arrangement based on her feedback, send it back, and so on, until we have a complete song.

A big part of the reason why we work well together is because there’s a huge amount of mutual respect; each of us looks at what the other does as something completely impossible that surely must involve some type of sorcery. Our creative strengths and skill sets fit together quite nicely. Musically speaking, Amber’s the brain and I’m the brawn. She always has the initial idea – and often, by the time she makes that first video, she can already hear the finished song in her head. My job is to figure out what she’s hearing, and make that into something tangible that everyone else can hear, too. During that process when the song is developing is where the magic happens; we inspire each other and bring out the best in each other. Also, we’re both a little crazy, so that helps.

Monday Night Mash is bringing something new to Austin Improv – Teams

By Will Cleveland

Webster’s dictionary defines a troupe as a company, troop; especially a group of theatrical performers that tours to different venues, while it defines a team as a group of animals such as A: a brood, especially of young pigs or ducks B: a matched group of animals for exhibition.

An improv team is like a an improv troupe, but instead of a group a friends performing together and managing themselves by submitting for stage time and organizing their own rehearsals, they are sanctioned by a theater’s artistic staff through auditions, are coached regularly, and are given a dedicated time slot to perform.

Earlier this summer I went to New Mexico in search of UFOs (because I want to believe!) and Colorado in search of legal weed (because I want to believe!), but before that, I sent a performer survey to about 120 regular performers in the ColdTowne community from recent graduates of ColdTowne Conservatory to 10+ year veterans. I asked them about their practice, their goals, and their interests in programming at CT. A lot of things stood out to me, but most of all, people wanted more shots to get on the stage and be part of something that was consistent and frequent. Once they had graduated level 6 in our conservatory, a lot of people were asking “now what?”

As Artistic Director, my major responsibilities include giving performers stage time while generating revenue for the theater. This had me looking at Monday Nights. The Monday Night Mash has traditionally been, as are many of our time slots, an avenue for troupes who are just starting out to get performance opportunities on the ColdTowne Stage.

Here’s a brief history of how the Mash started from it’s first showrunner, Courtney Hopkin: “It started in 2008 at Kick Butt Coffee. They still made smoothies during our shows so we had to shout over the blender. We moved to ColdTowne in May of 2011 and ran it for a while with a troupe called No Chaser… and then ColdTowne took it over. We started it because we were having a hard time getting scheduled and there were no other shows happening on Mondays.”

10 years from its start, the show has been a target slot for troupes who just want to have some dang stage time! That’s fantastic! We need those avenues to help people develop their craft. However, I was feeling that Mondays needed a little boost to help build its draw. I was also feeling that the stakes of a Monday night show were often low for the people performing, and wasn’t as prioritized as other shows later in the week. Not by all troupes, no, but by many. Heck, a few times, troupes didn’t even show up, (LOL, what?!) while others would sell out. I could reward troupes that promoted and brought a house with more Monday slots, but then there’s fewer vacancies for younger, hard-working troupes to perform. Dilemma!

After some thought and feedback from owners and staff, and gauging interests of coaches and faculty, I decided it was time to introduce a team system for Mondays. At other theaters in larger markets like UCB or iO , it’s called “Harold Night”, only we’re not necessarily doing The Harold. We just want to provide a space where trained, capable improvisors can do the work, rehearsing and performing for an audience, that makes them great and pushes their art forward.

We opened auditions and the response from the community was passionate and lively. 58 performers auditioned while even more reached out to say they were unavailable, but were interested and excited for this opportunity created. After a full day of auditions and coach’s drafts, these 4 teams spurt forth from behind the vintage video store:  

Lemon

Amy Labashosky
Ashley Blom
Dalton Allen
Ellen Pizarek
Erica Lies
Jon Bender
Paul Carrubba
Spencer Bloom
Coach – Tauri Laws-Phillips (Damn Gina, ColdTowne Faculty)

 

Identity Crisis

Adam Weightman
Austin Howell
Jessica Soos
Kevin Anderson
Kim Roche
Matt Shirley
Ronnita Miller
Wendy Salome
Coach – Nat Miller (ColdTowne Faculty, iO Alum)

 

Hawkeye

Bill Hoffler
Haley Chamblee
Joseph Juarez
Preston Pentacost
Shane Gannaway
Tracey Rideout
Coach – Stephanie Thoreson (Loverboy, ColdTowne Alum)

 

Hunnicut

Adam Protextor
Audra Schroeder
Betsy Harper
Emmy Silak
Jason Burnet
Kareem Morgan
Michelle Cook
Nicholas Marino
Coach – Katie Stone (Stool Pigeon, Martini Ranch)

I am very excited by this new format and am pleased that so many students and performers are excited about it too. If you are interested in getting involved or auditioning for the next round of teams, come see the show on Mondays at 8:30 and ask me how. I’ll be emceeing the night. Until then, watch the skies, because there might be some crazy shit up there, who knows, and if weed were legal, well, wouldn’t that be cool!

