Photo by aktivioslo on flickr

You Didn’t Get Called Back

I just sent this email to about 300 people:


Angie & I would like very much to thank you for participating in our general auditions. Auditions are always bittersweet. It’s exciting and to invite new people to be a part of the theater, but it also means saying no to a great number of people.

We had 330 show up for the auditions and we are going to interview less than 30 of them for the 12-14 spots we have available. Unfortunately, we are not able to call you in for an interview.

It takes guts to do auditions like this. Between Angie and I, we auditioned for Second City Tourco at least a half dozen times. I don’t think either of us ever got called back. It’s not a good feeling. It’s not fun if you think you did badly. It’s also not fun if you think you did well but didn’t get called back.

It’s also not fun for us to say no. In the mix of auditioners were plenty of our current and former students, many people we have worked with on shows and many who we hope to work with in the future.

If being a part of Under The Gun is important to you, please keep an eye out for future auditions. We’d love to see you again at future general auditions or for auditions for specific projects.

The Apprentice Program

We mentioned at the audition that we will be announcing an educational opportunity for the summer. You can read about it now on our website here:

We will be assembling an ensemble of student performers to rehearse, learn and grow together over 13 weeks. The program will consist of weekly coaching sessions and weekly shows. Please check it out if you are interested and feel free to email me with any questions you may have.

I do want to stress that this program is not a requirement for future auditions or opportunities. We do not require people to take our classes in order to audition for our shows. This is an educational program that we are very excited to roll out and we hope it will appeal to many of you who auditioned.

Kevin Mullaney
Artistic Director

A message to people auditioning for Under The Gun

Hey there!

You signed up to audition for Under The Gun Theater this week. Please read this message carefully and follow the directions to make the audition process go smoothly.

  1. If you have forgotten what time you signed up for, you can go back to the signup here. You may want to look at it using a desktop computer, the mobile version doesn’t display all the names.
  2. Please show up 20 minutes before your time slot. Go to 956 West Newport. The theater door will be open.
  3. Please download, print and fill out the attached PDF form. Bring it along a headshot, and a theater resume. If you do not have a headshot, any picture that looks like you is fine. If you cannot fill out the form beforehand, copies will be available at the audition.
  4. If you are not coming to the audition, please remove yourself from the signup as soon as possible. Please make room for someone else to audition. It is unprofessional to sign up for an audition and not show up, so take yourself off the audition list instead.
  5. Do not call or email us if you are going to be late or can’t make the audition. We will be too busy during the auditions to check for your message.
    Dress in something that you would wear for an improv performance.

The IRC Podcast is Back

The Improv Resource Center Podcast is back. This week’s interview with Dave Razowsky was the first new episode of the Improv Resource Center in almost three years:

Kevin interviews improv teacher and performer Dave Razowski. Dave is a former Second City mainstage performer. He teaches improv in LA. Find out more at

11 reasons why you should want to be in the Under The Gun Ensemble

Under The Gun Theater is having auditions next week. There are still spaces available if you want to audition for us. Sign up here.

  1. If cast, you will be eligible to be a part of our “all skate” improv shows. For all skates, we invite the whole company to be in the show and as long as you can make the rehearsals, you will be rotated into the cast.
  2. We are not a pay to play. There are no monthly dues. You don’t have to have taken our classes. You don’t pay us to be your director or for rehearsal. We want your time and your passion and effort, not your money.
  3. We invite our ensemble members to pitch shows. And their show ideas are given priority over outside pitches, especially if they involve other ensemble members.
  4. As an ensemble member if you produce a show, and the show does well, we will give you a cut of the door.
  5. Ensemble members are invited to be a part of regular showcases.
  6. Perform as much or as little as you want. Some ensemble members perform several times each weekend and others only perform a couple times a month. If your life outside of Under The Gun gets super busy, you can cut back on your commitments and return when you have more time.
  7. Work in a supportive environment with people who are passionate about comedy and improv, and who are nice people to work with.
  8. No committees deciding your fate. We won’t cut you for capricious reasons. Once you are a part of the ensemble, we are committed to help you become a better performer.
  9. Free rehearsal space. If you need rehearsal space, and we have room for you, it’s free.
  10. We are generous with comps. Your boyfriend or girlfriend won’t need to pay every time they come to see you.
  11. Free tap sink water.

Why not teams?

Last year when we were about to open Under The Gun Theater, we needed performers, a lot of performers. We had a slate of shows that we wanted to produce for the opening, but the company was just Angie McMahon and me. We decided to have auditions, but what were going to ask people to audition for? A show? A team? Or an ensemble?

In the past, I’ve been involved in theaters that have been team centric, most notably iO and the UCB Theater in New York. Team centric systems have their pros, but the more I’ve thought about them over the years, the more I’ve become dissatisfied with them. The main problem I have with them is that they are brittle. Teams break easily. People move away or get better gigs. People get on each other’s nerves and feel trapped where they are. Or they get so annoyed with one another that they begin to lobby the powers that be to cut people. If a team fails, then you need to figure out what to do with the performers. Often good ones are lost in the shuffle.

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Swarm 2-Recovered-3-Recovered-Recovered-1020

A Crazy Idea, That Came Together

Originally written for the Under The Gun Newsletter on April 10th.

Sometime last year, I thought of a crazy idea. What if I tried to squeeze the plot of all 40 episodes of Game of Thrones into 1 hour of absurd comedy theater. I had seen something like it years ago when I saw the Reduced Shakespeare Company do the entire works of William Shakespeare in one act. It was a bawdy, raucous, fun show that felt like something you might see buskers do at a street festival.

