Best Bets: Delaware Comedy Theatre brings laughs to Milton Theatre

The Delaware Comedy Theatre will show off its improvisational comedy skills for a show Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Milton Theatre. (Submitted photo)

A professional comedy actor and writer in Los Angeles, David Warrick wanted to continue the laughs when he moved to Delaware in 2004.

That’s why he and his wife Amy started the Delaware Comedy Theatre in 2005 in the Rehoboth Beach area.

“We were lonely and missed the comedy scene of L.A.,” said Mr. Warrick, the theatre’s artistic director. “We wanted stuff to do, especially in the offseason. We wanted to keep the comedy thing going and have some fun. We gathered a really great group of people who became a really close group of friends.”

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Mr. Warrick did improv comedy with Los Angeles Theatre Sports and sketch comedy at LA’s Second City. He and Mrs. Warrick also wrote for Paramount and Disney Television.

They left Los Angeles for Rehoboth Beach, where Mrs. Warrick grew up, in 2004 when they had their son.

After a year of teaching improvisational comedy in the beach area, Mr. Warrick and company decided to form the theater group and start performing. Their first show took place at The Rusty Rudder in Dewey Beach in July of 2005, where they drew about 250 people.

“I think it’s the biggest audience we’ve ever played to. It showed that people wanted something like this. It was a good experiment that paid off,” he said.

Now going into its 14th year, the Delaware Comedy Theatre will bring their improv games and spontaneous laughs to The Milton Theatre tonight for a show at 8.

The group plays short-form and medium-form comedy “games” of the sort found on the long-running TV show “Whose Line is it Anyway?”

Its main core of over a dozen people stayed together for about eight years before slowly dissipating.

“I thought about ending the group about five years ago,” Mr. Warrick said. “But new people came in and with them came offers to perform at the Milton Theatre and Clear Space Theatre in Rehoboth. So everything sort of got renewed five years ago and we’ve been going strong ever since.”

Delaware Comedy Theatre performs over the summer at Clear Space in a slightly more suggestive version than audiences will see in a theater such as the Milton venue.

The group also performs at private parties, corporate functions and has been seen at Dover’s now-defunct Schwartz Center for the Arts.

Members come from all walks of life. A few people, like Mr. Warrick who is a drama teacher at Sussex Central High, are educators, while others include a civil engineer, mothers, therapists, seniors and students.

Mr. Warrick said that a good chunk of the group are teachers isn’t an accident.

“I think improv and teaching can feed into each other. They are already used to thinking on their feet and the improv training can make them more flexible. The only teaching required from me is to teach them the rules of whatever game we are playing,” he said.

Others in the group aren’t necessarily as interested in the performing aspect of it. They seek to get better in their jobs or life in general.

“I’ve had a realtor who wanted to excel in public speaking and become a more effective manager and he turned out to be an excellent improviser,” Mr. Warrick said.

“I’ve had people who wanted to restart their acting careers and writers who wanted to become standup comedians. I had a lady who had just lost her husband. She just wanted to stop being shy and be able to talk to and meet more people. People have all sorts of reasons to join the group.”

While taking classes or rehearsing to learn to be more spontaneous seems counterintuitive, Mr. Warrick says not so fast.

“I took classes with a master in the art of improv Keith Johnstone who wrote a book called ‘Impro.’ He lays it all out and says school kills spontaneity. I try to keep spontaneity alive in the classes that I teach at Central,” Mr. Warrick said.

“You start saying no to everything and want to do everything to keep from putting yourself out there. A lot of improv is unlearning to get yourself out of your own way.

“You focus on games like speaking in sentences where the start of the next word is the next letter of the alphabet. So you’re focusing on the game instead of focusing on being on stage in front of people and you end up creating great scenes.”

He likened improv comedy to a sport.

“You have to practice a lot to get good. In sports there is a ton of spontaneity because you don’t know where the ball is going to go. So you need to practice the skills in order to meet that ball or puck. And if you don’t practice, you might get injured. Same with improv — if you don’t rehearse a lot, you don’t flex that brain muscle in order to be successful,” he said.

Tonight’s show will consist of six to 10 members of the comedy troupe with a musician to add some melodious notes to the evening of laughs. Mr. Warrick hosts the evening but also gets involved in a few of the games.

“At it’s heart, improv can be really unpredictable and I think that wildness is really appealing to a lot of people,” he said.

Tickets are $10-$15. They can be purchased online at www.MiltonTheatre.com, via phone by calling 302-684-3038 or at the box office at 110 Union St.

This event is for those 18 years or older. Minors are welcome if accompanied by a parent or guardian.

