Ghost Jail: Everybody Loves a Parade!

the cast of ghost jail theatre season three
If you haven’t been to Clinton’s Tavern on a Sunday Night recently, you may be in for a treat! The back room where such gems as Ghost Jail Theatre perform weekly improvised sets has a newly streamlined ambiance decked out with skittles and the cast of Ghost Jail Theatre Season Three has a brand new look as well!
All the innovation and finesse of the Ghost Jail Theatre that improv connoisseurs have known and loved for the past three years remains intact in Season Three. Ghost Jail still creates an improv show based on a piece of writing provided by the audience, and from there, the company of improvisers construct improvised scenes which are variations on an overall theme inspired by that piece of writing. The scenes grow in length and feed into one another as the evening progresses, all to hilarious and often absurdly profound effect.
Core Cast members Kayla Lorette and Tim Daugulis take the reins from Ian Rowe (while he makes it big in Vancouver) and Caitlin Howden (while she bursts out the hilarity on the Second City Mainstage) and when they are able to pry Core Cast member Michal Grajewski away from the frigid clutches of Rick Mercer, he comes along and plays too! They are now joined by new core cast members Andrea Del Campo, Robbie Beniuk, Jess Grant, Stephanie Kaliner, and Oliver Georgiou.
As with any recipe, when you are mixing all these feisty and scrumptious ingredients for hilarity together, it takes awhile for all the elements to set in precisely the perfect way to maximize their collective creativity, talent and comic sensibilities. The New Ghost Jail Cast is made up of fantastic individuals and they are settling into a company that grows stronger and more assured with every passing week. Andrea Del Campo has fantastic conviction and continually goes out on a limb in the creation of really quirky characters and situations. Robbie Beniuk has fantastic pacing in his scenes, which gives the show the briskness that makes Ghost Jail so impressive to watch. Oliver Georgiou is especially skilled in the writing and the delivery of clever impromptu monologues, in a style that reminds me a bit of the way Fraz Weist used to write when he was with the cast last year. Jess Grant uses really great physicality and Stephanie Kaliner is maybe the most adorable and entirely endearing performer that you will ever see onstage, regardless of what she is doing or saying. You wait, she is going to be an improv star!
Speaking of improv stars, recently returned from her tour-de-force in Europe, is it possible that Kayla Lorette keeps getting better and better, funnier and funnier, sharper and sharper? She was so filled with brilliant creativity and such inventive humor Sunday night and she and Michal Grajewski were both effective in their ability to tie the scenes together, reintroduce specific characters and themes and helped to give definite overall shape to the evening. Lorette is a force to be reckoned with, folks, and she is also a very talented writer. Her language when she writes the impromptu monologues is particularly evocative and poetic. Tim Daugulis sat Sunday’s Ghost Jail out, which was a little sad, as he always gives the show a much beloved dose of the exuberant absurd. He’ll likely be playing next week, which gives you all the more incentive to check out the show!
The one thing that made Ghost Jail so magical for me for the past year and a half was that the scenes always seemed to meld into one another so seamlessly. This just comes with time, conviction and an extreme perceptive awareness that comes to borderline on psychic the more solid the rhythm between the improvisers becomes. When this aspect of the show cements, which I assume will be within the next few months, Season Three will have all of the magic and the confidence that the original Ghost Jail Cast had after two years of playing together.
Every week is a brand new show; every Sunday Ghost Jail Theatre keeps getting better and better. So come celebrate December and its thick socks and awkward work parties and let the good non-holiday specific times roll, with Ghost Jail. Every Sunday. 7:30pm. (doors: 7:00pm). Clinton’s Tavern. 693 Bloor Street West. Toronto. $6.00 ($5.00 for members).

Lifetime Balance: Two Comedy Shows. Two Venues. One Subway Ride Full of Laughs.

