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May, 2011

Guest Villain: Tom Booker

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is currently playing Saturdays at 8pm. Every show features a guest villain, and the fourth guest is Tom Booker, founder of the Institution Theater, friend to celebrities, and owner of a talking dog. So let’s talk to Tom!

Roy: Tom, in my experience you’re a pretty lovable guy. Do you have what it takes to be a villain? And what Batman villain do you identify with the most?

Tom: I think that I will be a pretty good villain onstage. In real life though, I think that I would be a lousy villain because it’s important to me that EVERYONE like me. So if I were a villain in real life I would probably say things like, “I’m going to steal everything that you own, if that’s okay with you.”

I’m not sure if I identify completely with any of the Batman villains. But I think that I have something in common with many of the villains that were on the TV show. Mainly the quiet, misunderstood ones that women don’t find attractive. My favorite villain was Egghead because I’m a huge Vincent Price fan. He’s amazing! Watch Vincent Price in a film called “Theater Of Blood”. You’ll become a fan, too.

Roy: As far as portraying villains, didn’t you once play Charles Manson in a musical put on by The Annoyance? Or was that a fever dream?

Tom: Not only did I play Charles Manson in “MANSON: The Musical!”, I co-created and co-directed the show with Laura Hall. (Laura also wrote the music.) I was really into serial killers at the time. I even wrote a letter to John Wayne Gacey. He quickly wrote me back but I decided not to continue the relationship.

I also played a villain in another one of the early shows presented by The Annoyance Theater. I played the part of Balloon Boy in a show called “Your Butt.” Balloon Boy would show up in this dive bar at the same time everyday and beat the crap out of all of the regulars. Balloon Boy became demented after a bus that he was driving went over the side of a bridge and all of the innocent little school children riding on the bus drowned. The only thing that rose to the surface of the water were the balloons that the children had brought onto the bus.

Roy: You’d think that the regulars would stop going to the bar at that time after the first few beatings. Also, I actually recently played a character called “Billy the Balloon Boy” in The Violet Underbelly. But I didn’t beat anyone up. I just got shot and killed.

It’s funny, because in the 1960s Batman, no one ever gets shot and killed. Or even beat up that badly. Most of the villains’ big crimes amount to annoying/mystifying pranks. You strike me as someone who has pulled a prank in his time. What’s the biggest/best prank you’ve been a part of? Bonus points if it involves a celebrity.

Tom: In Los Angeles, if you work in the Universal Studios Building, you have access to a blind spot in the fence surrounding the Universal Studios Theme Park. One day, a bunch of my friends met up with an employee of Universal Studios who drove us in a golf cart to the blind spot in the fence. All of us then climbed the eight foot fence to sneak into the Universal Studios Theme Park even though we all had plenty of money to buy tickets. Especially the most famous member of our trespassing posse, Tom Morello, the guitar player from “Rage Against The Machine.”

Roy: Always the rebel. Thanks for the insight into your darker side, Tom! Buy your tickets to Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! right now. There are still a few shows left, but they’re going fast!

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42 Hour Improv Marathon Schedule

Here is the current schedule for the 42 Hour Improv Marathon. It starts at 6PM Friday, June 3rd and lasts until noon, Sunday June 5th. Remember, while there will be a different guest troupe each hour, the core 8 improvisers will be performing in each show.

Schedule subject to change. Buy tickets here.

Hour Day Time Group or Show Description
1 Friday 6PM Inaugural Show Free Show kicked off by our brave eight

