Theo was born and schooled in Bellingham, Washington. Fortunately for him, Bellingham is also home to the Upfront Theatre, an improv xanadu founded by Ryan Stiles of ‘Whose Line is it Anyway.’ As an aspiring playwright, Theo began taking improv classes in order to strengthen his writing. Before that first class, Theo didn’t believe in love at first sight, but the heartbeat-in-my-kneecaps sensation he felt onstage confirmed for him that his weekends, his financial insecurity and his soul belonged to this art form. An art based on support! On surprises! On honesty! He was the luckiest man on earth. Or outer Space.
Eighteen months and four cities later, Theo’s heart beats thump-de-thump for his sweet love, improvisation. She gives him laughs, and confidence, lessons in generosity. She gave him the great treasure of role models and friends with his troupe, Mirage Machine. And with them, the feeling that he belongs. In return, Theo hopes he’s of some use to improv, or at least that he can slide by unnoticed, playing a raccoon.
Manuel took his first improv class in the fall of 2012 and the only thing he can remember about that class was that Alex Dobrenko was in it (and if you don’t know who this is yet… just wait.) Manuel had always felt a pull towards theatre and comedy, so improv just made sense.
He took a voluntary (re: broke) break from improv only to come back to it a year later, determined to finish. And finish he did. Manuel fell in love with narrative, genre-based improv and described the feeling of being on stage as a “singular, slightly pee-inducing experience.” He was hooked instantly.
After graduating, a mixture of hubris and naiveté led him to form a duo with Seth Johnson called Duran and Johnson (modeled after the eponymous Ratliff & Jackson). Against all odds, the duo found success – a triumphant run in the Coldtowne CageMatch found them hosting their own month-long show there based on politics and government. Manuel and Seth had a unique chemistry on stage that played off the straight-man/absurd dynamic. As one viewer put it, “they should really suck, but they don’t.”
Manuel would go on to play in the Hideout student mainstage shows, “WTF?!” It was Manuel’s first mainstage show of any kind and he found himself bonding deeply with the cast. The show was a raging success and is credited with launching the still-running Student Mainstage shows.
Manuel was cast in the third student mainstage show, “Cochise”, a few months later. Cochise was an improvised 70s cop show based on a format performed by the legendary Austin troupe, Improv for Evil. The run was, once again, a huge success. So successful, in fact, that Cochise was accepted to play in Unscripted, an improvisation festival in NYC, NY.
Manuel returned to Austin and was cast in Wanderlust, his first non-student Mainstage show. Wanderlust proved to be a challenging and fulfilling experience which reinforced in him the idea that doing something rewarding often means sacrificing enjoyment.
In April 2015, Manuel had a chance encounter with Kenny Madison which led him to joining Mirage Machine for two consecutive shows. Manuel found instant chemistry and camaraderie with the other members and after a lengthy hazing process was officially welcomed into the troupe.
Manuel has been happy ever since.
*It should be noted that Manuel Duran only speaks in the third person when writing biographies about himself.
David Moses Fruchter is a writer, performance artist, stay-at-home dad, cabana boy by trade, and committed procrastinator. He was born in Chicago, raised in small towns scattered across the Midwest, and got to Austin as fast as as he could. He was an early member (not quite a founder, but close) of Physical Plant Theater, which continues to bring groundbreaking work to Austin and now even to your cell phone!
With a group called the Typewriter Rodeo, David also types custom poems on request (on his vintage manual typewriter, a 1941 Royal Quiet DeLuxe) at many types of occasions, including school events, wedding receptions, Maker fairs, nonprofit fundraisers, company parties, conferences, and more. Check out www.typewriterrodeo.com to see what they’re all about and book them for your own event!
For 9 years David was the host of a radio program called Slappy Pinchbottom’s Odd Preoccupation on KOOP 91.7FM in Austin, devoted to the spoken word in all its many manifestations. David recently retired from the radio but is currently scheming to create a podcast of astounding found poetry, candid interviews, surreal and disturbing narratives, and audio experimentation.
