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Jumping Improv Under St Mark’s

Jump on 3 OnstageMJ Gonzalez Members of Jump on 3 mid-show on Friday Feb. 4 at Under St. Mark’s. (From left) Matt Dennie, Scot Holmes, Matt Starr, Maelle Doliveux, J.D. Amato, Phil Jackson.

What happens when you put a South African Wine importer, an advertising agent, an illustration student, a couple aspiring writers, and a government employee in a room, and yell the word “zipper” at them?

I don’t know. And they don’t know. We’ll have to all find out together. “That’s the beauty of improv,” says Matt Starr, 23, one of the seven members of the comedy improv group, Jump On Three. “Not only is the audience trying to figure everything out, but the improvisers are right there with you. You’re seeing everything unfold right before your eyes.”

Jump on 3 was created in March 2010, when a group of improvisers met at the Upright Citizen’s Brigade in Chelsea. After searching the city for a performance spot, they finally found what struck them as an ideal space at Under St. Mark’s, an underground theater at 94 St. Marks Place.

“At the time, there was kind of an indie team explosion,” says Jump on Three member Phil Jackson, 27. After seeing another independent group, Rogue Elephant, perform at Under St. Mark’s in October 2009. When he found out that Rogue Elephant would no longer be playing at that venue, Mr. Jackson jumped at the chance to snag the space. “It was the perfect storm of circumstances and opportunity,” he said.

Now, Mr. Jackson and his fellow improv members perform regularly at Under St. Mark’s, hosting a show on the first Friday of every month, performing with other groups that ask to play at the venue. “We used to have to beg other groups to perform with us when we were first starting out,” Jump on 3 member Scott Holmes said. “But now they’re begging us.” Read more…

A Look at Prohibition’s Local Past

IMG_7347Maya Millett Lorcan Otway guides a tour of prohibition enthusiasts towards the gangster museum, located on the upper level of Theater 80.

Long before the Beat poets, the Warhol kids, free-spirited artists and musicians came to define the East Village’s bohemian scene, a different kind of character dominated the streets: the neighborhood bootlegger.

During the height of the 1920s Prohibition era, New York City served as the American gangster’s playground. Behind ordinary storefronts and in dingy back alleyways, men and women thirsty for forbidden libations and the prospect of a good time crept up to nondescript doors and slipped into another world. At the height of the Jazz Age, America was ready to dabble in debauchery even in the East Village, where European immigrant families crowded into tenement buildings.

Unlike the glamorous settings depicted on the new HBO series “Boardwalk Empire” the face of the speakeasy owner here was often not a wily gangster, but a German shopkeeper or a Jewish teacher. For these East Villagers, starting a speakeasy was as easy as opening their homes for an afternoon to sell alcohol. The illegal booze was snagged through a number of enterprising means — whether through dealings with a local bootlegger or grabbing what they could from a stalled truck transporting the stuff. “It was just kind of a buyer’s market — bootleggers were slipping menus underneath doors like Chinese food menus.”
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