WHAT’S PAGE TO STAGE? INTERVIEW WITH POWERHOUSE JACK O’KEEFE

“As nice as it is to be asked to be a part of a project without having to put your own work in, the best way to guarantee yourself the opportunity to get on stage is by having the tools to create your own show.”

 

I sat down with writer, producer, and overall comedy genius Jack O’Keefe to find out what exactly is his new course titled Page to Stage and who it’s for.  Jack O’Keefe has been instructing at Philly Improv Theater since 2017, but he’s got a decade of theatrical production experience under his belt.

Q: How long have you been involved in sketch, Jack?

A: I got into sketch at the Philly Improv Theater in 2014, immediately after finishing a degree for Theater! When it comes to show production experience, I’ve got 5 years of sketch production and ten years, at this point, of live theatrical production experience. I’ve written for / acted in at least a dozen sketch shows at this point, regularly host and produce sketch showcases at the Philly improv Theater, and as a producer and tech operator I’d estimate that I’ve worked on 90% or more of the sketch shows that have gone up at PHIT in the past four years! That’s at least an A-!

Q: Some improvisers fear sketch and some sketch writers fear improv. How do you think they relate to each other?

A: I’ve noticed that people who come to sketch from improv are great at getting to the bones of a joke. Part of being a good improviser is knowing when the perfect time to edit an improv scene is, and I think that skill translates perfectly to sketch where time is just as, if not more, valuable. On the flip-side, I notice that sketch-minded improvisers tend to have absolutely killer buttons and twists on a scene — this ability to take a scene and flip it in a surprising, exciting way. I think a lot of that comes from sketch demanding that escalations aren’t just “more and bigger!” but they approach a central idea from a new angle. Those are the first examples that come to mind, but no one has ever been a worse comedian for stepping a little bit outside of their familiar medium and learning a new variation on a familiar art.

Q: Do students have to already know how to write a sketch?
A: You don’t have to, but it sure helps! Page to Stage doesn’t focus strictly on “writing” as much as a class like Sketch 101 does. If anything, I’d say this class focuses more on editing than writing! If everyone already knows the bones of how to write a sketch, we can offer a more in-depth look at how to enhance and strengthen a sketch that’s already been through a draft or two. If you haven’t written before and are more interested in acting, directing, or producing, going through the motions of writing a sketch and working with others on their sketches provides essential experience for creating a proper show. PLUS, a lot of these skills translate to producing variety shows, stand-up showcases, and even improv shows! We’re just using the framework of a sketch show to develop as it’s a pretty involved process and offers a ton of learning opportunities!
Q: Producing a sketch show is just getting actors to act out sketches, right?


A: I wish! Amazing writer and fellow PHIT Sketch Instructor Alyssa Truszkowski has said there are 33 steps to producing a Sketch Comedy show, including scheduling the show, naming the show, marketing the show, rehearsing the show, pitching the show, gathering props, gathering costumes, creating day-of-show documents. Writing and editing scripts is only a small part of the overall production of a show! PHIT handles a lot of steps for you, but Page to Stage will teach students everything they need to know to put together their own show.

Q: How long is the class?

A: The class is eight-weeks of two-and-a-half hour sessions! During these sessions, we’ll be writing and rehearsing sketches, but also working together to build the trust that is needed for any sketch team to truly become a team and work together towards the unified goal of producing a show!
Q: Is there a class show at the end? 

A: There sure is! At the end of the class, students will have turned their own sketches into a tightly-edited live show that they can perform for friends, family, fellow comedians, and strangers! Our first Page To Stage was a ton of fun, and I can only imagine them getting more enjoyable as the class continues.

Q: Who would you recommend this class to?

A: Anyone who is tired of feeling like they aren’t getting opportunities to write/perform comedy as much as they would like to. As nice as it is to be asked to be a part of a project without having to put your own work in, the best way to guarantee yourself the opportunity to get on stage is by having the tools to create your own show. The way I started doing comedy, and continue to do much of my comedy, is to try and take care of as much of my own shows as possible so that I can offer a fully-fledged product without counting on others to have skills I don’t in regard to production.
Q: Incredible! How do folks sign up?
A: All they gotta do is go to PhillyImprovTheater.com (where you currently are!), click “Comedy Classes,” find the writing courses, and sign up! Next class begins Wednesday, October 16th!
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