The Sideshow is Moving to PHIT!

The headline is the short. If you care about what’s all gone into this decision, then here is the long…

When I first started teaching improv classes in Philly I wanted to make sure people were seeing shows and watching them constructively. So, in classes one of the things I’ve always done (and if you’ve had me in class you know this) is ask what shows students have seen when we return from the class break.

Problem was that when I first started teaching improv classes in Philly there could be 2 or more weeks when zero longform improv shows were taking place. PHIT had recently started doing shows at the Shubin Theatre 2 weeks out of every month. So when I’d come back from break and ask “Who saw shows???” … people wouldn’t have anything to say. Some would say I saw ComedySportz or I saw NCrowd, both great shows, but not longform shows.

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After about a year of being back and teaching I was approached to start coaching this improv duo that called themselves “Beirdo”. I didn’t want to take on a group that did not have regular practices and regular performances. About this time I was kicking around the idea to start a show that sort of filled in the blanks of PHIT weeks at the Shubin as well as gave people the opportunity to step outside their comfort zones. To try one off groups, do forms they’ve never done- and get paid to do it. A show that made sure that was at least ONE longform improv show to see every single week of the year. I talked to Beirdo about the idea, they were on board and so on July 17, 2011 “The Sideshow” was born!

Over the last 2.5 years The Sideshow has seen the debut of groups and their final shows. We’ve expanded from just longform improv to include sketch groups, standup, singing, dancing, clowning and much more. We’ve done one act plays, Musical reviews, two Oscar Jam events that encourage people to do short form improv as well as create videos, hosted two years of the Troika Tournament which creates new groups, two Freaky Friday events that raise nearly $1000 for MS and encouraged performers to try a comedy form they don’t normally do. We gave people like Lizzie Spellman playing the uke and singing, Kristen Schier clowning, Tim Butterly & Mike Rainey doing the Not for Nothin podcast and others the chance to showoff a different side of them they’re now known and loved for. We’ve done this for many people and we’ve paid them to do it. The Sideshow has given back nearly $4,000 over the last 2.5 years back to the performers of Philly.

Two of the reasons I started Sideshow are now no longer relevant. The first is Beirdo has scattered to the ends of the Earth with occasional (and awesome) shows. The other is that starting later in January 2014 The Philly Improv Theater will have a permanent home at the Adrienne Theater with shows 52 weeks a year! So the need for The Sideshow to fill in the gaps of PHIT weeks will no longer be there and as Education Director I didn’t want to be running a “competing” effort. So, after some talks- The Sideshow is moving to PHIT starting January 23rd!

I am very excited for this move. It puts the Sideshow in a legit theater with all the space and tech that goes along with that. So the possibilities are opened up even more to what people can do at Sideshow. So the spirit of Sideshow will be fully in tact once it’s up and running at PHIT. I’m also excited for what the move means for PHIT. Moving Sideshow to PHIT means that PHIT will have a show that, in one hour or so period, people can see a wider variety of comedy that they might not otherwise have seen. It also means we can bring over all the the things we started doing there… one off groups, team mashups, performer challenges, more student opportunities and lots more. It also means we can bring over the different theme nights like Freaky Friday and Oscars Jam as well as some new ideas I’ve got. It’s gonna be great.

Though Sideshow is moving to PHIT I’ve made sure that there would still be a show taking place at the Arts Parlor in its place. Starting on January the improv group Bill Parks will be heading up a show there and the name they chose is “The Brewery” Here’s what they had to say about the new show:

“Our view of the show is that it will emulate a brewery in more than name alone. Experiment, collaborate and enjoy the results. In general, the show will be similar to the Sideshow. Established comedic talents and budding new acts will take to the stage, bringing a consistently great show to the Arts Parlor twice a month.”

It was important to me to make sure there was still going to be a show taking place at the Parlor to give people even more chances to perform. They said the show will be similar to the Sideshow and one way that’s certainly true is it will continue to pay performers whereas with The Sideshow’s move to PHIT that one benefit had to be lost due to the costs involved in production. So this will make sure there’s a “indie” show happening that allows performers to get paid for their efforts. The first Brewery will take place at the Arts Parlor on January 11th and can be seen just about every other week thereafter.

So that’s the long story behind the movie and its replacement. I’d like to thank Bill Parks for keeping a show going. And I’d like to thank the Beirdo guys, Fred Brown, Joel Thomas and everyone else that’s helped out at the Parlor over the years. I look very forward to Sideshow at the PHIT and the Brewery at the Parlor continuing to give performance opportunities, challenge performers and help grow the scene overall.

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