Bug & Bud date change

Downtown Milford’s Bug & Bud Festival, cosponsored by Downtown Milford, Inc. and the city of Milford’s Parks & Recreation Department, is changing this year’s date to Saturday, May 4.

Traditionally held on the last Saturday in April, the festival celebrating the Delaware state bug, the ladybug and Arbor Day ran into a scheduling snag.

This year, Milford School District’s spring break coincides with the traditional date of the festival. Because student and parent involvement are key to a the festival, the decision to change the date was made. Without the involvement of these volunteers, organizers were concerned that the festival would not run as smoothly as it has in the past. The potential loss of school-related participation, especially musical groups and Kids Corner volunteers, was a major consideration, officials say.

The date may be changing, but the time (9 a.m.-4 p.m.) and location, along Walnut Street and the Mispillion Riverwalk in historic downtown Milford, remain the same.

The day’s traditional activities and new ones, including an expanded Kid Zone, food and craft vendors, entertainment, and nature-related activities are all on tap.

Casting call

Dover community activist Dr. Benita Rufus-Gassi has a role in a new movie made in New York called “A Jamaican Story,” where she plays the part of a media star. It will be out later this year.

At a private screening of the movie Gerald G. Money, CEO of GM Entertainment, thought Dr. Rufus-Gassi stood out and was cast in his film “The Chronicles of the New Jack Era.”

Mr. Money is the actual person on whom the 1991 movie “New Jack City” is based.

“The Chronicles of the New Jack Era” will have scenes shot in Delaware. A casting call will be held on Jan. 25 from 4 to 8 p.m. at Allure nightclub, 865 N. Dupont Highway, Dover.

Attendees must bring a professional head shot and dress to impress. It is advised the folks watch “New Jack City” to get some background. There will be interviews and a photo shoot for those who have already been cast.

A release party will start directly after at 8:30 pm. They will be filming for “The Ms. Benita Show” and for the movie that evening.

Coffee house concert

On Saturday, Jan. 19, Delaware Friends of Folk will present their monthly coffee house concert in the Bennett Chapel at Wesley College, corner of Division and North Bradford streets in Dover, beginning at 7:30 pm.

This event features two traditional folk instruments, the lute and the Celtic (folk) harp. Grammy-nominated lutenist Ronn McFarlane brings the lute into today’s musical mainstream making it accessible to a wider audience.

Since taking up the lute in 1978, Mr. McFarlane has made his mark in music as the founder of Ayreheart, a founding member of the Baltimore Consort, touring 49 of the 50 United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and as a guest artist with Apollo’s Fire, The Bach Sinfonia, The Catacoustic Consort, The Folger Consort, Houston Grand Opera, The Oregon Symphony, The Portland Baroque Orchestra, and The Indianapolis Baroque Orchestra.

Opening the evening will be Dover Celtic harper Mike Nielsen. He plays harp for weddings, receptions, cocktail hours and other festive occasions and has been a professional harper in Delaware for over 20 years.

Admission is $7 for members of Delaware Friends of Folk, $10 for nonmembers, and those 12 and under are admitted free. Fresh-brewed coffee, baked cookies and other snacks will be available.

Blues sendoff (Part 2)

Postponed from last week due to the wintry weather, on Sunday, the Central Delaware Blues Society will raise money to send this year’s Battle of the Bands winner, Sussex County’s lower case blues to the International Blues Challenge in Memphis later this year.

The event, set at Jonathan’s Landing in Magnolia, will feature lower case blues along with Barrelhouse, The Blues Reincarnation Project, The Grey Fox Band and The Tom Craig Band.

There will be a 50/50 drawing and auctions.

Doors open at noon, music starts at 1 p.m.

Suggested donation is $10 (members) and $15 (non-members).

Caliendo tonight

Finally, as of Thursday afternoon, only a limited number of single tickets were left for tonight’s Frank Caliendo show at Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center.

As we told you last week, the comedian and impressionist’s national breakthrough came as a cast member on the television sketch comedy series “Mad TV” (2001-06). Later, he starred in his own series “Frank TV” (2007-08).

Football fans also saw Mr. Caliendo’s impressions and NFL predictions each Sunday for 10 seasons (2003-12) as a guest on the “Fox NFL Sunday” pregame show.

Mr. Caliendo has also made frequent appearances on ESPN’s “Sunday NFL Countdown” program and has hosted comedy specials on TBS and Comedy Central.

Tickets range from $30-$50 and can be purchased at DoverDowns.com.

Now Showing

New in theaters this weekend is the M. Night Shyamalan-directed thriller “Glass.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is the Neil Armstrong biopic “First Man,” the teen drama “The Hate U Give” and the comedy “Johnny English Strikes Back.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

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