2 Friday 7PM Maestro 1.1 elimination-style games and scenes that YOU score
3 Friday 8PM Maestro 1.2 elimination-style games and scenes that YOU score
4 Friday 9PM Junk Junk challenges our core 8 with a mystery format
5 Friday 10PM PGraph Impromatic! An improvised play using old photos
6 Friday 11PM Theatresports Two teams battle for improv supremacy
7 Saturday 12AM Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musical with Girls!
8 Saturday 1AM Sarah 7 These ladies from ColdTowne bring the noize
9 Saturday 2AM Three Hot Chicks An Improvised TV Sitcom!
10 Saturday 3AM The Intentions 16 suggestions taken and played with wild, psychotic abandon
11 Saturday 4AM Local Genius Society A Family Feud show with improv games!
12 Saturday 5AM Firth & Arjet Partially scripted and partially improvised, but which part is which??
13 Saturday 6AM The Truth Chair They MUST answer truthfully and they must improvise
14 Saturday 7AM Student Show 1 Games and Scenes with the Hideout’s rising stars!
15 Saturday 8AM Midnight Society Midnight Society f*cks sh*t up in the early morn
16 Saturday 9AM Bad Boys Chicago-Inspired Scenework from these feisty ColdTowne Theater Boys
17 Saturday 10AM The Institution Theater The Institution Theater showcases their special brand of madness
18 Saturday 11AM Dubbed Indemnity A crowd fav! Live dubbing over film and TV clips
19 Saturday 12PM Student Show 2 Games and scenes from the rising stars of The Hideout
20 Saturday 1PM Secret Show a delightfully secret format revealed at the start of the show!
21 Saturday 2PM Confidence Men Improvised David Mamet- The Blank Variations
22 Saturday 3PM Pick Your Own Path Choose Your Own Adventure style story
23 Saturday 4PM Happy Butter Two parallel stories create one entertaining show
24 Saturday 5PM The Knuckleball Now Fast-paced and furiously funny improv from this Austin improv staple
25 Saturday 6PM Start Trekkin’ Improvised Original Series Star Trek U WILL LUV
26 Saturday 7PM Nightmare Video Project Retro, Evil, VHS Madness, a cult favorite
27 Saturday 8PM Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! An improvised 1960 Batman episode. Our current mainstage
28 Saturday 9PM Improv for Evil Austin’s most sinister troupe brings the most cuddly improv love
29 Saturday 10PM Maestro 2.1 Elimination style improv. Austin’s longest running improv show!
30 Saturday 11PM Maestro 2.2 Elimination style improv. Austin’s longest running improv show!
31 Sunday 12AM McNichol and May Austin’s Chicago-bred improv couple brings pure delight
32 Sunday 1AM ColdTowne The Bat- Improv in the pitch black dark. A marathon tradition
33 Sunday 2AM Puppet Improv Project The Puppet Improv Project- Improv with tons of colorful, innocent puppets
34 Sunday 3AM Live Nude Improv A special sneak preview of our upcoming mainstage. May contain nudity.
35 Sunday 4AM Secret Senate In this show, every player is crammed onto one small bench
36 Sunday 5AM Dancy Street D’Orchestra an improvised musical of INSANE proportions
37 Sunday 6AM Doctors Without Boundaries Improv inspired by Grey’s Anatomy
38 Sunday 7AM Your Dad’s Friends Remember Intervention? This is the Improvention.
39 Sunday 8AM Amazon & The Milksop The weary marathoners explore good vs. evil
40 Sunday 9AM False Matters improvised Philip K. Dick stories by Gnap! Theater Projects.
41 Sunday 10AM Shakespeare Improvised Shakespeare- We’re really gonna mess with their heads in this one!
42 Sunday 11AM Final Show THE FINAL COUNTDOWN! The last hour where only the 8 remain.

Buy tickets for any of these shows here.

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Improv Classes FAQ

Q: Where do I start?

A: Register for one of our Level One: Playing With Risk classes. It’s a life-changing six-week introduction to the unique style of improv we teach and perform at the Hideout Theatre.

Q: Can I test drive improv at the Hideout?

A: If you’d like to sample our classes, we offer a two-hour Free Improv Class every first Wednesday and third Saturday. Or check out our Upcoming Show Schedule and come see a show to get a feel for what we do.

Q: What do people say about your Level One class?

A: You can read many many glowing student quotes on our testimonial page. Quotes like, “Improv classes are THE MOST FUN thing I have ever done.  I immediately felt very close to all my classmates, as if we were going through an adventurous and exotic rite of passage.”

