It’s here! We open Countdown Theater to the public tonight, Wednesday, February 1st. We couldn’t be more excited to invite the world — or rather, as much of the world as a 13×18 room can handle — into our pop-up improv theater space. The past month leading up to this opening has been a whirlwind of planning, scheduling, and promoting, and an ongoing lesson on how to work with the time and the space that you’ve got.
We’ve taught this workshop all over the country called Do More With Less, which teaches you how to make what exists between you and your scene partner at the top of your scene matter, no matter how small it may be or insignificant it may seem at the outset. (Its previous title was also apt: Be Not Afraid.) Little did we know when we named that workshop how fitting it would be to our current venture. Our space is very small. It’s in a basement, on a side street in Brooklyn. There’s a recording studio next door, and it’s pretty loud through the wall sometimes. To the outside, it might not seem like much, but to us, it has been a space of pure artistic and creative inspiration and potential. Committing to this space has been one of the most fulfilling things we’ve ever done, and signing this lease was one of the smartest investments we’ve ever made — and we’re not even open yet! We really love it here. We hope you do, too.
One of the things that makes Countdown Theater so special to us is that it is a journey, not a destination. Part of that is by design: as a pop-up space, it is transient and ephemeral by its very nature. More than that, it’s also a part of our journey together as an improv duo. Its roots can be traced all the way back to December 2014, when Justin and I said yes to the offer to tour Wisconsin and Minnesota with the Eau Claire-based trio Glassworks. Not only had we never toured before, but we never even knew that touring was something that an improv group could do. The first show of that tour took place in this guy Scott’s living room in Madison. We did the show in our socks, in front of an enthusiastic audience made up of 20 or so freshmen from the University of Wisconsin. After years of performing at a black box improv theater in Manhattan, we had grown accustomed to a way of doing things, to the way we thought things had to be in order for improv and the space it took place in to be legitimate.
That Madison show turned that notion on its ear, as has our connection, collaboration and growing friendship with Glassworks over the past three years. It is not hyperbole to say that Mack, Elliot, and Alex have completely changed the way we approach improv and what it has the power to be. Starting in high school, they saw there was no all-ages venue in their city for emerging independent music and artists, so they created one themselves, in their own home, and they improvised there alongside musicians and performance artists. They didn’t wait for permission, they just did it themselves (and they still do, to great acclaim, in their basement in Eau Claire). They fell in love with improv in high school, and instead of moving to a major city and enrolling in a major theater’s training program, they bought a used minivan and toured the country independently, seven times. They trusted what they had, and they trusted that it was enough— and that they were enough — to make it work. And work it has.
With this venture, we hope to follow their example. We’ve spent a lot of years in this city waiting for permission to do our work. With Countdown Theater, we’re taking the reins firmly into our own hands, and inviting anyone else who wants to join us to come along, too.