|Primary Theater||The Hideout Theatre|
Shannon McCormick is an improv performer, director, and teacher. He runs Gnap! Theater Projects, which produced improv shows from 2008 to 2012.
Shannon took his first improv class in Austin in 2000, at The Hideout Theatre. Sean Hill and Shana Merlin were his instructors, and his classmates included Kacey Samiee and Ace Manning. He joined We Could Be Heroes at the end of that year, and had his first onstage performance in January 2001.
In 2003, Shannon began co-producing The Out of Bounds Comedy Festival.A post from him about the first improv show he ever saw:
I'm sure I had seen some episodes of the British Whose Line at the time, but the first live improv I ever saw was probably some lame college town barprov in Iowa City in the early 90s. Totally forgot the troupe name. My roommate Matt Nelson was in the group, and he'd just quit his pre-med track and had gotten bitten hard by the comedy bug. As a theatrical experience it wasn't much.....
Matt graduated a couple years before me and moved to Chicago (he's now in Felt, the puppet troupe that plays/played? at IO and took some Second City Classes with Erika May, I believe--who'd have thought a couple of small town Iowa boys would both still be in the comedy game almost 20 years out) and I would drive over from Iowa City sometimes and we'd go see shows.
The one of two I remember best was the Sedaris/Colbert cast at Second City. This was probably in '93. Amy Sedaris is the only name I remembered from the show--she was just unbelievably great--so correct me if I'm wrong about Colbert being in that cast. Can't remember the name of the revue. Anyway, at the time I didn't understand much about the Second City process and how most of what I was seeing was scripted, but I thought it was awesome and I had some vague impression that I had seen some improvisation at some point in the set.
About the same time, maybe on a different trip, spring of '94 say, saw some shows at the old Annoyance, hot off their success with Brady Bunch. Saw one full-on improv show with Mick Napier that I thought was just ok, but then I saw a late night show that was scripted but came out of their improv process -- Brainwarp II: That Baby Eater. Something like that, Tom Booker would probably know. It was a glorious, disastrous mindfuck of a show. Just wonderfully, gleefully, self-consciously campy and well, bad, in all senses of the word. This year at Seattle talking with Mark and Joe from Bassprov, I discovered that both were in it -- Joe as a giant bouffanted transsexual named Chili Dog and Mark Sutton as Brainwarp's vaguely Clockwork Orangish minion, LeFoote. This show included probably my favorite line ever: "Hahha, you can't kill a wig!" shouted as the hero tries to shoot a remote controlled wig ( a dude wiggling around under a homemade blanket of glued-on cotton balls) at the top of the Washington Monument, from which Brainwarp was conspiring to physically throw a nuclear bomb. You get the idea. Still one of my top five theater experiences ever, I'd say.
So, still no full on improv that made me say, "Oh ho, this is the thing! This is all made up and it really and truly is the thing!" That came when I saw Dad's Garage's in Atlanta in Scandal in its first season in 1998. Just. Totally. Amazing. I think our mutual affection for Dad's Garage is one of the reasons Shana and I like playing with each other as much as we do, and I'd say they are one of the most criminally underrated improv groups in the country, maybe because they really operate more like a theater company and don't tour and do festivals much, I don't know. But if you're in Atlanta, go check them out, just totally the coolest people and a lot of the original members are still there.
Then I left Atlanta and went to grad school to learn I wasn't going to be the next David Foster Wallace and moved to Austin with a huge theater jones in 2000. Both the Hideout and Bad Dog were open at the time and I kind of flipped a coin as to where I was going to take classes. For some vague reason I chose the Hideout--I think I liked the intimacy of the stage more than the cavern that was the Bad Dog. The first person I met was Shana. Ace Manning and Kacey Samiee were both in my class and both, I think, were still in high school.
I want to say it was the same evening as my first class, I'm not sure, but the first improv show I saw in Austin was the very first Six Degrees, which premiered as part of the late, lamented MOMFest. The cast was Jeremy Lamb, Craig Kotfas, Jon Benner, Amy McCurdy, Sean Hill, and maybe Shana? I was hooked, and haven't really looked back since.