SketchFest NYC Preview: TROOP!
The fourth annual SketchFest NYC runs this Thursday through Saturday (June 12-14) at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in NYC. Featuring nearly 30 sketch comedy acts over three nights, SketchFest NYC promises the best sketch comedy from across North America. This week, Blog Stage previews some of the highlights of the 2008 festival.
Today, meet the Los Angeles-based sketch comedy troupe TROOP!:
"In the past 10 years, we've seen a kind of golden age of sketch comedy that's started," say Steve Sabellico, one member of the six-person sketch comedy group TROOP!. "When we first started in L.A., there was no sketch comedy scene. There were a couple of places, but you had to pay to get in, or it was school-based, and there weren't that many other groups popping up. In general, there was no place for the groups to hang out and perform. But in other cities, all these other groups had formed friendships and bonds, and there was already this movement happening, so it was kinda neat."
Sabellico says that the L.A. sketch community has grown since TROOP! formed as a college group 10 years ago. But member Kevin Chesley says that TROOP! had to travel to Seattle, the site of the first SketchFest, and perform in front of a new audience to get the experience and exposure that would lead to their long-lasting success in the sketch community.
"Through that one good performance," Chesley says, "all these other people heard about us and started inviting us other places. So that actually led to a lot of other great things."
Chesley also explains how being a part of TROOP! has helped his career as a writer and performer beyond the world of sketch comedy:
"This has always been our way of making our own work," he says. "TROOP! stuff is on our demo reels and in my writing packet. And because of TROOP!, we've had to do a lot of things that we didn't think we were gonna do. We're all actors, and writers, and producers, and web designers, and costumers; we have to do every single facet of the show. It's not an easy way to get into acting, but this way you're kind of running the show. We do this to work out every acting muscle we've got."
"A TROOP! showcase at the Comedy Central Stage was directly responsible for how we all got agents," Sabellico adds. "People really do see when you've been doing your own work, and in a lot of ways it can separate you from the pack. L.A.'s hard, and it just helps to have your own skill set."
TROOP! says to expect something a little different when they perform at this year's SketchFest NYC: their first long-form sketch show, set in a post-apocalyptic world. Although the show is essentially a pilot episode with a cohesive plot, it is still very episodic in rhythm, as the main characters run into others along the way in separate -- yet linked -- sketches.
"Probably five years ago," Sabellico says, "we would have thought, 'Long-form sketch? That's not sketch, that's a one-act play.' But now we've seen other groups push the envelope and we were like, 'Let's try this.' I mean, Monty Python and the Holy Grail is basically a long-form sketch movie. We know it's been done before, but we've never done it, and we've never seen it done exactly like this."
TROOP!'s Jay Dugre says that the uniquely creative environment of SketchFest encourages groups like theirs and others to push themselves to try new things. "There's always one or two sketches at every fest that I'm fervently jealous of," he says. "But those are the ones that inspire me the most, because it's usually something that I didn't see coming, or just a brilliant concept. Your first reaction is anger -- 'Oh, you son of a bitch!' But then immediately, you're like, 'Wait a minute, that's amazing, and this thing I wrote three years ago actually could be done on stage. I could do that!' "
TROOP! performs at SketchFest NYC June 14 at 10 p.m. For more info, including a full festival schedule and tickets, visit www.sketchfestnyc.com. Or click here to read the Back Stage web exclusive about this year's SketchFest NYC.
Be sure to read Blog Stage every day this week for more SketchFest NYC previews.