Q: If I have some previous improv experience, do I really have to start with Level One?

A: We like to think that the Hideout’s approach to improv is fairly unique (based on the work of Keith Johnstone with a heavy emphasis on storytelling and a spirit of fearlessness and effortlessness) and if you haven’t studied with us before we’d much prefer that you go through the early levels to pick up our vocabulary and basic principles. But we also know that it’s a pain in the ass to start over in a new program and are eager to ease your pain with a pretty steep discount if you’ve already been through early improv classes elsewhere. If you think you qualify to skip some classes or want to register for Level One at a discount, email our education director.

Q: Do I have to perform?

A: Only if you want to. There’s no show in Level One, but starting with Level Two each six-week class culminates in a student showcase in The Weekender for friends and family. You can always opt out, but we’re pretty sure that by the end of twelve weeks of improv you’ll be itching to try it out on stage.

Q: Do you offer any scholarships?

A: As a matter of fact we do! Click here to see if you’d be a good fit for The Hideout Diversity Scholarship Program.

Q: How SOON can I perform?!

A: Levels Two through Four culminate in instructor-directed student showcases in the Weekender. Levels Five and Six each culminate in a run of two undirected showcases in the Weekender. If these class showcases aren’t enough to sate your hunger for performance, we have a bunch of student performance opportunities, from Maestro Raw, every other month on Saturdays and student mainstage shows, a different show and cast every other month. And once you’ve completed Level Three, you’re eligible to submit your availability for Maestro EVERY Saturday night. And there’s the Free Fringe on Thursdays where just about anybody can try out a cool new show idea.

Q: How do the six levels work?

A: Levels One through Three are our introductory series that everyone in the world should take — as a primer in improvisation AND for the mind-blowing life lessons you’ll pick up.
Level One: Playing with Risk is a playful introduction to making stuff up and getting out of your own way
Level Two: Playing with Rules introduces some basic principles for navigating games and scenes
Level Three: Playing with Performance invites you to play full scenes and games with fun as your only guide

Levels Four through Six are our performance series — for those of you who have decided that you’re giving this improv thing a shot as a hobby, social group, art form or career.
Level Four: Performing the Scene gets serious about making fun scenes happen
Level Five: Performing the Show gives you the tools to host and perform your own undirected show (culminates in three performances)
Level Six: Performing the Story invites you into the thrilling world of improvised narratives (culminates in three performances)

Q: What if one class a week is not enough for me?

A: We offer regular specialty workshops on Sundays and Saturdays with different topics instructors. Check out upcoming workshops in the drop down menu under the Classes section of the website. If you’d like to retake a Level class that you’ve already been through, we offer a repeat student discount of half off (email the education director for more info). And we believe that multiple points of view are essential to your improv education, so don’t hesitate to check out classes at the other improv theaters in town.

Q: How can I get my friends involved?

A: Drag them to shows! Invite them to check out the Free Class! Forward them the charming Student Update emails that we send you. Sign them up for a Level One class yourself. For every “referral” you send us, we’ll give you $25 off your next class. And if you’re especially brave, get a group of friends together and teach them what you’re learning in classes.

Q: How do I get plugged into the Hideout and greater Austin improv community?

 A: Get invited to the parties that are happening all the time. Hang out and socialize after shows (whether you’re performing or watching). Volunteer to help out with tech, box office or taking tickets for the weekend shows. Buy your instructors a drink.

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Guest Villain: Asaf Ronen

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is currently playing Saturdays at 8pm. Every show features a guest villain, and the third guest is Asaf Ronen, master of silent comedy, creator YesAnd.com, author of Directing Improv, and co-bigwig at The Institution Theater. So let’s talk to Asaf!

Roy: So Shannon McCormick (villain #1) has played a ton of villains in his non-improv career, and Mike Kinald (villain #3) is an expert in Batman and the fighting style used by the TV show. But in some ways you have them beat, Asaf, since you actually created and directed another superhero-themed improv show: Ka-Baam!, which has graced the Hideout stage twice in the past. Is there anything you learned from that experience that you think will apply to your turn as a Batman villain this weekend?

