Laughtrack: The Little Theater That Could, Did and Will

Laughtrack Theater Front Doors

Laughtrack Theater opened its doors for its first public performance on Friday, September 8, 2008

This past Saturday, August 23, 2011, was a bittersweet day for me. Shannon Winpenny and Kim Potter, the awesome proprietors of Laughtrack Theater, announced at the end of their 10pm show that Laughtrack would be temporarily closing its door and that we had just witnessed the final performance (a damn awesome one at that!!!) at the original Laughtrack Theater site. And with those words Laughtrack’s 3-year history of bringing the art of long-form improvisation to the masses of Honolulu came to a sudden, surprise stop (for now).

For myself it was a hard thing to hear. A ton of emotions flooded me. Sadness. Hope. As Shannon called all present and past LTC performers to stage for a final bow and I made my way up on stage and stared into the crowd I thought about all the great times I had during my time as a student at FISW and performing under the LTC lights. The look of surprise and shock on everyone’s faces, the tears running down Shannon’s face and the ovation from the crowd just made it one of the more surreal moments in my life and for a moment the world stood still.

It was like that moment before impending death when they say your life flashes before your eyes. For me all the times I’d spent in the theater learning the art of improv, performing or just goofing off with all the great people who made and make up the place just came rushing back…

I for one am just so proud of everything our little theater that could has accomplished over the past three years taking the little known (locally) art of long-form improvisation and turning it into an appreciated performing art on the local scene where folks could enjoy its pleasures each and every weekend, Fridays and Saturdays, for a price cheaper than a movie (with BYOB!).

LTC opened in September of 2008 with a dozen performers performing to a crowd of family and friends and a few passersby on the street. Fast forward three years and the fabled LTC stage has seen hundreds of performers and improv students pass through it and has a steady crowd of regulars and sell out shows on weekends along with the famous open mic night every 3rd Thursday of the month. Whether it was first-timers enrolling in the adult or youth improv classes, local troupes looking to build their audience or gain experience or experienced headliners on the national improv scene popping into Honolulu, the LTC stage has seen and done a lot in just three years — all during the WORST ECONOMIC DOWNTURN since the Great Depression. Quite amazing when you think about it.

For myself, I still remember when the theatre was being built over the summer of of 2008 when there was sawdust and wet paint everywhere. I remember the many hours those two awesome women put into the place teaching and overseeing the original FISW classes over at Anna Fishburn’s casting studio and supervising construction/renovation at the LTC site. I can never truly express how much I admire Kim and Shannon for being among those special few folks in life who despite the odds follow their passion and dreams and set out and succeed at what they do and despite the challenges have the conviction to stick with and see it through. They are truly awesome people.

With all the people who’ve passed through LTC over the years perhaps one of the things I am most proud of personally is the fact that, as one of the original performers on its fabled stage, I had the distinct honor of being among the select group of folks to be able to autograph my name on the LTC stage before the final coat of paint was placed over it. While I’ll never rank as one of the top performers to have graced the LTC stage I can always say I left my mark on it 🙂

The official word on the theater’s temporary closure from Kim and Shannon was posted the following day:

A note from Kim and Shannon:

Thank you so much to everyone that came out this weekend and supported all the great ensembles. To the performers, students past and present and all the fans, thank you for allowing us to share our art, our passion and our humor with you. You have welcomed us into your hearts and embraced our artistic endeavors over the last 3 years and we can’t thank you enough.

While the doors are now closed at 1123 Bethel, Laughtrack is only getting bigger, stronger and better and hope to have the new theater space up and running before the holidays. We will continue to be present in the arts district and don’t plan on ever leaving we are just going to be in transition for a bit. So please stay tuned for more details – please check out our web site for details on where you can catch the LTC ensembles around town.

Thank you again for everything – it’s been an amazing journey thus far and we are just getting started.

Aloha, Kim and Shannon and the LTC ‘Ohana

Fund-raising efforts have now started, so visit us online to find out how you can help.

The Official Announcement:

As a committed supporter of Laughtrack Theater Company, we just wanted to keep you in the loop on a few recent developments that will affect our business in the very near future.

