This year, RVA Magazine will be celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary–and in honor of our first decade of publication, we’ll be taking a look back and some of our favorite articles we’ve run over the past 10 years. Today, we revisit our interview with Municipal Waste from RVA Vol. 1 Issue 2 back in 2005. Enjoy!
This year, RVA Magazine will be celebrating our 10 Year Anniversary–and in honor of our first decade of publication, we’ll be taking a look back and some of our favorite articles we’ve run over the past 10 years. Today, we revisit our interview with Pharrell Williams, the cover story from our Summer 2010 issue. Enjoy!
RVA Magazine visited with Blue Bee Cider recently. They gave us a tour of the facility and a look into the making of their various craft ciders. We happened to be present on a day when they were pressing apples and putting them into the boxes for fermentation. Throughout the tour and visit, we learned a lot about how cider was made and how the craft has been handed down through multiple generations.
[Read more…] about RVA On Tap Presents an interview with Courtney Mailey of Blue Bee Cider
Picture a stage in a tiny storefront that used to offer bargain prices on furniture. In front of it sits an audience of 60 individuals, eager to see what journey awaits them. As anticipation reaches its apex, a team of seasoned improvisers run on stage, and the adventure begins. Long-form improvisational comedy is unusual, but the Richmond Comedy Coalition have spent years developing their own version of it, eventually giving it a permanent home in the form of the Coalition Theater. Richmond is all the more prosperous as a result.
In 2009, the theater that hosted ComedySportz had just closed. The loss of one of the most beloved local venues for the form made this era a sad time for long-form improv in Richmond, but the appetite for this creative outlet never diminished. The collective enthusiasm of David Pijor, Katie Holcomb, Matt Newman and Aaron Grant pushed them towards new endeavors. Although their former improv home had ceased to exist, they were ready to create something of their own. “We started out as comedy nomads. We were free to do what we wanted with our insane ideas. This is liberating but also harder to accomplish,” recalls Grant. “We decided to call ourselves The Richmond Comedy Coalition as a way of developing an umbrella for all of our projects to exist under. It also sounds a bit more legit,” Pijor says.
Early performances took place at Art6, in the heart of the downtown Arts District. “We were at the mercy of whatever art exhibit was displayed,” Grant mentions. “In our first year, there were some pretty interesting pieces on display. My favorite would be giant pieces of cardboard formed into what looked like hobo cocoons, hovering from the ceiling over the audience’s heads.” These early performances created sparks of excitement for their new endeavor. “[By] our third performance, our audience had easily tripled or quadrupled in size. I remember looking around and wondering what had changed,” Pijor says.
One possibility is that Richmond audiences were beginning to discover the beauty of long-form improvisational comedy. Coalition improviser and instructor Jim Zarling explains it this way: “Long form improv, when you’re doing it great, it is unbelievable. You make such strong emotional connections with the people you’re on stage with. You’re all seeing the same things, and you can’t even explain it afterwards.” The bonds created during experiences like this unite all of the Coalition’s performers, from the founders to the most recent initiates.
“Before we start each show, we take a moment to look each other in the eyes, and genuinely say, ‘I’ve got your back’,” explains performer/educator Summer McCarley. “I’ve been performing with some of these people for almost four years now, and I feel like that statement holds true in and out of shows. We can play any way we want, from pretending to be a pissed off tween to a billionaire cheesecake company heir to a rotting jack-o-lantern and everyone around you will be like, ‘OK, that’s this character, let’s party.’ It doesn’t matter the height, weight, age, race, or gender, you can play any character you want. And that’s a super fun, liberating experience.” The results of this approach are fueled by deep commitment to the performance, which enriches the humor and draws comedy-loving audiences from all walks of life–many of whom are eventually inspired to become performers themselves.