 

A Night with Ike Barinholtz at ColdTowne Theater

ColdTowne Theater is thrilled to have Ike Barinholtz (The Mindy Project, Blockers, The Oath) as the September 16 Stool Pigeon monologist. Ike will tell stories to inspire Stool Pigeon’s improv set. Following the 8:30 p.m. show, Ike will stick around and join the cast of The Frank Mills on stage for a late night improv show. Opening will be ColdTowne’s critically acclaimed Friday night residency troupe, Movie Riot. Movie Riot is a Live Cinematic Event Made Up on the Spot.  Comedy juggernauts Movie Riot create a brand new never-before-seen, action-packed movie live on stage. Reserve your seats today for either show! Tickets will go fast!

Stool Pigeon with Ike Barinholtz – Sunday, Sept 16 at 8:30 p.m. – FREE
The Frank Mills with Ike Barinholtz – Sunday, Sept. 16 at 10 p.m.- $10/12

IKE BARINHOLTZ is quickly becoming one of the most sought-after comedians, writers and actors in the comedy world. Barinholtz is the Writer/Director of upcoming political comedy The Oath, and was recently seen in Blockers, alongside John Cena and Leslie Mann; Bright, with Will Smith; and Mark Felt: The Man Who Brought Down the White House, opposite Liam Neeson.

Barinholtz may be best known for his role as Morgan on Hulu’s “The Mindy Project.”  To his credit, Barinholtz also served as a writer and producer on the show. In his latest comedy project, “The Oath,” the writer, producer, actor dives into the divisive times of our current political climate. Read more about this film written by and starring Barinholtz and Tiffany Haddish.

SHORT SYNOPSIS
From the producers of GET OUT & BLACKkKLANSMAN comes a raw and riotous political comedy for divisive times.
A controversial White House policy turns family member against family member in The Oath, a savagely funny dark comedy about surviving life and Thanksgiving in the age of political tribalism. When Chris (Ike Barinholtz), a high-strung 24-hour progressive news junkie, and his more levelheaded wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) learn that citizens are being asked to sign a loyalty oath to the President, their reaction is disbelief, followed by idealistic refusal. But as the post-Thanksgiving deadline to sign approaches, the combination of sparring relatives, Chris’s growing agitation and the unexpected arrival of two government agents (John Cho and Billy Magnussen) sends an already tense family gathering completely off the rails. As timely as it is outrageous, The Oath is a gleefully wicked sharp-witted reinvention of the traditional holiday comedy for our divisive political times.
ABOUT THE OATH
From the producers of GET OUT & BLACKkKLANSMAN comes a raw and riotous political comedy for divisive times.
A controversial White House policy turns family member against family member in The Oath, a savagely funny dark comedy about surviving life and Thanksgiving in the age of political tribalism. When Chris (Ike Barinholtz), a high-strung 24-hour progressive news junkie, and his more levelheaded wife Kai (Tiffany Haddish) learn that citizens are being asked to sign a loyalty oath to the President, their reaction is disbelief, followed by idealistic refusal. But as the post-Thanksgiving deadline to sign approaches, the combination of sparring relatives, Chris’s growing agitation and the unexpected arrival of two government agents (John Cho and Billy Magnussen) sends an already tense family gathering completely off the rails. As timely as it is outrageous, The Oath is a gleefully wicked sharp-witted reinvention of the traditional holiday comedy for our divisive political times.
More about our guest: Previously, Barinholtz has been seen in such films as Snatched, alongside Amy Schumer; Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, with Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne; Suicide Squad, opposite Margot Robbie; and Sisters, alongside Amy Poehler and Tina Fey. His additional feature credits include NeighborsMeet the SpartansDisaster MovieShrinkLock and Roll Forever and Inventing Adam.

Barinholtz wrote the action comedy Central Intelligence with his writing partner David Stassen and Rawson Marshall Thurber. Barinholtz and Stassen are reteaming to write an untitled basketball comedy for Universal that will star Amy Poehler.

On the small screen, Barinholtz was a series regular on Fox’s “Mad TV” for five seasons and had recurring roles on HBO’s “Eastbound & Down” and FX’s “The League.” He has also appeared on “Weeds” and “Children’s Hospital.” Barinholtz was the star and co-creator of the Spike TV pilot “Mega Winner” and is an alumnus of Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago.