LEARN IMPROV. WRITE COMEDY. MEET PEOPLE. YES AND!
A Pittsburgh native, Kristy Nolen received her BFA in acting from Ohio University, and Marymount College’s actors training program in London, taught by professors from RADA and LAMDA. Next on to Chicago, where she trained primarily at the iO Theater and Second City Training Center with amazing teachers and directors such as Del Close, Martin DeMatt, Don DePollo, Jeff Richmond, Armando Diaz, Mick Napier, Charna Halpern, TJ Jagodowski and Susan Messing. Kristy’s Chicago improv credits include legendary venues such as the Second City Tour Co., Annoyance Theater, IO Theater, Noble Fool Theater and The Playground. She began teaching and coaching all levels of improv, including youth and teens and created the kids improv curriculum at the Art Institute with the Noble Fool Theater.
As casting assistant to Ms. Alderman at Jane Alderman Casting, Kristy has helped cast projects including ABC’s What About Joan, NBC’s ER, HBO’s The Mind of the Married Man, and feature films Normal, Joshua and Children on their Birthdays.
Ms. Nolen has performed at the Kansas City Improv Festival, the Big Stinkin’ Improv Festival in Austin, Texas, and the Chicago Improv Festival. A proud Boom Chicago alumni, Kristy performed and taught in Amsterdam all around Holland and some of Europe with other well-know alumni such as SNL’s Seth Meyers, MADtv’s Josh Meyers, The Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz, The Colbert Report’s Emmy Award winning writer Pete Grosz and executive producer and writer of Portlandia, Allison Silverman.
After ten years in Chicago, it was on to Los Angeles, where she improvised at iO West (with the iO Rep and teams Foster Kids and Hat Trick), The Boom Chicago Alumni Show at UCB and The imMEDIAte Improv at The Pasadena Playhouse. Kristy appeared in various national commercials, including Oberto Beef Jerky, BevMo, NFL Network, “What Happens in Vegas”, and Teleflora (Super Bowl Ad). Her television credits include ER and Early Edition, as well as the film credits, On Becoming Blonde, Liar’s Club, and the improvised film, Crushed.
Kristy and her family are thrilled to be back in da ‘burgh, where they now have both house and hound. You can find her performing most weekends with the Arcade’s house team, Player One and around town with the talented all-female sketch troupe, Frankly Scarlett. She’s happiest when coaching, teaching or hanging out with her tween daughter, Madeline. Being a founding member of the Arcade Comedy Theater is a dream come true.
Jethro Nolen has been improvising for twenty years. After co-founding Texas A&M’s improvisational troupe, Freudian Slip, he moved to Chicago to further his studies. In Chicago, Jethro studied and performed at IO and Annoyance and taught for the Second City Training Center. He was fortunate to take classes from numerous legends of the Chicago Improv scene: Charna Halpern, Mick Napier, Susan Messing, Joe Bill, Craig Cackowski, Rich Talarico.
Jethro performed with the Lindbergh Babies (directed by Del Close), the house team Preponderate (directed by T.J. Jagadowski) and the Armando Diaz show. He then went to Amsterdam to write, perform and teach for Boom Chicago (with Seth Meyers, Josh Meyers and Ike Barinholtz).
In Los Angeles, Jethro performed at IO West with Pretty Please and performed and directed imMEDIAte Theater with the Furious Theater. Additionally, he took classes at The Groundlings.
He has attended numerous improv festivals performing and taking workshops with other great improv teachers: Gary Austin, Adam McKay & David Koechner.
He has now relocated to Pittsburgh with his lovely wife, Kristy and their daughter. He is delighted to to be a part of the vibrant and growing Pittsburgh comedy community.
Abby is a graduate of The University of Pittsburgh where she earned a degree in theatre arts and communications (credits include: Death: A Play, The Boundary , and Bat Boy! The Musical). In May of 2008, Abby graduated with top honors from the Heinz College of Carnegie Mellon University, earning a Master’s Degree in Art Management. Following graduation, Abby worked as Marketing Director of Dance Alloy Theater. Since 2005, she has been increasingly involved with the leadership of the once-New York based summer classical theater company Bakerloo Theatre Project, holding such positions as general manager, special events coordinator, and marketing director.
For the past decade, Abby has been a regular performer at Friday Nite Improvs at the Studio Theater, University of Pittsburgh, a show specializing in short-form improv and audience participatory theater. In 2010, she helped form Frankly Scarlett, an all-female comedy troupe which has appeared at the Cabaret at Theater Square, Arcade Comedy Theater, and as contributing artists to No Name Players’ Swan Day show.
