Thursday Nights at the Magnet Theater (254 West 29th St @8th Av New York City, NY 10001) offers shows from 7p.m.-11p.m.
It began with a spoon and ended in the Matrix—just another Thursday night for Junior Varsity, one of the Magnet Theater’s most successful improv teams.
Thursday’s show began with the usual question: “Can we get a suggestion from the audience?”
“Spoons!” shouted an anonymous audience member, triggering a series of scenes that might have begun and ended with spoons, but included much more.
A simple spoon is the only suggestion Junior Varsity needed to create an entire improv show Thursday night.
Two friends searched for spoons in Bed Bath & Beyond. One of them wanted to reinvent his life. “Like a Phoenix?” the other asked. No, more like a forward-moving penguin. Penguins rising from the ashes were later enacted, documentary-style, in between scenes from a poster shop, and the making of Scarface 2.
Then things got really interesting. No spoons in Bed Bath & Beyond? No problem—a worker from the actual “Beyond” found them. “Looks like you left the entrance open to the Beyond, and we don’t much like that here,” chided one coworker to another, informing him that they actually work in the Matrix.
This may seem unusual, but for Junior Varsity, this effortless creativity is just what they do, exhibiting a longevity rare for the average improv team. “Being together six years is pretty unusual,” team member Jamie Rivera shared after the show, reflecting on what makes the difference between teams that last and teams that don’t. Teammate Megan Gray added, “there’s very much a science of making a team … there’s a real chemistry with putting a team together.” And yet, still sometimes teams don’t last.
So what sets Junior Varsity apart? Both actors, with the rest of their team, displayed razor-sharp timing and inventiveness onstage. Offstage, they exuded craftsman-like awareness of what it takes to succeed in improv.
With audible laughter from behind the stage doors, amid the chatter and laughter at the lobby bar, Gray elaborated: “I think it comes down to how well you’re listening—that’s the biggest skill in improv.” Rivera agreed and added: “I think we do try to bring the craft of acting, to integrate that into what we’re dong on stage. … I think the best improv is something that draws from truth. Even when we are being very silly we’re applying a layer of truth.”
“Go home,” said one character to another during Thursday’s show. “The Matrix will be here on Monday.” It was just another extraordinary day at the office. They could just as easily have been referring to themselves—just another regular day creating the exceptional.
Junior Varsity performs at the Magnet Theater every Thursday night at 8 p.m.
The Magnet Theater offers “Thursday Nights Out,” which is $7 for the whole night.
Click here to hear Jamie and Megan discuss the role of gender and women in comedy.