Magnet Theater

In 2004, I joined up with three partners to create Magnet Theater and started searching for space. We began offering improv and sketch writing classes in March of 2005, and began producing shows at the storefront theater in Chelsea a month later. Here is a short slide show of the frenzy of activity that took place in the 10 days between taking possession of the former dry cleaners and the first shows.

One of the first shows I produced at Magnet (on our second night!) was the preview/premiere of Jon Langford's multimedia show The Executioner's Last Songs, which was co-commissioned by Alverno College in Milwaukee and the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. This was followed by a magical set from the Mekons, including Sally Timms, Tony Maimone, Jean Cook, and Steve Goulding on paint cans and as-yet unhung fire extinguishers. Read The ONION a.v. club Interview of Jon Langford for more on his cultural autobiographical celebration of high and low art, punk and country music, social activism, truth-telling, and condemnation of the death penalty, Bono, and the mediocre wasteland of the middle - the compromised ideals, posturing, greed, and neglect that defines much of contemporary culture. Funny, inspirational, amazing.

While managing the school and theater, I also produced, with Chris Mills, the New York incarnation of Here Be Monsters, which featured punk icons Jon Langford and Danbert Nobacon from Chumbawamba, and risk-taking sets from the best comedians and musicians in town (Demetri Martin, Aziz Ansari, Eugene Mirman, Leo Allen, Eric Slovin, Laura Cantrell, Lianne Smith, Seamus Blake, David Nagler, Brian Dewan...), Mortified (nominated for best comedy show of 2005 in Time Out NY), a Katrina fundraising drive and shows (raising over $5000), Improv Everywhere's U2 concert event, Enormous Television X-mas Show, NY Fringe festival hit Thick from the UK, clown shows (with strippers!), writers' nights, film premieres and discussions, talk show An Evening of Things with Aaron Bergeron, book release parties for cartoonist Emily Flake and for Pulitzer-finalist Philip Dray (with a rare demonstration of Benjamin Franklin's musical invention the armonica), lobby art show for Jon Langford, helped produce several performances of Mike Myers' one-man show, and of course many improv shows including the Magnet Mixer, Terry Jinn's The Project (with a cast of 88), and my own show Beauty Love Truth, which showcased more incredible musicians. It was an amazing first year.

In July 2006, I sold my share of ownership of Magnet Theater to the remaining three partners. I would like to individually thank everyone who helped make the theater a success - volunteers, interns, students, performers, staff, press, visiting instructors, producers, friends, family, and audience - but there are thousands of you, and I'd surely forget someone if I made a list. So instead I invisibly kiss you all. Please visit and support them all at and in future littlecommie enterprises, including Sparkle Television.

Shannon Manning


Busy Beaver Buttons in Chicago:

Emily Flake designed these.
Maria Schneider designed this.


The ONION a.v. club Pick
Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Friday, May 27, 9:30 p.m. Son Of Here Be Monsters: Demetri Martin, Eric Slovin, Emily Flake, Chris Mills, Laura Cantrell & More. Magnet Theater, the latest comedy school/theater to open shop in the West Chelsea area dotted by Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, People's Improv Theater, and Gotham City Improv, has its roots in a place slightly more west, Chicago. Magnet's founders all learned how to make it up as they go along (long-form) while studying under Chicago improv guru and sometime pagan Del Close. Son Of Here Be Monsters is not exactly improv. It began in Chicago as a loose showcase for local singer/songwriters. The New York version has slackened the boundaries even more, giving comedians, singers, short filmmakers and others free reign. Here, Chris Mills and Laura Cantrell provide music while Saturday Night Live writer Eric Slovin, cartoonist Emily Flake, and absurdist acoustic aficionado Demetri Martin wax comedically. Magnet Theater 254 W. 29th St. (212) 244-8824. $5

The ONION Weekender Back to School 2005 "For (figurative) bones"
Sept 8-14, 2005 page 25.

"Improv and sketch of vaying stripes reign supreme at each of these small bustling theaters. The Magnet, especially, hosts a few promising variety shows on its regular bill, like Son of Here Be Monsters, a comedy, film, and music mash-up that has drawn the likes of singer Laura Cantrell, absurdist duo Slovin & Allen, and heady comic Demetri Martin."

Radio interview on Cat Radio Cafe April 10 show (last 17 minutes).

Video of the Magnet space when it was still Tiecrafters.