She has taught workshops on short form improv and sketch comedy at Point Park University, Carnegie Mellon University, Pitt, and in Cape Town, South Africa. Most recently, she has taught improv as a faculty member of Carnegie Mellon University’s pre-college program.
At the tender age of 8, Abby also received dance instruction at the Abby Lee Dance Studio, of Dance Moms fame. Since Abby Lee is her namesake, she will strive to teach all of her improv classes with the same style of terror and sass.
Ben is a graduate of the University of Pittsburgh where he received a dual Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology and Biochemistry while minoring in Theater Arts. While pursuing his undergraduate degree, Ben was a frequent performer at Pitt’s Friday Nite Improvs (Pittsburgh’s only all-audience participation improv comedy show) and acted in seven different plays, including main-stage productions A Streetcar Named Desire, Chemin De Fer, The Dark Lady of the Sonnets (with the Pittsburgh Shaw Festival), and Shooting the President. Ben also spent his college summers working with the Three Rivers Shakespeare Festival in such productions as Othello, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo and Juliet. Ben was a member of the Susquehanna Hat Company improv troupe and performed in the Hat Co.’s weekly show at the Funny Bone Comedy Club in Station Square, as well as the troupe’s national tours of universities and comedy clubs. After college, Ben moved to New York City to pursue fame and fortune as an actor/waiter (but mostly as a waiter). While in the Big Apple, Ben was cast in exactly 2 local commercials and served approximately 8,000 plates of veal. He also worked with Manhattan-based improv troupe, Zoinks, and was instructed in improv comedy and sketch writing by Upright Citizen Brigade Theatre founders Ian Roberts and Matt Besser.
Ben returned to Pittsburgh and went to law school at the University of Pittsburgh, but didn’t stop acting and performing improv. During law school, Ben appeared in several local and national television commercials, as well as the Pittsburgh City Theater’s staged production of A Clockwork Orange, and the Pittsburgh Public Theater’s All the Rage. Ben also continued to appear weekly at Pitt’s Friday Nite Improvs and became its producer, and then its 5th host.
Following law-school, Ben continued on as host of Friday Nite Improvs and served in that role as well as Managing Director of FNI for the next 15 years. During Ben’s reign as host, Friday Nite Improvs became the longest continuously-running show in Pittsburgh history. Ben has taught improv, serving as the Improv for Teens teacher at the Mount Lebanon Center for Theater Arts, a guest lecturer in improv comedy for Carnegie Mellon University’s summer sessions, a guest lecturer at Point Park University’s Theater Arts Department, and a frequent workshop advisor for Friday Nite Improvs. Ben also directed the all-female improv troupe The Chopstick Alternative and performed with local troupes Mission 50 and Riot Act.
Ben is now a proud member of Arcade’s house team, Player One, as well as Arcade Comedy Theater’s de facto attorney. He lives with his lovely and patient wife, Lauren in Squirrel Hill. He is also the loving owner of a bulldog named Stanley.
Matt has been performing for most of his life, starting in elementary school with the role of the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz and continuing today! He was raised in Pittsburgh and attended Penn State where he majored in secondary education and minored in theater. During his time at Penn State he was a regular contributor to No Refund Theater, as a performer, director, and writer (credits include The Foreigner, Noises Off!, The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged) and Our Town).
Matt graduated in 2000 and moved to Washington, DC where he could be seen on stage in productions of Comedy of Errors, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, The Foreigner (again), and many others. He also began working with DC ComedySportz in 2002 and continued to perform there until moving back to Pittsburgh in the summer of 2013. He worked with the DC Unscripted Players (DCUP), Last Ham Standing, J Street Comedy, and The Big Honkin’ while in DC. In 2005, he was part of the New York Fringe Festival and has performed across the country in Philadelphia, Miami, Charleston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Jose, Indianapolis, and Milwaukee. And in addition to time spent on stage, Matt has been in various web series, industrial videos, and commercials, most recently as the Wal-Mart spokesperson for the DC-Metro region.
Matt worked as a teacher for 10 years, covering subjects from AP Environmental Science to Theater. He has taught improv classes to all ages from elementary students to adults and continues to work in education with the National Science Teachers Association. He lives with his lovely wife, Emma (whom he met on stage) and his cat Snax (whom he met at Animal Friends).
Larry Phillis started his improv career as a reluctant favor in 1997 at The Outlet for Creativity and hasn’t stopped since.
