Hideout LogoThe Hideout Theater

617 Congress Ave
Austin, TX 78701 Map

(512) H-I-D-E-O-U-T

See All»

April, 2014

Announcing the Next Three Student Mainstages of 2014


Hello all! The new Hideout series of Student Mainstages have been a roaring success. On behalf of the Hideout Theatre, we have some exciting announcements!

The first announcement is that we are officially changing the eligibility of Student Mainstage productions!

To be able to audition for a Student Mainstage you must be a current Hideout student or a Hideout graduate who has yet to be in a Hideout Saturday Mainstage.

And what shows may they be??? See below for the descriptions for the next three Student Mainstage shows!

Show: The Dahl House

Director: Valerie Ward

Improvised stories inspired by Roald Dahl. British children’s fantasy with a distinctly fizz-wizzing flair.

Audition: Sunday May 25th – 4-7
Rehearsals: June/July/August – Sundays 4-7.
Shows: Saturdays in August, 6pm



Show: The Aftermath

Director: Jordan Maxwell

An improvised post-post-apocalyptic adventure, chronicling the lives of the survivors of a world ending cataclysm. Inspired by works like World War Z, Y the Last Man, The Hunger Games, Revolution, and The Walking Dead.

Audition: Sunday July 27th – 4-7
Rehearsals: August/September/October – Sundays 4-7.
Shows: Saturdays in October, 6pm



Show: A Penny Dreadful

Director: Troy Miller

Inspired by the tales of Bram Stoker and Edgar Allen Poe, by the British Hammer Studios horror films of the 1960s, and featuring a dash of Scooby Doo, comes an improvised gothic horror tale replete with rich characters, terrible secrets, and all kinds of spooky goings-on.

Audition: Sunday, Sept. 28th 4-7
Rehearsals: October/November/December
Shows: Saturdays in December, 6pm


We will be posting audition forms mid-May. Please share this around and get your eligible friends to audition! Help us continue to make the Student Mainstage Productions a success!

Comments (0) | Post a Comment

Author Charlie Hoehn Has the Cure For What Ails You

Charlie Hoehn is one of our current students (he’s starting Level Six tonight with Valerie Ward!). He recently published a book entitled Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety and improv classes at the Hideout get a shout out at the end of this excerpt:

One night, while I was looking at a friend’s book collection, I stumbled upon an interesting title — Play: How it Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul, by Dr. Stuart Brown. I sat down and read the book in one sitting.

The message of Play hit me like a brick wall. I could finally see how I was creating my own suffering:

I was constantly depriving myself of play!

The problem was my state of mind. For years, I’d mentally blocked myself from having guilt-free fun. I was a workaholic who was extremely adept at rejecting everything that wasn’t productive. I couldn’t enjoy any form of leisure if it didn’t earn money or help my career.

I didn’t allow myself to play because that meant I wasn’t working. But I couldn’t really work because I always felt tired and jaded. Even after I finished working for the day, I’d still check my email a dozen times between midnight and 2:00AM. I knew it was dumb and “What could be so important?” and “You need your sleep,” but I did it anyway. I had to stay connected to my work. I was oblivious to the fact that my nerves were being frayed every waking hour, and that I desperately needed fun face-to-face time with real human beings.

What made matters worse were my unhealthy routines:

  – Sitting and staring at screens for 12 hours a day

  – Pounding coffee and energy drinks every hour

  – Binge drinking with friends on the weekend

My weeks were a cycle of mental over-stimulation, physical inactivity, social isolation, and emotional numbing. I didn’t get outside. I didn’t move. I didn’t sleep. I didn’t play with my friends. I just kept working.

Even when I was technically “playing” with my friends, I always felt guilty. My mind was elsewhere: what I did wrong in the past, how I was compromising my future, and how I was wasting the present. I was incapable of being in the moment. I had to get back to work.

What would the world do without me and my important work?

Without realizing it, I became very serious and intense, even though I’d never been that way in my entire life. I approached everything with this Life Is Serious mentality…

Work = Slavery

Exercise = Chore

Food = Guilt

Friendship = Obligation

Love = Social construct

Somehow, I managed to suck the joy out of every single aspect of my existence. I was so intensely critical of life that I blocked my ability to enjoy it.

I was convinced that the real world was a miserable grind for adults, and that I needed to work even harder if I wanted to enjoy life.

Someday, I’d be rich and permanently successful. And when I reached that point, I would allow myself to stop worrying and be happy.

A lack of play should be treated like malnutrition: it’s a health risk to your body and mind.
– Stuart Brown


Have you ever witnessed a little kid working out on a treadmill?