After some time putting on performances at Art6, the Coalition eventually moved their performances to Gallery 5. “It seemed to work towards our advantage,” Newman says. “Amanda Robinson allowed us to have two nights a month there. With that residency, we began developing some of the events that we have become known for.” One of the many events that the Coalition began at this time was Richmond Famous, an evening focused on a Richmonder of some repute. The subject at hand discusses themselves and their endeavors, followed by an improv performance. Guests have included Nathaniel Rappole (Gull), Andrew Cothern (RVA Playlist), GayRVA founder Kevin Clay, the group behind WRIR’s The Total Football Show, Jennifer Lemons (The Check Out Girl), and many others. One of the most incredible moments in the Coalition’s history occurred when Marc Cheatham of The Cheats Movement proposed to his girlfriend during his own Richmond Famous event.
“One of the great things about the Richmond Famous events is that we get to reach out to so many different audiences,” Holcomb says. “[Depending] on whomever is our guest that night, we are more than likely going to have new faces that have little to no idea what it is that we do, and that drives us to really excel.” Improv teacher Patrick Gantz remembers Young House Love and No BS! Brass Band’s appearances at Richmond Famous as two of the best shows the Coalition have hosted. “The Richmond Famous shows are always well attended, but these two shows were particularly packed. When the energy in the room is that high, it’s impossible to have a bad show. And these were GREAT shows. John Petersik of Young House Love is also an alumnus of my college improv group, The Whethermen, so we had John do some scenes with us, which the audience loved. And the No BS guys ended the show with an impromptu jam session which set the crowd hooting and dancing.”
The Coalition have had some memorable one-off presentations as well. In 2010, Chris Gethard, host of a monthly live talk/variety show at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in New York City, started a Kickstarter. “One of the premiums was that he would do one of his shows in your city for $500. We were immediately sold,” says Holcomb. The Coalition made the pledge, booking Gethard for a performance at Gallery 5 that took place in January 2011. Wanting to involve some of the city’s unique artistic elements in his local performance, Gethard got in contact with GWAR and planned a visit to the Slave Pit. “He received a thong from Balsac The Jaws of Death and felt inspired to wear it at the show while encouraging audience members to pour Bloody Marys all over him,” Holcomb relates. “[It] was just amazing to be around someone who we all really admire, and be a part of something that could only really happen in Richmond.”
A couple of years into their existence, the Coalition began to creating spaces for potential students to learn the ebb and flow of improvisational comedy. “We floated around a bit all throughout Richmond when we began offering classes,” Newman recalls. “After ComedySportz shutdown, there was definitely a niche to be filled,” Pijor says. “There were many people that wanted to learn exactly what went into the thought process of performing in this capacity.” The very first student to sign-up was Robert Sobecke. “I remember signing up for classes at 6:30 in the morning, as I was overwhelmed with anxiety that the classes would fill up almost immediately,” he says. “After attending any session I could get my hands on, I went through the audition process and eventually got on my first house team, Karate Practice. It felt like [going from] doing karaoke [to] getting to front a band [featuring] my idols.”
The Coalition’s reputation eventually extended beyond Richmond. “[People] felt that spaces for this [comedic form] were long dormant,” Newman says. “To see us working to create that encouraged them to be involved.” Word getting around the state eventually attracted the attention of Charlottesville comedian Jim Zarling. “I had been doing improv in Charlottesville since 2003, and really didn’t enjoy it,” Zarling says. “I saw a RCC show and really enjoyed their approach. When auditions were announced, it was a real no-brainer.” Zarling is one of many that have gone on to become teachers and coaches through the infrastructure that the Coalition has developed.
Each individual brings a very specific voice into the group. This multiplicity of viewpoints is only one of the many benefits Coalition classes impart to their students. “Whenever a class begins, I tend to tell the group that they will most likely leave here with a set of new best friends,” Holcomb says. “There is a newfound strength that most of our students acquire through these programs. They build confidence in working with others, learning how to escape the fear of failure and just [take] risks,” Pijor adds. “The one thing that I try to push students to understand is that it’s all about emotion, and being honest with that. The laughs will come along, but the honesty of it all is the strongest suit,” Newman says. “Long form improv is unbelievably challenging, thrilling, emotionally draining and rewarding,” says Zarling. “If you’re reading this, you should probably sign up for a class.”