He helped found The Cellar Dwellers sketch-comedy and improve troup where for a year and a half, he wrote and performed in Comarama, an original weekly sketch-show. The Dwellers hit the road after that, writing and performing a dozen shows in 4 years.
During this time, he graduated from the Second City Conservatory Program, where he wrote and performed in He-Man of LaMancha or Cabaret Greyskull; co-wrote the book Sketch-O-Frenia: 50 short and witty satirical sketches (Meriwether Publishing); and the play Pilgrim’s Progression (Heuer Publishing).
He is a founding member of Hustlebot, where he helped write and perform in a lot of first place, second place and third place projects, including: Steeltown Film Factory: 2010 winners Roll the Dice; Runner up: Best Film and Best Writing: 48 Hour Film Project’s Shadows of the Shield; 2nd place: Harrisburg Comedy Throwdown 2011; National ATT Commercial Contest: 3rd Place; Finalist: 2012 Comedy Central Pilot Project Stoners with a Time Machine.
He has written and performed in corporate sketch shows for Stifel-Nicholaus, Sodexo and Adult Literacy Action; and taught writing, improvisation and acting for the Outlet for Creativity and the Pittsburgh CLO Outreach Program; teambuilding and theater improv workshops for The Boy Scouts, The Girl Scouts, numerous local high schools and colleges.
Rob Speer trained in Chicago at iO and the Second City theaters, and is a veteran of the comedy scene there since 2009. In 2011, he graduated from Second City Training Center’s Conservatory program and was brought on to their house musical sketch team SongCo, performing with them for over a year weekly at Donny’s Skybox Theater. In 2012, he wrote, directed, and produced the musical Cursed! at Chicago’s Studio Be Theater, called by RedEye Chicago one of the best shows of the season. He also had a small part in the film As We Go Along, which was featured in the 2012 Cannes Film Festival Short Film Corner.
For three years, Rob was a cast member and host in Thirsty, a long-running weekly comedy show at Chicago’s Apollo Theater and ran a year-long storytelling showcase at the Abbey Pub.
Since focusing on stand-up, Rob had toured regionally in PA, WV, OH, MI, and IN. He was highlighted in the 2013 Chicago Snubfest and Cleveland’s Big-Little Comedy Festival in 2013. He can be found online at @rob_speer or at robspeercomedy.com.
Robin returned to Pittsburgh in spring of 2015, hopefully permanently. She and her husband are the two oldest people living in South Oakland.
Connor McCanlus is a theatre artist and proud member of Actors’ Equity Association. Credits: CLO Cabaret (Boeing Boeing, Judge Jackie Justice) Bricolage (SCarrie: The Musical, In The Raw), barebones productions (American Falls) Unseam’d Shakespeare (The Complete Works of William Shakespeare [Abridged], The Tempest or The Enchanted Isle), Prime Stage Theatre (The Elephant Man, A Wrinkle in Time), Saltworks (’12-‘13 tour), Miniature Curiosa, Pittsburgh Playwrights Theater Company, and Pittsburgh Shakespeare in the Parks. Connor’s original works include Ethel and Evelyn LIVE at Elysian Fields at The Maker Theater, HELLO DONNY Sing-Along at Backstage Bar, and That’s What Jeanne Saidat Steel City Improv Theater.
Connor is also an assistant stage manager at PICT Classic Theatre and the coach of Slow Clap Improv Squad at Point Park University. He attended Clarion University for his B.F.A. in Acting; his work has been featured in festivals including The Kennedy Center American College Theater Festival, The Chicago Improv Festival, and The Unscripted New York Improvised Theatre and Film Festival.
Chris Leone has been performing on stage most of his life. He has performed as a singer and musician all over the US, Canada and Europe —most recently, the critically acclaimed “smallest show in town” in San Francisco, and the annual “Dom Leone Writing Competition Benefit and Variety Show” for 25 years in his hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.
In 2012, Chris started studying improv in Pittsburgh and is an original member and current coach of Arcade musical house team, The High Scores. He also performs regularly with Arcade house team, Change Machine—who earned a director’s choice pick at the 2015 Chicago Improv Festival—and with Penny Arcade, the theater’s children’s improv team. Chris has also performed with improv groups Champagne Hierarchy, Thoroughly Modern Musical and Bent, and the radio theater production of Thin Man Comes to Pittsburgh. He also volunteers with Open Up Pittsburgh—a local group that uses improv games and techniques to help enrich lives of the elderly and families affected by autism. He is an enormous fan of music improv as it combines two of his greatest performance passions–music and comedy!