Or meeting up with a friend to chat over coffee?

Or attending a networking conference to hand out their business cards?

Hell no! That stuff is LAME and BORING. If you saw a kid doing any of those things, you would laugh and wonder what was wrong with them.

Kids don’t run to get in shape; they run to feel the wind in their face and the grass beneath their feet.

Kids don’t chat over coffee; they make jokes and play games with their friends.

Kids don’t network; they bond while they’re having fun together.

There is no ego. There is no guilt. There is no past to regret, and no future to worry about. They just play.

And that’s what I’d forgotten, what I’d been missing, all along.

The week I decided to start playing again, a friend introduced me to his buddy David via email. David replied with the usual request, asking if I wanted to grab coffee. I paused for a moment, then wrote back:

“Hey David, it’s nice to meet you. This is an irregular request, but do you want to play catch at a park? I haven’t done that in awhile and it’s a lot more stimulating than sitting around and drinking coffee.”

His response:

“SURE THING. Playing catch sounds like a f*ing blast! I’ll ping you in a bit and if we can’t do it today, let’s play ball tomorrow!”

And it was a blast. Playing catch removed the pressure that’s so common in business meetings, where both sides are subtly trying to impress each other. Instead of putting ourselves through the usual nonsense, we got to enjoy our game on a warm summer day in the park.

I felt rejuvenated after my first play meeting. I gained a surplus of happiness, which spilled into the rest of my day. Suddenly, I found myself teasing bored cashiers, being more flirtatious, and cracking inappropriate jokes. Just a couple hours of guilt-freeplay reduced my anxiety and increased my confidence.

I had a date scheduled the following night. Rather than trying to be on for hours at a time, I decided to think of the night as a series of spontaneous games.

It worked. Our energy was never uptight because we played around the entire time. We ordered whisky Shirley Temples, shot cherry stems through our straws at random people, and cracked jokes about the karaoke singers. There were no attempts to be cool or charming, or thoughts about where the date might take us. It was all about finding ways to make the moment fun.

That was how I wanted all of my meetups to be from that point forward. I just had to ask myself, What games can we play together?

My friend Tucker and I started playing home run derby every Saturday. We’d drive over to a high school baseball field with a bucket of balls, a few bats, and our gloves. One of us pitched from behind an L-screen (the net that protects the pitcher from line drives) while the other person hit. We acted like little kids; whooping and hollering each time we hit a home run and talking trash about who was the best hitter.

I wanted to surround myself with more fun people who cracked me up and treated life as a game. If I was always around friends who wanted to play, I knew my anxiety would fade away.

That’s when I signed up for something I’d always been too scared to do: improv comedy classes.

For three hours each week, I thrust myself into situations where I was guaranteed to look foolish. At first, I was really nervous and slightly mortified. My heart beat rapidly and my voice quivered whenever I performed in front of 15 other people. But by the end of the first month, improv was a tremendous source of strength for me. And it was the most fun I’d had in years.

All of us were there to play, to go with the flow and say “Yes!” to every ridiculous scenario we were thrown into. We all looked like idiots, but after a few classes, none of us cared. The voices in our heads that constantly judged and graded us

for not being perfect were silenced. We became desensitized to our fear of failing because we all screwed up, all the time. And it didn’t matter. We just leaned in, adapted on the fly, and treated every mistake like it was intentional and perfect.

I still remember my first great scene. I crawled out to center stage on my stomach, acting like a prisoner who was about to make a break for his freedom. My partner was supposed to mirror all of my movements, so she crawled out beside me. When we looked at each other in surprise, we launched into an argument about who would escape first. We couldn’t yell at each other (we didn’t want to get caught), so we just aggressively whispered the whole time. The longer we argued and delayed our escape, the funnier the scene became. Our classmates cracked up as the tension mounted, and our teacher finally ended the scene by saying, “I could watch this all day.”

Every improv class reminded me of the father-son baseball games from Little League. All the kids looked forward to that one game each season because, for a few glorious hours, there were no critics or coaches. Everyone was there to participate and have fun. If someone made an error, no one yelled because we were too busy laughing. The outcome didn’t matter. It was true play.

Improv wasn’t about keeping score, or self-improvement, or even acting funny. It was about being in the moment and letting go. And for a few glorious hours, I didn’t need to be my anxious, workaholic, perfectionist self. I could just play around and have guilt-free fun.

