by Tony Bartolone~
It was fitting that the grand re-opening of Bang Comedy Institute and Theater was topped off with a dance party. The entire event felt like a party. And it was quite possibly the least pretentious and most welcoming theater I have ever walked into. After fighting my way through LA traffic and scavenging for parking on LA streets, I was transported to an alternate reality. Once I stepped through the glass door, I instantaneously forgot about the traffic, the parking and all the rest of the stressful annoyances the city had to offer. I was greeted with a vibe of delectation and excitement. I found myself like a child at Disneyland, anxious to go on the first ride. I didn’t have to wait long either. As soon as I stepped in the room, Bang! The show started. The entertainment commenced immediately, right there in the lobby with some impromptu improv. And from that moment to the end of the night, the energy was electric.
Founded in 1995 by Peter and Aliza Murrieta, Bang Studio and Theater has been dedicated to the study and performance of improvisation. Now under the lead of new artistic director, Lizzie Czerner, Bang Comedy Institute and Theater will expand to an ambitious, comprehensive comedy program. The studio is expanding to include stand up, sketch comedy, sitcom acting and comedy writing. The theater is teaming up with directorslive.com to launch an internet video channel. Czerner has also started The Rad News sketch show, a politically themed, late night comedy show designed to spark dialogue. “Comedy is important.” Declares Czerner. “It can change the world.” If Czerner approaches the new program with the same energy I experienced while sitting in the intimate theater, success is a forgone conclusion.
Lizzie Czerner shared a story about her personal experience with Bang: “I studied theatre many years ago (cough, cough) at Sarah Lawrence College with Ezra Weisz (Executive Director of BANG), and hadn’t seen him since then. I had already been in LA two years, but didn’t even know he was in LA too. That was until I saw his name on a poster for Streep Tease, a popular show he had directed at Bang. I came to see the show and it was fabulous. I was so happy to reconnect with him that I went through the improv program (though I had already had a number of years experience with improv) just to have the chance to work with him (he was teaching there at the time). I just loved it! And it turned out that I also loved the approach of the school. It emphasizes an organic approach to scenes. So actors are encouraged to more deeply explore relationships and character than I had experienced at other training centers. The teachers are also particularly supportive and the energy of the school is very friendly and warm. I knew instantly that I had found my theater home in LA.”
I was lucky enough to witness one of their new shows, Let’s Bang! A Variety Show. In addition to outstanding improv, the show featured guest musical performances, sketch and stand up comedy. Joel Evan Tye (also known as Sir Jet) opened the show with a rendition of Madonna’s Express Yourself. He was joined onstage by two energetically hilarious back up dancers, Graham Beckett and Danny Jordan (together forming the improve duo, The Terrible Twos). Matthew Nouriel graced the stage with some well-crafted and subtly poignant stand up comedy. The Captains of Industry took the audience back in time with an interesting, innovative improv set. The show was a spectacular spectacle in which the crowd had as much fun as the performers.
My experience with Bang is akin to making a new friend. What I’ve realized in all the shows I’ve seen is that one often overlooked factor makes a huge difference to an audience: the vibe. The overall feeling that surrounds a show. It’s a bit strange to think about. It’s a rather abstract concept. But after watching a show at Bang, I can’t help noting how important it is. It’s what the French call, je ne sais pas ce que. That indefinable element that sets something apart from its peers. If you don’t understand, then simply go to Bang Theater and find out.
Bang! Theare is currently running Let’s Bang! A Variety Show which is performed bi-weekly on Fridays at 9:30pm.
Bang Theater is located at 457 N. Fairfax Ave. Los Angeles, CA, south of Melrose.
Tickets prices range from free to $15.
For more information go to www.bangstudio.com or call (323) 653 – 6886