In a basement off Lavaca sits The New Movement comedy theater and conservatory. Originally located east on Rosewood, The New Movement was started by comedians Chris Trew and Tami Nelson in 2009. Since then, their success has led to a second location in New Orleans.
The New Movement has created a kingdom of comedy where patrons can catch improv, sketch and stand-up shows produced by talented and driven comedians.
Getting to Know the Shows at The New Movement
There is a lot of ground to cover when introducing anyone to The New Movement because of the huge variety of shows taking place onstage from Wednesday through Sunday every week.
One must-see is The Megaphone Show on Saturdays. Special guests share personal stories before The New Movement comedians perform improv based on the anecdotes. Also on Saturdays is Bad Example, a sketch show featuring an hour of brand new sketches every week.
Since The New Movement has so many shows circulating, it’s best to check out their calendar. There you can see when student performances, stand-up shows and new projects hit the stage.
In order to produce so many ongoing and temporary shows, members of The New Movement form quick friendships. Megan Simon, who acts as the Assistant Artistic Director as well as a performer and teacher at The New Movement, explains: “My favorite part of The New Movement is definitely the strong sense of community you feel when you walk through the doors…you meet so many interesting people from all walks of life, and you form these amazing bonds with people who share a love for comedy.”
For Ariel Greenspoon, Austin was only going to be a pit stop after living in New York and before heading to Los Angeles, but she found herself inspired by The New Movement’s open-to-experimentation approach to comedy. She notes that shows can run the risk of “being too weird for some audiences, but you know that you’re supported by a group of people in the community.”
Her recent one-woman show “Classified: I’m a Monster” was a labor of love, and a successful example of how an individual can develop an hour-long performance. Ariel plans to do another show soon and assist with a new show called “Sandbox” where experimentation with sketch and improv will be encouraged.
What It Takes to Improv
Opposites is a two-man improv troupe consisting of Mark Carpenter and Patrick Knisely that started four years ago. They just celebrated their 150th show at The New Movement.
Mark came up with the idea to have a two-person troupe with his “opposite,” but he ended up using the concept with someone who is his demographic twin. They have kept the same concept and format for years, which includes a dialogue at the beginning of the set where they list odd or mundane ways in which they are different. Even after performing weekly with one another, they are still discovering arbitrary facts about each other to feature in their shows.
Watching two people perform improv together is fascinating. They have to pay complete attention to each other and trust in what the other person is doing. They implement a lot of object work (creating a setting through motions though there are no real objects or set pieces), and they each play multiple characters so they have to keep up with layered conversations. When wrapping up the show, they use callbacks (jokes/situations that occurred earlier in the show), which make the audience feel like they’re part of an inside joke.
Newcomers at The New Movement
To get some perspective on what it’s like to be a newer improv troupe at the theater, I spoke with Pilot’s License. After graduating from Level 5 Improv at The New Movement in July 2014, Wendell Smith recruited four other comedians from The New Movement from either watching them in shows or working with them in class.
The new group developed a concept where they act out ideas for failed television pilots. Basically, they “make up stuff that could be sitcoms, but would probably be terrible if they were actually on TV,” explains Colin Gray. Using the basis of sitcoms helps provide a comfortable common ground with their audience even though they’re not exactly caught up on current television. “None of us have really watched TV since 1994,” confesses Nick Doumlele.
They feel empowered by the theater because they know that as long as they put in effort, they can use The New Movement stage to explore their comedic concept and format. Their format lends itself to being an hour show, but they also perform smaller sets to stay practiced. Future goals include playing festivals, touring, holding workshops and producing videos.
See You in the Basement
Check out The New Movement’s website, Facebook and Twitter for more information on performances. Support local comedians by attending the shows at the downtown theater at 616 Lavaca Street. Some events are free and others are $5. Also note that it’s BYOB.
Keep an eye out for The New Movement’s involvement in festivals like Moontower Comedy Festival and Fun Fun Fun Fest. If you’re interested in becoming involved, you can find information on their website about classes.
@MadameKLM wants to know:
Which shows have you seen at The New Movement?