And that was how I approached life before anxiety. I never used to worry too much about being successful or surviving in the real world. I just embraced the moment, knowing it was another opportunity to have fun with my friends. Life was a game, and I always allowed myself to play. I wanted it to be that way again.

Then I realized… it could be. In fact, it always had been.

You can buy Charlie’s book Play It Away: A Workaholic’s Cure for Anxiety on Amazon.com

And you can Play it Away at the Hideout Theatre in improv classes starting every month.

Comments (0) | Post a Comment

View from the Booth

By Cindy Page

“If it’s all made up on the spot, why do you rehearse?”

I’ve heard other improvisers talk about getting this question from non-improvisers, but I didn’t hear it myself until just a couple of weeks ago, when describing my rehearsal schedule to a coworker.

Why DO improvisers rehearse? Why do I give up so much of my free time to the shows that I tech?

The easy answer, I had already been told, is, “Why do athletes practice? You don’t know what will happen from moment to moment on a soccer field, but you have to practice all the skills and plays.”

But the truth is, especially in narrative improv, that rehearsals are where we build the world that the audience sees during the show.

The process of building the technical aspect of a show starts before we technical improvisers climb into the booth. We talk with the directors about their vision for the show. What sort of mood do you want from the lighting? What kind of music do you want to score the stories? How deep a soundscape do you want us to provide?

By the time the tech crew arrives at a rehearsal with the cast – usually a few weeks in to the rehearsal process – we’ve already assembled a library of sound effects and music, and the light tech already has some idea of what the lighting design will look like. Then we have to put it all together with what the cast is doing on stage.

I like to talk about improv tech in terms of vocabulary. We don’t know what will happen from moment to moment in a show, but we can plan for certain scenarios, write the playbook with a collection of effects to pull from and string together in shows. In Kenjutsu, the sword fights are punctuated by a special lighting effect that serves both to enhance the visual impact for the audience, and also signal to the players that a heavy wooden bokken is being swung in their direction in slow-motion and they should be prepared. In Strange Worlds, we ran drills with the cast to perfect the timing of combat sounds – gunshots and sword clangs. In Black Vault, we had to get a feel for when the story takes the kind of turn that calls for a creepy change in music. The cast has to learn to identify the lighting zones of the stage. The crew has to learn to read and anticipate the physical and narrative movements of the cast. The booth makes offers, just like any member of the cast, except instead of words and actions, we make our offers with lights and sound. The rehearsal process is where we develop that language in which we can communicate – stage to booth and back – without speaking a word or even having the benefit of eye contact.

The result is one of the coolest feelings in the world – the satisfaction of enhancing someone else’s improv performance. I love that sweet moment when a lighting effect pushes the drama of the scene and the audience leans in a little. I live for that happy convergence of a sound or scoring effect that lands at just the right moment to give everyone chills. I still giggle a little each time the Black Vault tech crew synchronize a technical effect and we can see the players on stage have a genuine reaction to a flash of light coupled with a creepy sound and a bend in the music, and the audience gasps.

We make the stories being spun on stage a little more tangible, more epic. Maybe you can’t see that Lovecraftian monster, but you can hear it. Strange Worlds’ Maxine Maker may be working in an invisible lab, but you can feel it’s presence through dynamic lighting, ambient sound, and careful spacework. Kenjutsu has no blood effect, but you can sense the weight and violence of each sword strike through the carefully choreographed combination of movement and lighting. We give the audience’s imaginations just a little bit more to work with.

When Hideout narrative main stage shows travel to other cities, we are frequently met with perplexed technical directors when we tell them we will be bringing three – yes, THREE – technical improvisers along with the on-stage performers: one for lights, one for scoring, one for sound effects. Here at the Hideout, we are blessed with two theaters with lighting and sound setups that give us plenty of range. Sound effects and scoring can be run off two separate computers with separate volume control. Both theaters have a gorgeous array of multi-color LED washes and incandescent spot lights that allow us to isolate separate parts of the stage for dramatic effect. The Improvised Play Festival is our chance to show off one of the things that Austin improv does really well – narrative improv backed by tight, immersive tech.

The Improvised Play Festival runs from April 10th-12th. Tickets range from $5 to $15.

Comments (0) | Post a Comment

Sarge on the Origins of Bunker 13

By Michael Christensen

In 2009 Bunker 13 sprang from my experiences in the military, my fascination with the Vietnam War, and the wars in the Middle East.

I wanted to create a show that focused on the smallest level of men at war; – the squad.  I was hoping to create some insight into the lives of soldiers deployed overseas and how they deal with the monotony, fear, tension, the Army and how they come to form a brotherhood of sorts.