Asaf: Well, first I’ve got to give credit where credit is due. Ka-Baam!! was actually created by Steve Wacker back in 1998. I was just a cast member back then. He went on to get a job at DC because of it and is now an editor over at Marvel. He brought in a lot of folks who were comic book people that could also improvise: Darick Robertson (artist for Transmetropolitan), Kevin Maguire (who did some of the best JLA art ever), Dan Raspler (former editor at DC) so I really got to understand not the tropes behind comic books, but the passion behind it. What I plan to bring is what I love most about the Batman series and it’s ilk. And trust that all the necessary tropes will come into play. I’m a pop culture nerd so it should kick in fairly easily.

What that will look like is probably a very heavily themed villain down to their motivations. So if the villain is The Construction Worker, you can bet there was some cement mixing mishap that will show up in his origin story. Origin stories were a big part of Ka-Baam and are very big to me.

Roy: What’s your favorite villainous origin story, Batman-related or otherwise?

Asaf: I have to go with a more recent villain: Two-Face. I love the idea of a man of the law becoming bad (by chemical accident, classic!!) but still retaining the characteristics of the lawman. The idea of a bad guy who will do whatever the flip of a coin suggests is brilliant. Imagine, a villain with a sense of fairness.

Roy: Man, I just looked Two-Face up on Wikipedia, and it turns out he originally debuted in the comics in 1942! Seems hard to believe. He was dropped for a long while in favor of more “kid-friendly” villains, an idea that boggles the mind. Do you think he could have worked in the 1960s TV show?

Asaf: Definitely. But a watered-down version. Look at the list of criteria. Succinct evocative name like the Minstrel, Pharaoh, Joker. Check. Thematically tied suit. Check. I mean, the acid scarred his face, not his wardrobe, but he made a decision along the way and said “Hey, let’s carry the craziness of my face all the the way down.” A thematic prop. Check. Penguin had his umbrellas (like Penguins do), Clock King had various clock props and Two-Face has a coin with one side all scarred up… just…. like… his… face. It’s simple, and brilliant. Though in the books, there is a story of how the coin was a souvenir from his abusive father. So, that probably would be edited out of the TV version.

Roy: Yeah, definitely. Batman’s dead parents are mentioned exactly once in the pilot, and then he presumably got over it.

I’ve asked everyone this so far, so let’s make it a tradition. Your villain name will be picked from audience suggestion, but what name would you pick if you were given the chance?

Asaf: Whatever the name is, I hope there’s a foreign bent on it. I saw Kinald play The English Dentist and I thought how fun it would be to bounce around the stage like a British fop. I like doing accents, particularly the ones I do badly.

Roy: It’s no surprise to me that you’d have fun doing something badly. I think you have a gift for finding delight in anything on stage, and sharing that delight with the audience. That’s what makes you such a pleasure to watch.

Thanks for talking to us, Asaf.  See you tonight!

Buy your tickets to Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! right now. It runs every Saturday at 8pm in May and June.

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Guest Villain: Mike Kinald

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! is currently playing Saturdays at 8pm. Every show features a guest villain, and the second guest is Mike Kinald, a founding member of Improv for Evil, a master of silly accents, and a 1960s Batman fighting-style expert.

So let’s talk to Mike!

Roy: I’m particularly excited for your turn as a Batman villain. When you taught us how to fight in the 1960s Batman-style, it was clear you knew an INSANE amount about the show. What draws you to the 1960s Batman show, and what are some of your favorite fight moves?