As their popularity continued to grow, the Coalition began to look towards the future and a way to obtain a space of their own. “We were pretty much utilizing whatever space we could get our hands on for classes,” Newman recollects. The group hoped for something better, and soon found it in the space at 8 W. Broad St. Once they signed a lease, they launched a successful crowd-funding campaign, bringing in nearly $27,000 to help cover longterm costs. “We were one of the first improv theaters to generate that much revenue through a crowdsourcing campaign and it is still unbelievable to us,” Newman says. “We did spend a great deal of time to build a reputation around the city, and that assisted in garnering that support, but none of us could have possibly imagined that enormous of an outpour.” This success has continued, and the Coalition Theater recently celebrated its one-year anniversary.
For a glimpse at the Coalition’s future, one place to look is the recently created monthly live late-night talk show RVA Tonight with Beau Cribbs. The show’s more structured format gives the group a chance to move away from purely improvisational performances into pre-written sketch comedy. “We tailor the program towards having monologues, commercials, bits and what have you, but to do an hour of sketch comedy would just be so incredible,” Newman enthuses. “We have created this really great space for long-form improv and I think there is still a lot we can do within that train of thought, but we would love to move further towards sketch comedy. Encourage our students, as well as ourselves, to write with that in mind,” Pijor says.
The evolution of Richmond Comedy Coalition over the past five years has involved quite a few different phases. Beginning with a core group of individuals cultivating their own space for a particular brand of performance that they loved, the spirit of creative discovery that fuels improv comedy in general and the Coalition in particular has helped propel the group to achieve every goal they’ve set for themselves thus far. “When I look back to five years ago when we started this whole thing and reflect, it seems so crazy to me,” Newman says. “It makes me even more excited as to where the next five years will have in store for all of us.” One thing we can all be sure of–the exuberant performing spirit and abundance of laughs on display will continue to result in Coalition performances that exceed all expectations.
This article is taken from the Winter 2014/2015 print edition of RVA Magazine, out now! Look for copies available for free at your favorite local Richmond businesses. To read a digital version of the full issue, click here.
Jacob Eveland’s art paints a beautiful picture of an alternate reality filled with enchanted animals and unique heirlooms–and sometimes, that picture is several stories tall. Eveland, who graduated from VCU last May with a degree in Communication Arts, recently joined many other local and non-local artists who’ve brought their work to Richmond’s streets, creating a monochromatic mural on the side of Highpoint Gallery, located at 3300 W. Broad St in Scott’s Addition.
[Read more…] about Chasing Chaos: Jacob Eveland’s art opens a portal to another world
As part of the Richmond Mural Project, David Flores came to RVA with his partner in crime, Olivia Bevilacqua, to paint the town. From the start of his career in the 90s with Shorty’s Skateboards to his recent work creating iconic stained-glass-style murals around the world, Flores has received many accolades in the skateboard, street art, and design worlds. He’s left his mark deep in many underground cultures, and in turn has influenced the mainstream of current culture. His work as part of the Richmond Mural Project indicated both underground and mainstream influences; his giant painting featuring Snoopy and Woodstock, Charles M. Schulz’s universally-recognized characters from the Peanuts comic strip, now dominates the downtown landscape. It was fun sitting down and asking him about it all, from his earliest work to the way he views his legacy. We covered a lot, and had to go a bit off script to do it, but sometimes leaving the beaten path is the best way to have a great coversation.
How did you get involved with the Richmond Mural Project?
Shane Pomajambo hit me up on email. It took me awhile to respond since we have been so busy. We started checking out the stuff that was already put up. Woes had stuff up and Aryz had stuff up, so I said, “Hey, let’s go check it out.”
What’s been your impression of Richmond?
It’s really old and really segregated. There is a lot of separation between races here. That’s what I am trying to do with my little bird. Trying to bring everyone together on the same playing field, as far as the art is concerned. Everything else, that’s not up to me. Viewing art should be free, everyone should have the opportunity. But my first impression–it’s really cool. It’s quaint, it’s old. You can tell there is a lot of history. If the rocks could talk… it’s not like that in LA. There is old stuff there, but everything is so temporary.
