Arcade Theater

Troupe Talk: Dinner with the Nolens

Dinner with the Nolens BIG NEWS DCHers. (I’m so excited.) We’ve got company. Well, we don’t have company yet. But we are EXPECTING company. (I’m so, SO excited.) And it is not just ANY company, we’ve got dinner company! Company coming for dinner! (AHHH EXCITEMENT!)

So bust out the fine china, dust off those drapes, and tell the oven to start heating itself up because this Saturday, July 18, we have Dinner…with the Nolens!

Dinner with the Nolens, huh? Well since this interview is magically in person and LIVE, let’s have it over dinner! Where are we and what are we having?!

We're in Texas, so it's got to be Mexican or TexMex. Moving to Pittsburgh has been amazing in all ways...except in delicious Mexican food. So two veggie burritos with guac, please, and Cerveza!

Tell us a little bit about your improv journeys. Where are you from, where you’ve been, and where you are now?

Kristy: I started back at Ohio University in Athens as an acting student, which is what I thought I was going to do in Chicago. Then a friend encouraged me to take an intro to Improv Class at Second City. Well, I was hooked and never looked back. Since then I've performed and lived in Chicago, L.A., Amsterdam, and now back in Pittsburgh, where I'm from, with an improv career that spans 20 years. Jethro: I started doing improv in college with short form, like a lot of folks. I actually started with Chad Haught and some others at Texas A&M. After college, I moved to Chicago and studied at IO doing mostly long form, then it was on to Amsterdam, L.A., and now Pittsburgh.

So you guys are more than just scene partners, you’re married! What’s a like getting to perform together?

Kristy: That’s true! We met performing on a team at iO Theater in Chicago with a group called Preponderate but didn't start dating until we both found ourselves at Boom Chicago in Amsterdam a year later. So being good in scenes together came first and relationship second. We just celebrated 13 years of marriage (and have a daughter named Madeline who is 12), so now it's marriage first but we try to do a good job balancing both. Family first was hard as we opened up our new theater two years ago in Pittsburgh, but I think we're doing a better job now.


Jethro: Oh, it’s fantastic. I think that all the really solid improv groups I’ve been a part of really get to know each other off stage. It takes time for you to be able to read each other and get comfortable. With Kristy, more often than not, she knows where I’m going and I know where she’s going, so hopefully that comes across on stage.

You are both co-founders of the Arcade Comedy Theater in Pittsburgh. What’s the story there? What’s the mission of the theater? Other fun facts?

Kristy: YES! Opening a theater in my home town is a dream come true. When I left after college, I just couldn't see a path to becoming a theater professional because even our big regional theater the Pittsburgh Public Theater did the majority of casting in N.Y. & L.A. And when I first was in Chicago, regional improv theaters weren't really a thing either. Now regional comedy theaters seem to be popping up everywhere! So the story is pretty simple, when we got to town four years ago, at a weekly improv jam, we became friends with other likeminded people that thought it would be great to bring comedy to downtown. So as two of five founders, along with Abby Fudor, Mike Rubino, and Randy Kirk, we brought our idea to the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust who helped our newly formed non-profit theater acquire a storefront. Three months later we opened Arcade Comedy Theater. Our mission is to elevate and advance the art of comedy in Pittsburgh. To that end, we have improv, sketch, stand up, variety shows...anything that falls under the umbrella of comedy. Fun Fact: our daughter wanted to name it The Laughingstock Theater which I still think would be a great comedy theater name (she's totally on board with Arcade now). Jethro: We performed and worked for several comedy theaters in our lives and feel like we have reasonably well informed opinions about what makes a place successful. We wanted to create that place and put that knowledge to good use. Pittsburgh was really right for that when we moved there. We are open to all kinds of comedy--short form, long form--we are up for whatever is funny. We want to encourage artistic freedom so that the audiences keep coming and people continue to learn. We cultivate an environment that’s welcoming and produces good work.

DCH is lucky to have you and your anniversary show, Dinner with the Nolens, down for a visit. What can the audience expect? (Besides awesomeness, of course.)

Kristy: We’re lucky to have a chance to play with DCH! Jethro is from Arlington, so it's a wonderful opportunity to play with old friends and meet new ones. Dinner with the Nolens starts with us all heading out for a bite to in the real world! Talking about topics that are important to people helps achieve a familiarity on stage deeper then your more traditional Zip, Zap, Zop. The show is long form, and we try to have fun, complex characters with listening being a top priority. What's fun is that the show is different with each new improv duo we play with. We're learning that it makes a much better show to capitalize on the strengths of your partners, rather than have them fit into a preconceived improv show or style that doesn't fit them. Our goal is to end not just with an enjoyable show but with two new improv friends. Jethro: We are playing with someone I started my improv career with in college, Emily Alexander, and her husband Dale. It’s great to be able to perform with people we’ve known for along time. It’s also great that we are two married couples. By virtue of effect, married people who have know each other for a long time can play much deeper games with each other on stage.

What is your favorite rule of improv that also applies to real life?

Kristy: Agreement has lead me to friends, a husband, a family, and comedy theater in a town I love. Where would I be if I hadn't said "Yes, And" to Jethro? Jethro: Follow the fear. I think that often we shy away from things that make us uncomfortable, but if we are willing to overcome that barrier of fear there is interesting stuff out there waiting for us.

Dinner with the Nolens takes place at the Dallas Comedy House at 8 p.m. on Saturday, July 18. Tickets can be purchased in advance.

Tori Oman is a Level Five student at DCH. She’s trained and performed with the Second City and iO in L.A. and Chicago. Favorite pastimes include being irrationally competitive at Monopoly, eating an apple in every country she’s traveled to, and being the sole person on this planet that thinks Necco Wafers are a delicious candy choice.