Mike: I think what attracted me to the show the most was that while it was campy, it never took itself serious like the other superhero shows that had come before or that were playing at the time. You had these cool villains with elaborate plots, but they were often comedic, like the Joker turning Gotham’s water supply to Jelly, or the Penguin rigging a horse race. Another thing that really stuck with me was the whole morality issue with Batman and Robin; there was one scene where they parked the Batmobile on the street to get to a villain’s hideout. Batman stopped to feed the meter while telling Robin how the money collected from parking meters would help improve the roads of the city. Material like that just helped to make the show more interesting to watch. I like that the show also helped to revive interest in the Batman comic; before the TV show aired, DC was considering canceling Batman’s books due to low sales. The show helped to bring a new audience to the comics and revive the character.

As for the fight moves, I’d have to say my favorite moves are anything where Batman grabs Robin and swings him as a weapon into the villain’s goons. Here you have a 30-something year old man using a high school kid as a blunt object. Batman was supposed to be a highly trained fighter, and yet on every show he’s running at his opponents with his fists in front of his face, or telegraphing his punches. I tried to teach almost the same moves to the cast during their fight lesson, as the fights were an integral part of the show, and you can’t do a proper homage to the 60’s show without getting the fight scenes right.

Roy: It’s kind of amazing to me that people like the newer, dark takes on Batman so much, but they still love the 1960s Batman, too. Do you have a favorite Batman era?

Mike: I have to say that the mid to late 1980’s is my favorite Batman era. You have a variety of graphic novels and stories coming out which are regarded as some of the best Batman stories ever told: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller, The Killing Joke by Brian Bolland and Alan Moore, Year One in which Frank Miller and artist David Mazzucchelli redefined Batman’s origins. The 80’s was also the first time DC comics let the public vote on the fate of a major character- Jason Todd. You could call a number on the back of certain issues of Batman and vote on whether Jason Todd, the current Robin, would live or die. I remember the vote was real close- less than 100 or so at the outcome- but the public voted to kill him off. The Joker beat him senseless with a crowbar and then blew him up. The cover was striking- Batman in anguish holding the broken body of Robin in his arms.

I just loved reading the Batman issues that came out at that time. DC had also established that most of the Justice League was a little spooked by Batman. Here’s a mortal man with no powers except a well conditioned body, a drive to avenge his parents, and a fantastic intellect keeping up with the likes of Superman and Wonder Woman. DC also alluded to the fact that Batman had devised a way to defeat every member of the Justice League if he had to. The character was just so great at that time.

But I can see why people are attracted to both the dark Batman and the TV Batman. The 1960’s batman only alluded to his parent’s death during the pilot. If you tuned in at a later episode and had no clue about his back story, you would just assume here’s some millionaire who dresses up like a bat and fights crime while leading a moral and clean life. The show is more about how Batman can overcome his enemies with his amazing intellect and equipment rather than some tortured soul who takes this persona to avenge his parents’ murder. I think for the 1960’s they had the right formula to make people interested in Batman as a whole. The TV was what made a lot of people want to read the comics, and I guess because it is so tongue in cheek it endears itself to most folks who watch it.

Roy: What kind of villain are you secretly hoping to play this weekend? I’m sad that you already played the Irish card in rehearsal as Father No-Malley, just because you do it so well.

Mike: Thanks. I guess I’d like to play someone who just allows me to take the suggestion and get playful with it. Father No-Malley was great to play because I got to lose myself in both an accent and the costumes that you provide for the show. I think it makes a difference when you are wearing something that you can work with to base a character off of, be it a hat, a shirt, or even just a small physical mannerism. Batman was full of colorful characters who you would never look at as ‘real’ villains like Liberace playing an Concert Pianist who had an evil twin committing crimes in the cities where he toured. Art Carney played a Robin Hood knock-off where he stole from the rich and kept it. So there’s a lot of potential in every audience suggestion and as for character development I find that I can immerse myself in a character if I have just a hat or small item of clothing like a vest or glasses because they all help to define who the character is, like the Joker’s squirting flowers, or the Penguin’s umbrellas.

But if I had to make a specific choice, I guess I’d like to play some obscure foreign villain who shows up in Gotham to steal the parking meters or something trivial like that because they have some personal vendetta against them. But I know whatever suggestion I get, I’ll have fun creating that villain while making trouble for the Dynamic Duo.