A few months ago we were informed by our landlord that our property lease, which expires July 31, is not being renewed, and that our space at 1123 Bethel Street is being leased to the owners of Soul De Cuba restaurant to allow for an expansion of the restaurant.

We requested a two-month lease extension, and after months of negotiation all parties were unable to reach a suitable agreement, which means that we will be vacating our space much sooner than we had expected: We will be moved out of 1123 Bethel Street by the end of this month.

We are currently scouting out vacant spaces in Chinatown that will serve our purpose as a black box improv theater and a training center. We can’t imagine Laughtrack Theater Company feeling at home in any other district than Chinatown. We love being here, we wholeheartedly support the collective vision of the district, and our own company vision is best served by being in Chinatown where our neighbors’ mutual support and commitment to the continuing evolution of the district inspires us to make Laughtrack Theater Company a thriving creative center, as well as a successful business and destination. In other words: We may be leaving 1123 Bethel Street, but we aren’t going anywhere!

We are hopeful that we will find a space that will better accommodate both our theater and our ever-growing training center. After three years in business, we have found that we are quickly outgrowing our current space, so we are taking this opportunity to upgrade.

You have been such a valuable support to us since we first opened our doors, and we are so grateful to you. We are looking forward to a long and lasting relationship as Chinatown neighbors, and we will continue to keep you informed of any developments.
Thank you for your continued support,

Kim and Shannon

It’s NOT quite the final curtain call for Laughtrack but rather merely the end of the first Act. Our little theater that could, did and will in the heart of Chinatown’s Arts District has done so much to add to the great character of Honolulu’s thriving arts scene and has helped provide the launching pad or growth opportunities for so many of Honolulu’s up and coming comics. I for one can’t wait till they find a new space and open their new doors for the next Act in their evolving story. (And hopefully I can autograph the new stage before the last coast of paint!)

For myself, Laughtrack and the training opportunities provided by FISW came at a time in my life where I truly needed to find and develop my voice and the practical tools I took away from the experience alongside the relationships, lifelong memories and just fun times have paid so many dividends to me in life. I am forever a better person for having spent some time delving into improv and sincerely hope one day when life’s not quite as busy I can return to it someday. LTC will always hold a special place for me and to Kim, Shannon and the rest of the awesome cast and crew at LTC I’ll always have your back and you’ll always have my undyling love.

Aaaaand SCENE!

Photo Memories: Laughtrack Theater’s First Three Years

Casual Threat and First Class Perform

First Class and Casual Threat headlined opening night at Laughtrack Theater, Friday, September 8, 2008.

Second Class Citizens

Second Class Citizens photo alongside our instructor the fabulous Shannon Winpenny following our graduation, October 13, 2008. Pictured: Standing — Fernando Pacheco, John Waihee, Kehau Ramirez; Kneeling — Jen Waihee, Sharon Garcia, Shannon Winpenny, myself

Second Class Citizens Promo Shoot

Second Class Citizens promotional photo, November 2008

HOT PROPERTY performing, May 2009

Chocolate Squirrel

Chocolate Squirrel in “Das Auto,” May 2009

As Is

As Is on stage, March 2010

VANS performing, March 2010

Jonathan Pitts Workshop
Laughtrack Graduates undergoing intensive training under Improv guru Jonathan Pitts, September 2009

Laughtrack's Wall of Fame!

Laughtrack’s Wall of Fame featuring class portraits of all it’s graduating troupes.

Oil in the Alley headlined the final night of shows at the old Laughtrack Theater

The legendary Oil in the Alley headlined the final night of shows at the original Laughtrack Theater site. Other final acts included Chocolate Squirrel, Muslin Hamster and Aftermath Saturday, July 23, 2011

My foray into the world of improv getting held up by the hilarious Chris Riel in a performance during the Halloween 2008 show.

Kehau Ramirez and me performing on stage during a Second Class Citizens performance in December 2008.


One response to “Laughtrack: The Little Theater That Could, Did and Will

  1. Pingback: Year End Donations: 2K11 Edition | The 316 Perspective

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