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December, 2011

In Praise of Marc Majcher and the Last Nightmare Video Project

I would like to take a moment to sing the praises of Marc Majcher.

Since September 2010, Marc has been recording DVDs for The Nightmare Video Project, one of the Hideout’s craziest, most ridiculous shows… and one of the shows that requires the most preparation.

In it Marc plays The Master, or The Gatekeeper… a demon from/in Hell who is tormenting 8 improvisers by directing them in a show. The winner of the show gets to live, and the rest all burn in Hell.

The ridiculous part is that Marc’s role is entirely prerecorded onto a DVD. The Gatekeeper starts scenes, sidecoaches and shouts “SCENE IS OVER” all without actually watching the show… and his giant head hovers over the show on the projection screen like a looming god.

It takes Marc hours and sleepless nights to do this.

He almost never gets to see the show because he’s a busy man and usually is performing simultaneously at another theater.

He doesn’t have the benefit of an audience to gauge the reaction to his jokes.

He has to go on instinct.

He does a wonderful job.

The Gatekeeper is silly, funny, irreverent, stern, absurd, and somehow generates a good shape to the show that builds to a satisfying conclusion.

The Nightmare Video Project has been a monthly staple of The Hideout for well over a year.

But tonight is the last one.

We’re changing up the Friday 8pm lineup in 2012 to include more student/improviser participation.

Marc’s plan for tonight’s show is to do a Holiday Nightmare Video Project.

As always, I have no idea what the show will include. But my money’s on The Gatekeeper wearing a Santa Hat.

Come bid the show a fond farewell.

Get your tickets here.

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Ask Local Genius Society: Q&A with Karen Jane DeWitt

Local Genius Society returns to the Thursday Threefer at the Hideout Theatre.  Meet the men and women behind the Society.

This week:  Karen Jane DeWitt

By day, Karen Jane DeWitt is a professional chef, but by night, she could be anything – a young mother with a storied past in the Hideout Theatre’s “Austin Secrets,” a time-traveling assistant in “The Professor:  Improv Inspired By Doctor Who” at the Institution, or an over-the-top dating show contestant in “Duck Duck Boom” at the Velveeta Room.  This week she’s playing the Hideout Theatre with her improv troupe Local Genius Society.  Here DeWitt talks about surviving the 42 Hour Improv Marathon and why celebrating the holidays means learning to play a toy accordion.

You’ve been involved in a number of different improv shows that utilize very different styles – The Professor, Austin Secrets, Duck Duck Boom – what’s it like improvising in so many different styles?

Karen Jane DeWitt: There are definitely different things that you want to hold on to in your head when you’re approaching a different type of show. Like with The Professor you really want to work on building a world that’s not necessarily like an everyday world on earth.  But you can do any type of improv no matter what style it is, short-form or long-form or grounded or insane as long as you keep in mind relationship.  Relationship really drives scenes.

You were also involved in the Hideout’s 42 Hour Marathon this year.  How did being in the Marathon affect your view of improv?

KJD: I think it took away a lot of my fear with improv.  When you first start performing you think that you’re not worthy of the show that you’re in.  You don’t know if you’re going to do it right, or if you’re going to treat it with the respect and the kind of skill that it takes to pull the show off.  But with the 42 Hour Marathon, you would get a one-minute explanation of the show right before you went on stage.  So you would just have to trust that your partners were going to take care of you and that yes, you do have the ability of doing any type of show.  You can’t break improv, no matter how hard you try.

What made you first want to try improv?

KJD: I had just quit grad school and so I was starting to re-enter the real world.  I had done some theater in high school, dabbled in it, but hadn’t really ever been in any productions.  I was talking to my friend and she’d done an interview for the Austinist with the owners of the Hideout.  I’d mentioned to her that I wanted to do some theater and she emailed me this 10-minute interview that she had done.  Before the interview was even over I signed up for improv classes.  I didn’t even really fully understand what improv was, but the interview was so good I was like, I need this in my life, whatever it is, I know it’s going to be good for me.

