Now that we’ve closed the books on 2016, we sidled up to Executive Producer Dave Buckman to
talk about his first full year of programming at ColdTowne Theater to see what shows and performers had a break out run or year.
What mainstage shows from 2016 were your favorites?
Dave: Dinner for Six, famiLIES, Elvis’ Rockin’ Nativity, Express Yourself
Were there specific performers that emerged in 2016 through the main stage runs? What makes them notable to you?
Dave: Jae Long in famiLIES… It was his first time ever doing a play and he just crushed it and carried it. I wish we could do it this season because now that Jae has transitioned, that lead character of Francis would be amazing and so much more poignant and timely if she was playing Francis now.
Chaz Formichella in famiLIES. This was a character Chaz had played before in the previous incarnation in 2010, and it could have been such a throwaway part in the way it was re-written, but his turn, this time, as Simon was revelatory. He brought more depth to that role than I thought was possible, and every line he delivered perfect every night because he was listening while he was acting.
Jared Robertson, Michael Perkins and Chris McKeever in Elvis’ Rockin’ Nativity. They play the backup band for every number playing actual tunes well, sometimes having to do it in a different key than the original or a slower tempo depending on the person singing and they also portray the Beatles and the Sex Pistols in some sketches. A complete multi-talented power trio-delight that literally drives the show.
Also, Molly Moore, Kenah Benefield, Tauri Laws-Phillips, Megan Mowry, Abby Lincoln, Sanjay Rao and Will Sitters all really leveled up and, I think, found and developed the shit out of their comedic voices this year in various mainstage shows.
What show surprised you the most and why?
Dave: Express Yourself was explosive and caustic and compelling and moving. All done with basically a Living Room format. It was exciting to see Frank Netscher and Ryan Darbonne take a simple concept that we all felt ‘meh’ about (‘An Improvised Dangerous Minds’) and subvert the genre and turn it to something deeper and beyond all of our expectations.
If you could bring back one show, which would it be?
Dave: Dinner For Six. Which we will.
Or famiLIES….with a transitioned Jae Long
Looking ahead to 2017 and the season that has been decided for the first half of the year, what are you most excited about? Why did you decide on these particular shows?
The Do Over and Nightwatch are proven hits. They’ve been developing their formats in other timeslots all during last year and are really going strong in rehearsals right now. I’ve been to a few rehearsals and they are getting stronger and more confident with their vision. I think adding Erica Lies as NightWatch’s director was an amazing call.
Kristin Henn’s production of Rezurangur meshes so many of my favorite genres of comedy and theater: mockumentaries, heavy metal, actual live music, and my favrote kinds of characters: over the top showbiz characters mixed with real humans behind the curtain (see: Krusty the Klown or Spinal Tap) And the cast and live band of improvisers Kristen and Cody have assembled… it’s gonna be a doozy.
Missed Connections ATX was developed out of a short form improv game the Austin Translation cast invented in 2015. Chelsea Bunn, from that cast who hosted and developed the game wtthin that show has developed it into an hour long format. The herat of the pitch is to pull Missed Connection listings off of Austin’s CraigList and having them inspire the scene work, characters and relationships of a show.
And then down the road, Cortnie Jones is developing a reality show game show called The Gauntlet for May and June that is like an 8-week competition to whittle 32 improvisers down to a grand champion. I can’t wait for those finals.
If you could sum up the 2017 season in 4 words or less, thematically, how would you describe it?
Dave: Individual vs. The Collective. Which I think is the great philosophical and political debate of our time.
Which directors and producers are you especially excited to see in the 2017 season?
Dave: Certainly, the return of our previous Artistic Director, Cody Dearing, in his first directorial show, Rezurangur, since stepping down early last year is a big deal. He has put up some of the most memorable shows in ColdTowne history and he’s not only a great guitar shredder in his own right, he’s quite possibly the best improviser/game finder/relationship builder in Austin improv, so I think that’s show is a perfect fit for him.
The co-directing combo of Mical Trejo (Latino Comedy Project) and Ben Bazan (Longtime CTer and outstanding Actor for Youth at Zach) with an all-Latina/o cast in outer space for La Frontera Final is going to bring in some amazing new theatrical perspectives that will be new for ColdTowne
Keith Horvath, who just moved down here from Chicago last summer where he was working at The Second City and The Annoyance Theater, my old haunts. We speak the same sketch language and it’s exciting to get to share that voice with Austin. His show, This Is (Not) The Gayest Show You’ve Seen is already in previews and if his Halloween show was any indication, this one is going to ba amazing.
Also, the announcement of any show as being “from the minds of McNichol & May” is always terribly exciting news.
Dave Buckman was a director, performer and teacher for Amesterdam’s Boom Chicago (1999-2002), The Second City (2002-2014) and ColdTowne Theater (2006-present). Dave has worked in live sketch and improvisational productions with the likes of Seth Meyers, Ike Barinholtz, Jordan Peele, John Lutz, Kay Cannon, Dave Razowsky, Rebecca Drysdale, Mick Napier, Maribeth Monroe, Stephnie Weir and Jason Sudeikis and dozens more whose faces you know but don’t know by name.