A little known fact about me is that sometimes, Thursday nights around 7pm, you can catch me sweeping the stairs at the Comedy Bar on 945 Bloor Street. After all, we all do what we can to support and help the people whose work we believe in. The Comedy Bar is the newest, hippest venue that features comedy, sketch and Improv shows of all sorts every day of the week! It is the brainchild of Sketchersons co-founder Gary Rideout Jr. who, remarkably, has produced more than 400 live comedy shows. The shows are great, the staff are sweet, the drinks are well-priced, the food is good, you can play Pac Man (!), there’s an ATM, and the bathrooms are always clean. Seriously, it’s home away from home.
Last Thursday around 7pm I was sweeping the stairs of Comedy Bar when I heard abundant howls of laughter emanating from the back of the bar. It was the sort of laughter that is so joyful and so hearty that I couldn’t help but smile as I swept. As it turns out, the cast of the Canadian Comedy Award winning Sketchersons and the cast of Ghost Jail Theatre were rehearsing sketches for their one-night only “Event of a Lifetime” united forces show The Subway Series which I caught last night, Sunday April 26th 2009.
The Subway Series started at Clinton’s Tavern, another great little venue for music and comedy on Bloor Street (at Clinton) where Ghost Jail Theatre reins Improv comedy supreme every Sunday at 7:30pm. Here we were greeted with free T-shirts, a Subway token, caramel popcorn and TWO Ghost Jail sets featuring special guest improvisers, members of the cast of the Sketchersons! I love when two different, art forms work in conjunction with one another to celebrate the greatness and the fun that can come from collaboration! It was so neat to watch the Sketchersons reacting on their feet, and then later to watch the Improvisers and to know they had a script in mind and rehearsal time. I was talking to Ghost Jail member Fraz Wiest a few nights ago about the labels of “comedian” and “actor” and “improviser” and I agree that they are all so fluid; there is such overlap of talents and skills it does seem like an injustice to peg any performer as being one specific type of anything.
Highlights from Clinton’s include: Alana Johnston, just really in general you haven’t seen Canadian comedy until you have seen her improvise, Naomi Snieckus lisping her way through knife training, Kayla Lorette doing yoga as though she were made from Jell-O, and Fraz Weist pushing one of the Sketchersons guys off the stage after he read the line, “One time, my dad fell down a flight of stairs carrying a tray of ribs” because that was all the imagery required to conjure the next improvised scene.
We then all crammed into a single Subway car, bombarding the other innocent passengers with a sing-along and exuberant amounts of energy, and rode from Christie Station to Ossington Station and arrived joyfully at Comedy Bar.
The ambiance was immediately different. The Sketchersons have really loud music which is provided by a live band (!) and because there is a “backstage” and a curtain, there seems to be more of a proscenium atmosphere to their show. The sketches were funny, and some of them are especially clever and imaginative. Gary Rideout Jr. did this amazing hybrid between boxercise, dance and stripping which was in equal parts hilarious and impressive. Kayla Lorette was unbelievably funny as the male owner of a strip mall, and Alana Johnston was equally incredible as his feisty, fabulously trashy, wife.
It was an entire room filled with talented; to mention a few funny moments is to leave out an entire heap. At the end of the evening Ghost Jail co-Artistic Director Ian Rowe mentioned that since Ghost Jail begins at 7:30pm and the Sketchersons show Sunday Night Live begins at 9:30pm, it is possible for people to attend both shows back-to-back every Sunday even though the subway ride in between will be short one sing-along jamboree.
It warms my heart to see these two companies joining forces and supporting one another. The extraordinary achievements of the young and the ambitious in this city continue to astound, impress and inspire me. I am so proud of the achievements of these artistic entrepreneurs who work and triumph in a world that is not always conducive to making art, creating work, or having dreams come true.

Ghost Jail Theatre Does Comedy Here. Seriously.

michael grajewski & kayla lorette

photo by corbin smith

Every Sunday night, the small back room of Clinton’s Tavern on Bloor Street transforms into a magical place where anything might happen. However, the audience is assured immediately that Ghost Jail Theatre is “the comedy show that won’t make fun of you for coming.” And it’s true; there is an incredible ease to the performances that permeates the entire space and dissolves the worry one often has in the pit of her stomach during an improvised show that things might get scary, awkward, or dead.
Ghost Jail’s mandate is to “present quality, professional work in an inclusive environment that fosters and develops new talent while bringing together members of the community at large.” The theatre company is made up of six core company members, Ian Rowe (Artistic Director), Caitlin Howden (Artistic Director), Tim Daugulis, Michal Grajewski, Alana Johnston, Kayla Lorette and Fraz Wiest. At the beginning of each show, a piece of text is selected from the audience and a random line is read aloud. From this line, a theme is chosen which will connect the ensuing scenes and monologues together. There are six improvisers in the show. On either side of the stage is a notebook on a chair. Scenes are improvised in the centre, and monologues are written on the chairs while the scenes are being performed. They are then read aloud when the perfect moment becomes apparent. The scenes all connect to one another, stories and characters spring to life, punch lines become recurring jokes, everything feeds into everything, and the audience watches in awe as an hour of improvised shenanigans all circle around and fit perfectly together like pieces of a hysterical, marvelous, jigsaw puzzle.
The Ghost Jail Season opened last Monday with performances by Ian Rowe, Caitlin Howden, Tim Daugulis, Alana Johnston, Fraz Wiest, and special guests Ron Pederson and Naomi Snieckus. The scenes and monologues are consistently laugh-out-loud funny, which is extremely rare for an improvised comedy show. Their timing is impeccable, and scenes never run too long or turn stagnant. The beauty of having all six actors on stage almost all of the time, is that you are also able to watch the “offstage” actors’ reactions to the comedy that is being done “onstage”. It sometimes feels like watching the behind the scenes blooper reel for a very funny televised show. You also never know when an actor will fall into a scene unexpectedly.
Ghost Jail Theatre is undoubtedly funnier than anything on television- especially anything on Sunday nights at 7:30pm. It is cheap. It is inspiring. It is fun. There are drinks and the cast members hang around after the show to hobnob. You really can’t go wrong. So, you should come. You will laugh until you hyperventilate. Seriously.
Ghost Jail’s all-new show “Ghost Jail’s Doing It” begins Sunday October 13th, 2008 at 7:30 (sharp). They welcome special guests Ron Pederson, Naomi Snieckus and Kirsten Rasmussen.
Ghost Jail Theatre has a new show every Sunday night at Clinton’s Tavern. 693 Bloor Street. Doors open at 7:00. Tickets are $6.00 or $5.00 for members. For more information visit See you there!