When do you think the transition from “graffiti” to “street art” happened? Blu and Os Gemeos were the originators of street art…
Os Gemeos were graffiti kids, break dancers, hip hop heads turned muralists–but they are street art to me. I don’t do street art, I do murals, because I don’t have a past of graffiti or tagging. [For me], it came straight out of skateboards, to paintings, to fucking walls… It just went bigger, bigger, bigger, BIGGER! “Now, what is the biggest canvas I can find? Oh, its a wall.” It birthed out of wanting to see my art big. I love doing [murals] so much, it’s a totally different realm. It’s totally trendy right now, but the kids are just so excited about something new that is going on in the world, and technology has a lot to do with it. Being able to reproduce your work, being able to project it, having lifts so you can go up and down – that’s new. We didn’t have that in the nineties. There is not really an excuse now–If you want to do something in America you can do it.
If you don’t do it then you are either are either lazy or scared.
[laughs] You are lazy or you are scared. We are out here, definitely not lazy. We are not scared to get up and on a roof. [Olivia] climbs out on god knows what kind of angles, on ledges and everything else. I’m holding her by her belt loop while she fills that last little spot in. Totally committed.
What’s the highest you could go without getting nervous? Nine stories? Ten stories? [Laughs] Tell the truth Dave…
It’s all relative. It could be two stories but [if] it’s super windy and I am on a lift, I’m going to be sketched out. It all depends on the situation. I could be eight stories [up] but on some firm shit, [and] I will be fine. You know what I mean? Let me put it this way. We are in New York City on 60 foot booms, one of them might have been 80–the ones with the big off road tires, the big heavy ones–and up in the air four stories and it was windy. I didn’t trust that boom at all. [laughs] I was turning around all slow, turning the knob real slow.
Don’t they give you a belt or something when you are that high?
What difference does that make? What’s that going to do? If you are in the thing when it falls… I am going to try to get out if I can. I mean if it’s falling, I’m going to try for the grass. I am going to try to jump as soon as I can.
[laughs] Obviously you have had time to think about this… he already has a plan.
I would jump in a tree if it would save my life.
Oh yeah, I think anybody would. You bring up a good point–obviously, if you are belted to it, you are going to fall together.
If you can get away from it and have a soft landing somewhere, it’s possible. It could hang up on a tree, and then it stops falling and you can go for that “oh fuck, now there’s my chance” moment, and you jump out and grab a branch.
[Laughs] You just glide off like a squirrel.
[Laughs] It’s like, “Splat!” And then you just hold on and wait for someone to come get you.
While yelling out, “Olivia!”
I don’t want to go down with it. You will get fucking smashed.
When did you know you were going to do art for a career? High school? Middle school?
I remember thinking, “If nothing happens with this, at least I will get a job at somewhere good from doing my own thing.” That was my mentality back in the day. If it fails, it will at least land me in some big corporation design firm and I will be all right. But it didn’t–I have been doing my own thing the whole time instead.
So you didn’t want to work for another company?
Well, I had to at first. It’s not that I didn’t want to, but I like doing my own thing.
You got started working with Shorty’s?
I met Tony [Buyalos, owner of Shorty’s Skateboards] when I moved to Santa Barbara. That was 1991. I was a hired hand in the skateboard world. All I was doing was skateboarding, hanging out, and having a good time. I wasn’t thinking about the future. Still not worried about it. I am a worried person, but it’s not any one particular thing, it’s all of it all together. Am I saying too much?
[laughs] Is he, Olivia? I don’t think he is.
Did I just say too much?
Do you remember your first wall?
I did one in San Francisco. It was a small wall, and I don’t have a photo of it. I have been doing bigger stuff for awhile. It was a natural progression since 2010, pushing four years. At some point, it was the next thing that I hadn’t done yet.
What has your year been like this year?
In January, we were doing a lot of murals in LA until April. Then New York. In LA, we put up six or more projects, starting with Dali in The Water, the [Nelson] Mandela [Foundation] piece, then coming back from Japan. I have a book coming out this year.
Does all this work give you any anxiety?
This anxiety of failing, and something going wrong. That is still an anxiety point for me. Not being able to finish [a piece], or it looking stupid kind of thing. Putting yourself in the public eye to fuck up miserably.
[laughs] Then you can’t hide it, right? If it’s messed up…
It can be anything. You can be painting and not know you are fucking up until later on.