Roy: Awesome! Thanks, Mike! See you this Saturday.

Buy your tickets to Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! right now. It runs every Saturday at 8pm in May and June.

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Guest Villain: Shannon McCormick

Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! debuts tomorrow (Saturdays at 8pm). Every show features a guest villain, and the very first guest is Shannon McCormick, the head honcho of Gnap! Theater Projects.

So let’s talk to Shannon!

Roy: Shannon, no offense, but you’re a no-brainer when it comes to picking someone to play a villain. Off the top of your head, what villains have you played in the past?

Shannon: Thanks, man. I’ll take that as a complement! No offense taken.

Yeah, it’s weird, most of my ‘career’ outside of improv has involved playing villains. I was Mysterion for many years in the Salvage Vanguard production of The Intergalactic Nemesis. I’m not involved with the show any longer, but the graphic novel that was based on the show includes a bald Mysterion that the artist Tim Doyle based on me.

Back when Austin had the late, lamentedly gone ADV Studios, I did the voice over dubbing for Kuroudo Akabane in the anime series The Get Backers. I liked to describe Akabane as equal parts The Crow, Jack Skellington, and Audrey Hepburn. At least that’s how I played him, and people seemed to like it.

Currently, I’m doing voice over work for DC Universe Online, which has been a total blast. I’m the voice of The Riddler, which is quite an honor considering that The Joker is played by Mark Hamill. I also do the voice for Arkillo, one of the Sinestro Corps, the evil counter parts to the Green Lanterns.

And I’ve played tons of villains over the years in various improv shows, and often get to do the voices of the baddies when I play with Foleyvision at the Alamo Drafthouse, which saldy doesn’t happen all that often anymore.

I don’t know what it is–maybe I’m kind of an evil person at heart? But something about playing villains really speaks to me, and people seem to recognize that. You can just indulge in all kinds of impulses you couldn’t get away with otherwise. Plus, I do a pretty killer imitation of the Emperor from Star Wars.

Roy: Be sure and whip out that impression the next time you’re standing behind Mark Hammill. Which I’m sure happens constantly. That’s awesome that you play The Riddler. Going back and watching the show, I’ve acquired a newfound respect for him. I just like the fact that whatever The Riddler is trying to accomplish is unimportant… it’s all about the thrill of the game. Do you have a personal favorite villain from the TV show or otherwise?

Shannon: The thing about the old Batman show is it was completely ridonkulously packed with amazing character actors as the villains. A proverbial murder’s row of old school Hollywood talent. Cesar Romero, and Frank Gorsham, and Ertha Kitt. Just amazing. But I’d say for various reasons, my fave was Burgess Meredith as The Penguin. Such a ridiculous villain and such a great performance. I like to think of him as Republican’s fever dream of FDR.

As far as all time villains, it’s hard to beat Darth Vader. Or Master Asia from Swordsman II, but not many people have seen that. Suffice to say, she/he is the most amazing androgynous kung fu villain ever.

Roy: So speaking of obscure villains, last night in rehearsal you wound up playing a villain called The Bell Ringer, whose best attribute was his surprisingly resilient beard. The audience will be coming up with your villain’s name on Saturday, but do you have any thoughts on what you would pick for your villain’s name if given the chance?

Shannon: Oh man, I’m open to anything, really. I guess my predilections are drawn more toward villains whose signature is their wicked smarts as opposed to some brute power or animal similarity or things like that. So maybe something like Egghead, although I think that’s a D-list Marvel villain already.

Roy: Not only does Egghead, “The World’s Smartest Criminal”, exist, but he was created for the Batman TV series, and he was played by none other than Vincent Price. The words “egg-cellent” and “egg-sactly” are heard a lot in those episodes.

Thanks, Shannon! See you tomorrow!

Buy your tickets to Holy 1960s Batman, Batman! right now. It runs every Saturday at 8pm in May and June.

P.S.: I found that composite image at the top of this post while searching for pictures of Shannon online, which proves my point that he’s the perfect choice for a villain.

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