David has been studying and performing improv since 2011 and loves it like a sexy little baby. He’s taken classes or workshops at the Hideout, the Institution, the New Movement, and Coldtowne theaters in Austin, and performed at all of those as well. His favorite improv teacher, and probably favorite teacher of anything ever, is Roy Janik at the Hideout, and any improvisor who hasn’t should seek out a class from Roy at the earliest opportunity. At 44, David is an old sad dog amidst the rumbly-tumbly puppies and kittens of the thriving and fast-growing Austin Improv Community, and he likes it that way. David Lynch is his spirit animal.
David believes strongly that strong beliefs cripple the mind, and tries to avoid them whenever possible — he contains multitudes, as do you.
Kenny Madison was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, raised in Sand Springs, Oklahoma, and went to school in Norman, Oklahoma, which logically places him in Austin, TX. Much to your surprise, he started improv in Oklahoma in 2008, where he was a player, then a coach, then an artistic director, then a friend. Since moving to Austin, Kenny has done regular shows at the Institution, Hideout, and ColdTowne Theaters, ranging from Junior Cast Member to Show Director.
Kenny started performing from a very young age. Growing up on a steady diet of coleslaw and television, he utilized a lot of influences and created a unique, fast-paced voice for himself. A lot of this stems from watching classic sitcoms in grade school like Roseanne, the Simpsons, and anything on ABC, then becoming a snob in high school, watching The Office, Parks and Recreation, and basically the Thursday night line-up on NBC. In college, he put that voice into practice through improv and short film work.
Kenny has worked with a lot of improvisers, ranging from Alan Starzinski from Upright Citizens Brigade to Zach Ward of DSI Comedy Theater. He’s also worked with Jill Bernard, Joe Bill, Jimmy Carrane, and a whole mess of other people. Already, this seems too name droppy, but he wants you to realize how important he is. It’s not just for show, people really like him.
Kenny wants you to realize that you need to accept how great you are. Improv changed his life by letting him realize the world is at your control. The way it gets out of your hands is when you believe you are smaller than it. You are the same as the world around you, you might just think you’re worse than. In reality, you are a genius. Remember that what you are doing is exactly how it’s supposed to be done. The worst that can happen is someone says no. Everything you’re doing is correct.
Amanda started improv in 2013 with hopes that it would inspire her writing and help her tap into a deeper creative realm. Little did she know how much she would love the art that the practice of being in the moment creates.
Amanda has studied at The Institution and The Hideout theaters in Austin, as well as taken workshops with Jimmy Carrane, Matt Jones, David Hill, and Rebecca Drysdale.
When Amanda is not performing with Mirage Machine, she can be found cuddling with random puppies, telling jokes to 3 year olds (they laugh at everything!), or huddled in a dark corner working on various writing projects that may or may not ever get completed.
Amanda still thinks it’s a dream that she gets to play with the enormously talented guys of Mirage Machine and wants -nay- demands you pinch her when you see her.
Camille Mitchell (known as “Camel” by her colleagues) is a theatre artist, actor, and performer. Camille was welcomed onto Mirage Machine during her beautiful college sabbatical gap year in Austin, Texas, where she took film acting classes, trained at The Institution Theater, sat in nature, and gave up being a vegetarian.
She was born and raised in San Antonio, Texas where she grew up doing community theatre and got her start in improv with ComedySportz San Antonio. When she realized there were other crazy people out there that also do improv, she found where they congregated (Chicago) and created a plan to live there.
She is currently a Theatre Arts & Directing major at The Theatre School at DePaul University in Chicago and is training at iO Chicago. Camille can be seen performing regularly with her Titanic Players team at DePaul, “Big Money Crew Money Champions” or her ComedySportz Chicago house team “Atomic”. For money, she serves cupcakes and cookies to the better half of Chicago at Sweet Mandy B’s in Lincoln Park. On the side, Camille is a screenwriter, playwright, and guitar player.
Though far in distance, she hopes some of her skin cells rubbed off on each Mirage Machine member when she hugged them last…so that a tiny part of her is with them always.
Chance Garcia hails from Oklahoma City. He started off with Mirage Machine and left to pursue acting. Go get ’em, Chance!