Had you ever even seen an improv show at that point?

KJD: I hadn’t ever seen an improv show in a theater.  I’d seen “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and that type of thing on TV when I was a kid, but I was really more interested in that whole “yes, and” and going with the flow.  Whenever you hear people talk about improv it sounds like they’re describing a very spiritual experience.  And I maybe was searching for that.

Your husband, Patrick Herzfeld, is a musician in Graham Wilkinson’s band – do you feel like you all take turns being on stage and being in the audience?

KJD: Oh definitely.  I have more than paid my dues going to his gigs for the past eight years, and he picked up right where I left off.  As soon as I started performing, he was right there.  He’s definitely my biggest fan and my sounding board for all my crazy ideas.  He’s really supportive.

Is there something that you all look forward to each year at this time of year?

KJD: I look forward to Patrick’s mom; she buys us all these gifts that are basically like gifts for little children.  She doesn’t do a stocking, but it’s sort of what you would consider a stocking stuffer.  We have this toy accordion and every year we get it out and try to play “Take Me Out To The Ballgame.”  Cause that was the song that came with the instruction booklet.

Did you ever go caroling growing up?

KJD: I did.  I used to go Christmas caroling with my church group.  We would get in the church van and then we’d go to all the widow’s houses.  They knew we were coming and so they’d have the heater on full-blast, and we’d all be sweating while we were singing.  Then they’d have cookies for us and hot chocolate and we’d spend a few minutes there and then get back in the van and go to the next place and do it all over again.  By the end of it we were so sick of cookies we didn’t know what to do.

A couple of the Threefer shows have already taken place – is there anything that you hope might happen in the next couple of Threefer shows?

My wish for the remaining shows is that I’d like to see something sort of magical happen.  Something otherworldly, that would be fun.

Local Genius Society headlines the Thursday Threefer at the Hideout Theater December 15th at 8PM.

originally posted at http://localgeniussociety.wordpress.com/2011/12/12/ask-local-genius-society-qa-with-karen-jane-dewitt/

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Student-cast After School Improv Audition Announcement

Announcing Auditions for a Hideout student cast production of After School Improv (January 15th)

In March of 2012, The Hideout will be bringing back one of its flagship Mainstage shows: After School Improv. This time, however, the production will be cast entirely from Hideout students and recent graduates.

Hideout veteran Jason Vines will be directing the production.

About the Show

The Hideout Theatre bravely tackles the issues your parents were too awkward to talk about in an improvised homage to the After School Specials we all grew up on.

Each episode addresses a problem that teenagers have faced since the dawn of time, in a melodramatic, cautionary, family-appropriate, ham-fisted way. Teen pregnancy, alcoholism, bullying, acne, dating… all of these topics are fair game.

In short, After School Improv is just like those “very special” shows you watched as a kid… except this time they’re funny on purpose.

About the Audition

The audition will be held on Sunday, January 15th from 4 to 7pm, and is open to all current students of The Hideout, or people who have taken one of the levels within the last year. Please email jason@hideouttheatre.com to reserve a spot. Also, put “After School Improv Auditions” in the subject line. If you have any questions about whether you are eligible, just ask Jason.

At the very least, save the date!

About the Schedule

Rehearsals will be Sundays from 4 to 7pm, January 22nd through March 4th
The show run will be Saturdays at 6pm,  March 10th, 17th, 24th, and 31st.

Other notes

Our goal with this show is to run it as much like a Mainstage production as possible. That means rehearsals, costumes, tech, posters, etc…

Also, fun fact: the lockers in the green room are from the first production of After School Improv, and assuming we have some strong people in the cast, will likely be used again.

Again, if you’re interested, email  jason@hideouttheatre.com ( and put “After School Improv Auditions” in the subject line ).

