On any given night the calendar is filled with teams: Sister Sex Wolf, Goose, Free Cake, Butter High and Power Nap.
Just a typical night at Queens Secret Improv Club in Long Island City.
QSIC shows span about an hour with each of the four teams — except on Friday’s House Team night — improvising for about 20 minutes. They make the audience (a small group of about five to 10 nonperformers a night) laugh, confused and a little bit uncomfortable.
“Getting an audience for improv is always hard because people worry it will be inconsistent or perhaps they don’t understand it whereas the more I worked alongside QSIC and FO [Face Off, another improv club that teaches and promotes improv at the Secret Theatre] I realized that improvisers are for the most part dedicated and trained,” said Secret Theatre Artistic Director Richard Mazda, adding improv shows are like Gump’s box of chocolate — “you never know what you are going to get.”
On Thursday at the 7:30 p.m. INDIEPak Chopra show there was a prison scene, a Thanksgiving dinner eaten off 3-foot-long breasts, an angry wife with a gun and an awkward softball scene.
“I’ve found improvisors to be some of the most clever and intelligent people I’ve encountered,”said Lane Kwederis, an improvisor with team Power Nap. “They let themselves do ridiculous things or play absurdly crazy or silly characters but they always play at the top of their intelligence. I feel like it’s the perfect fusion between being an adult and a kid all at once.”
QSIC Communications Director Athos Cakiades and Artistic Director Frank Angelini started the club at the Secret Theatre in Long Island City two years ago.
The duo, who met at a 101 improv class at the city’s top club, Upright Citizens Brigade, saw a niche for a place for indie teams (a group put together by anyone, in improv lingo) and house teams (a group currated by the theater’s artistic director) to perform on a weekly basis.
“There’s few opportunities for a weekly show,” said Cakiades, who performs on Thursday at the 9 p.m. QSIC at Heart show with team Frosting Hangover and Friday night at the six-team house show with Butter High. “You improve a lot if you perform regularly.”
Everyone seems to get into improvisation for a different reason.
Cakiades understands improv isn’t a way to make a living, but uses it as a way stay sharp for other auditions and become ingrained in the acting community. Others hope it will lead to an elusive comedy writing deal.
The city’s three biggest clubs — UCB, the People’s Improv Theater and Magnet — are hard to book and if a team does they are likely to get a monthly instead of a weekly slot, Cakiades said.
“Performing and practicing have very different dynamics and are both integral to the growth of an improv team. It’s important to have a regular schedule for shows just as much as practices and QSIC makes that a possibility,” Kwederis said. “Most serious improv teams practice weekly and ideally you should be performing just as much, if not more.”
The teams range from performing together for years to just for a bit.
Three QSIC teams have gone on to perform in the biggest improv festival, the Del Close Marathon.
Moving forward the QSIC plans to add a musical improvisation night to Saturday’s lineup and a show on Wednesday.
When: Thursdays through Mondays, times vary
Where: The Secret Theatre, 44-02 23rd St., LIC
Tickets: $5, Sunday and Monday free