"The improv version of ten minute theme parties" - An Interview with Maggy Keegan and Caitlin Weigel
This Friday night Figment Theater debuts at its brand-new home at the Asian Arts Initiative! We are Vagabonding no longer now that we vagrants have found a place to hang our improv hats, so we’re also debuting the next phase of our weekly improv comedy showcase, the Sessions at Studio C! Vagabond Sessions favorites like Triple Double, Date Night, ad the AD Showcase will return along with the new and experimental shows and mash-ups that have made these nights really special.
One of these special experiments is A Night of 10-Minute Shows, kicking off our Friday night debut in our new home along with The Chain at 8pm. We asked the show’s ringleaders Maggy Keegan and Caitlin Weigel about some of the premises we can expect, the value of bit shows, and what they’d do with ten free minutes.
Is ‘A Night of 10-Minute Shows’ exactly what it sounds like? What’s the appeal for you in presenting a showcase of “improv shorts”?
Maggy: It is! Like many improv shows I’ve helped create, this concept came out of doing bits together at a party and a follow-up email from Caitlin that said, “just to keep a list…” I love the idea of being able to do shorter shows with a simple concept where you can just play.
Caitlin: We’re doing 5 different ten minute shows, each with an absurdly specific and bizarre premise. I’m a sucker for theme parties and that’s what these feel like to me – the improv version of ten minute theme parties.
I bet there are some really silly, idiosyncratic, or just plain out-there ideas in the mix for this show. Any you’re particularly excited (or terrified) about?
Maggy: I am really excited for Eat this Pizza. We are each going to get our own pizza to eat that we have to finish in ten minutes. WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?!
Caitlin: That’s obviously going to be great because pizza is a trump card and I also love the idea of people eating quickly and still trying to do solid scenework. I’m also very excited for Do Over, which allows an audience member to ‘do over’ a moment from their own lives with the improvisers following their lead and just supporting the bejeezus out of it.
Maggy: I also can’t wait for Jimmy Stewart: Robot Detective. He’s the only character that can play during the entire show.
Caitlin: I think Jimmy Stewart Robot Detective will be the most challenging because Jimmy Stewart impressions are pretty contagious. I think it might just devolve into everyone being Jimmy Stewart.
You’ve both done a lot of work with ensembles where it’s much more a marathon than a sprint. Is it just as important for improvisers to take on small, silly challenges like these 10-minute experiments as it is for them to work on sustained projects (like Triple-Double, for example)?
Maggy: I think so. As an improviser I like have different kinds of projects – from one-off shows, duos, a longer-term project – and I love doing the Harold. For me, having different forms of play informs each project. I feel like I’m working different muscles.
Caitlin: Kurt Cobain once said, “Variety is the spice of life.” I couldn’t agree more. It’s like a bag of boardwalk fries – the fries themselves are terrific and should be what you fill up on, but the little crusty spud bits at the bottom also need to be consumed. Balance ya improv diet. Eat ya bits. I hope this is making sense. I’m so hungry.
Bit shows are a staple of improv festivals like the Del Close Marathon – they’re short, they have a ridiculous premise, and they have been some of my favorite and most memorable shows I’ve ever seen. 15-Minute Sound and Movement is a standout, as is The Straight Men and the horrifying and indelible Pie Babies of last year’s DCM. Am I right in thinking A Night of 10-Minute Shows share DNA with these “Wouldn’t it be funny if…” type projects? Have you seen any unforgettable bit shows in the past?
Caitlin: I used to do improv with a dude in high school who made each of his sets an unintentional bit set. His go-to catch phrase was, “What a turn of events!” so any scene you did with him, no matter what was happening in the scene, his first response was always, “What a turn of events!” I think it’s important to remember that no matter how much time we spend in practices each week or how many workshops we take or how much stage time we clock, at the end of the day, improv is just a bunch of grown ass people making things up together and having a good time. Bit shows serve that purpose wonderfully.
Maggy: I saw a 2:30am Batmanprov with Joe Wengert that was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I think a lot of short concept shows can go either way and he was incredible in it – they all were.
You have ten minutes right now to do anything in the world you’d like to do. How do you spend them?
Maggy: I’d love to have pizza and wine times with my mom and sister.
Caitlin: In the paint brush aisle at Michael’s rubbing the silky soft paint brushes on my face. Or in a canoe, eating tacos al pastor and drinking beer mixed with orange juice.
Maggy: Can I just change all my answers to Caitlin’s answers?
A Night of 10-Minute Shows performs this Friday, March 7th at 8pm at Figment Theater, 1219 Vine St, Studio C (2nd Floor of Asian Arts Building). $5 at the door, BYOB.