My inspiration and model of sorts was Bassprov and perhaps Dirty Water from Boston – but I wanted to add some stakes. The idea that you could be called out of the bunker at any time to risk your life, or be suddenly attacked adds a nice tension.

I also wanted the theatricality of flashbacks, asides and trips downrange into the jungle, along with a flow of characters in and out of the bunker.  The sound of the war intrudes into the bunker as well with incoming and outgoing artillery, sporadic automatic weapons fire and Huey helicopter fly-by’s.

We produced Bunker 13 at Jet City Improv in 2009 as a full-length improvised play.   What surprised me was how popular the show was with women.  They saw beyond the locker room humor and really became attached to the characters in the show.   I was pleased with the characters that evolved very organically during the rehearsal process, during the run, and over the five years we have continued to perform the show.

In the end, I think the show continues to provide a gritty slice of life of the regular Army grunt in the Vietnam War, or any war.

The experiences I had in the Army influenced the show a great deal.   Soldiers interact with each other in a unique way, part locker room, part boardroom, part junior high sleepover; all framed in this olive drab world tinged with menace, or danger.   The language is coarse and profane – with lots of slang, some of it handed down from the occupation of Japan or earlier.

Even in the peacetime Army, the tasks and training are difficult and dangerous – weapons, explosives, rappelling, large armored vehicles traveling at night.    I had a chance to work on the DMZ in Korea, carrying live ammo and knowing that I was being watched from observation posts in the North.  In addition, many of the NCO’s I served with in the Army were Vietnam vets, real characters with plenty of hairy stories to tell.

The devil is in the details, and only a soldiers (or Vet) would know to place a C-Rations spoon in their penholder slot on their pocket to have it whenever needed, or hang a P-38 can opener on their dog tag chain so you never have to search for one. The costumes are authentic, as are many of the small hand props and set dressing – it all helps to set the tone, look and feel of Vietnam.

All of this helped bring a sense of realism to Bunker 13, for the audience and us!

Bunker 13 from Seattle is playing TWICE at the 2014 Improvised Play Festival. Friday, April 11th, 10:30pm and Saturday, April 12th, 9pm. Tickets and information are here.

Comments (0) | Post a Comment

Zen and the Art of Improvising Kurosawa

When preparing to direct Kenjutsu: The Art of the Sword, the first thing Shannon McCormick and I did was discuss what makes the samurai genre unique or distinct. What would we need the cast to do to make an audience member feel like they are watching the kind of story that Akira Kurosawa might have intricately filmed and edited?

Cat Drago, Jordan T. Maxwell, Shannon McCormick, Marc Majcher, Audrey Sansom
Photo by Steve Rogers Photography

For me, one concept that seemed distinctly Japanese, that is certainly reflected in the films, is precision. Precision of movement. Precision of lack of movement. The characters in the classic Kurosawa films are very exacting about their physicality–how they hold their bodies–and so much is done with stillness, the tension that builds up when characters are still, and then the explosion of precise movement that breaks that tension. Every movement, and lack of movement, is executed with dedication and purpose.

Another element that we know defines the samurai genre is sword fighting. If there’s one thing these films are associated with, even amongst people who know nothing about the genre, it’s swords. The samurai had a very single-minded, absolute dedication to kenjutsu–the art of the sword–and if we were going to improvise samurai epics, we would need to know something about swordsmanship.

Flash-Forward One Month:

The Kenjutsu cast gets serious.

The Kenjutsu cast is assembled in a field like an army, all holding bokken–wooden practice swords. Our instructor has us pair off and face each other, and he leads us through this exercise: While facing our partner, we move our bokken into one of the four positions we’ve learned (high, middle, low, side), and at the same time, in rhythm, our partner does the same. They don’t have to pick the same position, they only need to move at the same time. If I move, my partner moves. If my partner moves, I move. It is remarkably similar to improv exercises we teach Level 1 students at The Hideout…except there are swords. The key to both exercises is to remove judgement from the movements. The muscles move the body before the brain has a chance to get in the way.

Shannon McCormick and Cat Drago
Photo by Steve Rogers Photography

As I am processing the similarities between improv and swordsmanship, the instructor stops us to demonstrate with his TA.

“Watch this,” he says. “We’re going to move in rhythm.”

He claps out a rhythm and then they start the exercise. His TA moves, and he moves at the same time. His TA moves again, and he moves again. His TA moves a third time, and he stays still, holding his bokken in the same position. His TA moves a forth time and…he stays still again.

Comments (0) | Post a Comment