Must be strange to have people that are really excited about you being there, and having to put on a show.
If no one else is going to do it, I will do it. Don’t act like your shit don’t stink.
Is street art too trendy? Is the bubble going to pop?
Here is the thing: I thought the whole new art disobedience happening back in ’02 was the end. I was thinking, “How is this going to keep going?” It kept going, and I kept going with it.
At one point you did a wall with Shepard Fairey. Is that when you started getting recognized for murals?
Probably. I think it was going to happen anyways, because my shit was strong. You can see my work from 3 blocks away. Strong images, strong economically, strong colors… Whether I did it with Shepard or not, it doesn’t matter.
Why did you pick Snoopy for the Richmond wall?
I didn’t, it kind of picked me to be honest with you. [It’s a] long low wall; Snoopy kept coming back to me. “Hey, use me and you can put a Woodstock at the end of it.” Plus, I wanted to keep it simple as far as the workload. We have been working so much, so a giant downtown piece and stencil throw-ups around town was good. Richmond is “big-little” and laid back. It’s been relaxing, and I am stoked that they let me paint what I wanted to paint.
How big can you go from here? A plane has already been done. Would you ever do a tank? You could go to Norfolk and paint a battleship; a David Flores piece riding into the Middle East.
I don’t want to do any military stuff. That’s the scary thing sometimes. [I] get asked to do stuff for big companies that… I don’t know what they are on, but they offer you a lot of money, and it’s this sell-your-soul moment all the time. [laughs] Like, one after the other, and I have to sometimes be like, “No, no…”
What’s the strangest request you’ve gotten for a project?
People are like, “Paint my garage!” And I’m like, “No.” McDonalds asked me about 6 months ago to do stuff for the World Cup, which would be coming out now. I would be a McDonalds artist right now. I had to say no, even though the money was good. Then I saw they used someone that looked like me and it was pretty generic. It didn’t matter who the artist was in the end.
The people that asked me, I didn’t like it. I just thought it was too much. When I see someone doing something with Billabong or RUCA, that’s even too much, you know what I mean? For me, that is the cutoff. Then you see people on Verizon, and I’m like, “Ehhhh…” Then it isn’t high end anymore. It’s whatever now. You lost it. You could have been like Bentley, but you ended up Ford Bronco. You got the money, but you don’t have the respect. When you don’t have the money anymore …
…you gotta do another McDonalds project.
You have to do more McDonalds, and soon you are all Mickey D’d up. Yeah, that’s the road.
Wearing the Ronald McDonald outfit, dancing, thinking, “Where am I?”
I would rather go the way we are now on our own merit. On our own dime, basically.
Do you think about legacy at all? I wouldn’t be surprised 20 years from now, cracking open an art history book and seeing a few of the guys from this era in there. Does it matter?
You will see it. That’s about it. I don’t think more about it than that. It doesn’t matter, I won’t be alive. Art is a continuing thought; it’s not something to just to be had, but something to hold and not dismiss quickly.
Do you feel your stained-glass technique is evolving? Is that something you are going to do forever?
I will do it forever, and I’ll do something else with it as well. It will always be something I do, because I love when it is all painted, or on a computer finished, I did that graphic, and I get so happy that it can be printed on a skateboard or go up on a wall. Talking about the art and the graphics, everything visual. That is something to think about. Why is this shit going on? Why are you doing it like this? Why is this big wall going up? There are certain [elements] to it–like the Woodstock thing. It’s the big Snoopy. It’s something that everyone can relate to – so BOOM, got you. Got your attention. Why do I keep seeing Woodstocks in all these different sorts of neighborhoods that are not all on the same societal tier? Well….
Art as a way to connect these different communities, get them talking.
Get them saying, “We have one in our neighborhood.” If I don’t finish them all, I will come back to do all 13. That’s how important it is to me to do them all, to do all 13. It doesn’t have to happen now. It’s not now or never, dude! More [like]–we got it started. Let’s take it next year and evolve it into something else.
This article is taken from the Winter 2014/2015 print edition of RVA Magazine, out now! Look for copies available for free at your favorite local Richmond businesses. To read a digital version of the full issue, click here.