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Ask Local Genius Society: Q&A with Kayla Lane Freeman

Local Genius Society is back again this week at the Hideout Theatre’s Thursday Threefer.  Meet the men and women behind the Society.

This week:  Kayla Lane Freeman

Kayla Lane FreemanNot too long ago Kayla Lane Freeman hadn’t even seen improv.  Fast-forward a year and a half, and Freeman is building dreamscapes in the Hideout Theatre’s “Spirited,” time-traveling through the Institution Theater’s “The Professor: Improv Inspired By Dr. Who,” and winning the long-running improv competition, Maestro.  Aside from double majoring in RTF (Radio/Television/Film) and American Studies, the UT junior and improv wunderkind is playing the Hideout Theatre Thursday nights in December with her troupe Local Genius Society.  Here Freeman talks about the joy of doing improv and the warm feelings that come with wearing really cozy pajamas.

It wasn’t that long ago that you saw improv for the first time, right?

Kayla Lane Freeman: Yeah, it was the summer of 2010, I think.  I spent a little bit of time in New York interning for Sundance and I was living in Chelsea, so it was walking distance to UCB and I’d go see shows.  I had been a longtime fan of theater and comedy, and sort of knew about improv because I was a big fan of Steve Carrell and Tina Fey.  I didn’t necessarily think about doing improv until I came back to Austin.  I was just doing some acting classes and my roommate was taking an improv class at the Hideout.  She had a free ticket to go see a show and she knew I was into theater and we went and saw PGraph.  I had never seen improv in that capacity, like the improvised play kind of thing.  Seeing that there’s even farther that this kind of art form can reach made me really want to get started.

Was it seeing an improvised narrative in particular that made you interested in trying it yourself?

KLF: When I finally kind of felt inspired by improv was when I realized that it was so diverse and it was really an art form.  Then I felt compelled to try it, and I think I fell in love with it within the first couple weeks of Level One.

What was your first improv class like?  Do you remember it?

KLF: I was completely surprised because I think I expected something different.  I guess I expected it to feel more like a traditional acting class.  The early levels are so much more about creativity training and tapping into the subconscious and becoming okay with yourself.  Precisely because that wasn’t what I expected I would be getting out of it, that’s why I liked it so much.  I realized it wasn’t just learning some kind of party trick.  It wasn’t just learning a skill; it was kind of reprogramming the way that you think.

Is there something that you get out of improv that you feel like you can’t get anywhere else?  Like in other avenues of your life or other creative pursuits?

KLF: The way you say that, it makes it sound like it’s wrong, like, I have to go to my dealer, he’s the only one. And it kind of is that way, I guess.  [Improv is] cathartic, it’s playful; it just brings a lot of joy.  It’s collaborative.  You can’t be competitive if you want things to go well.  It’s something that needs to be a part of my life because it brings me peace and joy and a certain amount of stability and mental health.

What’s it usually like during the holidays at your house?

KLF: It’s pretty laid back, especially in the last couple of years.  My sister and I are adults now so we come home for a couple of days instead of the weeks upon weeks that used to be.  There’s just a lot of food and watching bad reality television on my dad’s giant TV.  It’s really low-key.

Are there any particular holidays that stick out in your memory?

KLF: The first couple of Christmases that I remember, from when I was five until I was about eight or so, in my house in Florida, I think those were the best.  That was still a time that I was incredibly captivated by Christmas.  I still very much felt that extreme sense of wonder and anticipation, and everything always seemed to be larger than life and a really big deal.

Is there something you look forward to each year at this time of year?

KLF: I have these amazing pajamas from Old Navy and they’re huge and flannel-y and warm and beautiful.  I look forward to cold weather so I can just cuddle up in those pajamas in a big blanket and read and think and write and not have any commitments to be anywhere or do anything.  That’s probably my favorite part of the holidays.

There’s the idea that “anything can happen” in improv – are there some things that you’re hoping might happen in these holiday Threefer shows?