I realized that Game of Thrones might deserve the same treatment. I could distill the show down to its important plot points and its most heightened moments and then retell them in an absurd way that would entertain both fans of the show and their friends who have been dragged along with them.

small-Alex-Manich-playing-varys-(photo-by-Kevin-Mullaney)1So last December I recruited a team of writers from our ensemble and we started re-watching the episodes, season by season. We outlined the plot, took notes on the characters and kept track of our favorite WTF moments (there are a lot of them in GoT). We started writing whatever came to mind, whatever was funny, almost like writing a sketch show inspired by the TV series.

Eventually our show started to take shape, we had drafted a couple hours of material. But I knew much of it didn’t fit the original idea. And there was so much story to cover. Still, the outline was laid out, we had a plan, it was going to work. And then we did auditions and our plan got thrown for a loop.

small-Seth-Origitano-playing-oberyn-martell-(photo-by-Kevin-Mullaney)4Auditioners brought in their favorite 2nd or 3rd tier characters and we realized we had to cast these actors and include the characters they wanted to play. Their takes on them were just too fun. If you had told me that Tommen or Pycelle were characters that would make the final cut, I wouldn’t have believed you. But once we saw them on stage, we knew we had to include them.

In the end we cast 17 actors to play 47 speaking parts, which is a little insane for a show that is supposed to be an hour long. But we wrote and rewrote and trimmed and cut and rearranged until we have the show that opens tonight. It’s probably the funniest thing I’ve ever directed and all the credit should go to the wonderful writers and the very funny cast.

I hope to see you there!

Get tickets to A Swarm of Spoilers, a Recapitation of Game of Thrones now!

Some Notes and Tips for Monoscenes

What is a monoscene?

It’s an improv form–a structure for an improvised performance like the Harold or La Ronde.

Often in a play, a series of scenes are set in one location, all in a row with no break in time. For instance, the structure of Chekhov’s most famous plays are all pretty similar. They consist of four acts, and each act happens in a different setting. Characters enter and exit many times during the act and each time the combination of characters on stage changes, a new scene is formed. These are called French scenes.

French scenes are the building blocks of monoscenes. You start with 1-3 characters on stage doing a scene. Eventually one (or more) characters exits or enters and a new French scene occurs with the new combination of characters. There are no sweep edits or tag outs. Entering or exiting is the only way to “edit” within a monoscene. A monoscene can be 10 minutes or an hour. It’s up to you.

The term monoscene was first coined when I was working with the Swarm for their show, Slow Waltz Around Rage Mountain.

The term monoscene was first coined when I was working with the Swarm for their show, Slow Waltz Around Rage Mountain.

Think of it as a series of beats

Each beat is probably around the length of a scene, between 30 seconds and 3 minutes. The lengths should vary, but most beats should be at least a minute long. If you are getting a lot of 30 second beats, you need to focus on making beats longer and holding off longer before you enter or exit.

Within a beat the characters should mostly be talking about one thing. One beat can end, and a new one can start when:
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Under The Gun Theater Interns

I’m about to start a new class on Tuesday and we are just about full, but I have a couple of slots still open for the class. I’m hoping I can find a couple of interns who would like to take the class in exchange for working at the theater.

In order to be an intern, you’d need to be available on Fridays or Saturdays for 8 weeks. Your duties would vary, but would likely include some box office duties, ushering, cleaning, etc. We may also ask you to do things like take photos or video of shows, and to post on our social media before and during performances. Lastly, your duties might include stage managing for some shows (lights and sound).

Perks for being an intern would include 1 free admission to every show (when you are working, you could give a free comp ticket to a friend), and free tuition for the current Tuesday night class or a future class.

If you are interested, use the form below to email us. Thanks!

UPDATE: The Tuesday night class has started, but we still need interns. We will be offering new classes starting in January, so you could intern now and bank a class or two for the new year.


New Theater Diary: 4 Days To Go

4 days to go before we enter the space that will be our new theater. Angie and I are working every day and there is barely enough time to update this diary, but I’m going to do my best.

Every day seems to bring a new package of things we need for the theater. We got a cash register delivered on Tuesday for our bar and brackets to mount the speakers the day before. Lots of little things trickling in from Amazon. What a pain it would be actually be driving around getting all these things. Our big shopping day will be tomorrow.

A significant chunk of my responsibilities is to work on the website. I decided to re-write the code for the site from scratch and implement a lot of features that I felt would be nice to have but would be hard or impossible to implement in WordPress. I think that as our audience and students interact with the site, it will become more and more useful over time.

We’ve put up some new classes, a few one day workshops on different topics and an improv performance class for advanced students.

Finally, with the help of the ensemble, I’ve come up with names for the two improv shows that will be opening in October:

  • #trending is the name of our improv show which uses a panel discussion about the week’s viral internet content as it’s inspiration for scenes.
  • Based on a True Story is our version of shows like Armando and ASSSSCAT, but an interview with invited guests will stand in for the monologist.



New Theater Diary: 7 Days To Go

Help us build a new theater!So a week from today, we will be beginning our build out of the new Under The Gun Theater. The space is a 1500 square room on the second floor of a building in Wrigleyville. It’s currently set up as a theater. It used to be the home of the Links Hall dance company and for the last year or so has been the space used by One Group Mind.

We plan on investing a lot into the space right away. We are building a platform stage with some soundproofing built in. We are buying a new set of lights and lighting board. We are carving out a space for a bar. Our bottle cooler should be arriving next week. Right now we are ordering various things that can be delivered to our homes like brackets to mount speakers to the wall and a cash register for the bar.

Our rehearsals are going well. I’m very excited to be working with so many funny and talented people. It’s definitely the fun part that makes all the work worthwhile.

Today, I’m off to get a few personal things done before things start getting really crazy. I’ll try to do a short update everyday for those of you who are curious about the process.