KLF: I just hope that when people see our shows they think that they’re really funny, but they also think that they have a lot of heart and they can kind of recognize themselves and their experiences in our shows.  I think that’s what I want every time I do improv.

Local Genius Society headlines the Thursday Threefer at the Hideout Theatre December 8th at 8PM.

[originally posted at http://localgeniussociety.wordpress.com/2011/12/05/ask-local-genius-society-qa-with-kayla-lane-freeman/ ]

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Layer Upon Layer of Paint: The Hideout Theatre Set Designs

Kaci here, Your Director of Design at The Hideout Theatre!

One of my on-going jobs here at The Hideout is to paint the stage backdrop at the theater every 2 months. Perhaps it would be better to phrase that “re-paint”, because that’s what I do. I paint over the current backdrop over and over again.

I got started painting the back walls when we did our first season of Improvised Shakespeare in 2008. Andy Crouch (our Director of Education) was directing the production and he wanted to do a faux rock look. I was an undergrad at St. Edward’s University studying scenic design and art at the time, and he asked for my assistance in creating the look. I ended up enjoying the work and especially enjoyed the final product. I was a cast member in the production and it was so nice to have a specific new look on the stage for the show.

2008 Improvised Shakespeare set during tear-down

It was soon after that when other directors and producers began contacting me about painting backdrops for their sets. I did work for the Out of Bounds Comedy Festival, Asaf Ronen’s KABAAM!, and Improv For Evil’s Cochise. In early 2009, The Hideout decided that I would be in charge of painting the sets for the theater and have final say on what the stage backdrop would look like. When we finalized a rotating schedule of what we now call Mainstage Shows (the Saturday 8pm shows), we decided each production would get its own unique set painting, designed to fit that show. It was also important that the design not be too disruptive for the shows during the rest of the week – hence the reason why our sets rarely utilize extra furniture or 3D elements.

Because we don’t have a lot of storage or building/construction space at the theater, it made economical sense to just paint over each design when the show run was over. So that’s what I do. People often ask me, “Does it make you sad to have to paint over the sets?” At first, it did feel somewhat strange. I always spend several hours (anywhere between 10-30 hours) working on the sets, and some of them are for shows we might bring back (Like Charles Dickens Unleashed). But it doesn’t really make sense to keep them, and just like the improv we present, the sets have become temporary. A huge bonus of this is that it keeps me from being lazy in my designs. We don’t leave any backdrop up for longer than just a few months. I get to re-imagine the same space a hundred different ways. Making a very complicated and detailed set makes me want to turn around and try a more minimalist set. Or painting a colorful set makes me want to try out a monochromatic approach. Each piece feeds the next. So these days, I mostly enjoy creating each new design, and painting over the old is bitter-sweet.

Painting over the bright Spirited set for the darker Dickens set.

I always work with the director of the current Mainstage production to come up with the design. Sometimes they already have something in mind, sometimes we come up with the design together, and sometimes they give me completely free reign. I’ve also approached painting them in many different ways. Sometimes I’ve improvised the entire design while I was painting it, sometimes I work off a sketch or plan I’ve made, and sometimes I change what I’ve planned after I’ve started working.

We have shows here pretty much every single weekend, all year long. We also teach classes on all the nights when we don’t have shows. Because of this, I can only re-paint the set during the day (when we don’t have kids classes or renters) and more often, at night after 10pm. We only have one week in-between the closing of one show and the opening of the next, so the time-frame for re-painting is tiny. Believe it or not, my improv training has helped me immensely in the way that I work.

I have to trust myself and keep pushing forward toward the end. I often feel pressure and fear when I’m working (is this going to look right? are people going to like it?), but I know that the only way to get out of those feelings is to push through them and keep working.

Now that we’ve premiered our 2012 Season, I’m starting to get pretty excited about all the upcoming opportunities for new designs! But enough of this boring chit-chat…Do you want to actually see what I’ve been talking about? Watch this video!

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