Tag Archives: Hartford

Open Those Doors and Enjoy What You’ve Made – Checking in with Sea Tea Improv

A few years ago, Briana Haynie compiled a series of oral histories about the founding and development of Sea Tea Improv. Over the past year they ran the most successful kickstarter for a comedy theater ever and on August 20th they officially opened their doors to the public! We spoke to Julia Pistel, a founding member and managing director of Sea Tea Improv, in the fleeting calm that would follow opening weekend…


As a founding member of Sea Tea, how does it feel to come this far?

Amazing. It has been so intense for the last year—the founders and owners are just trying to catch our breaths and enjoy what we’ve done. It’s funny, I was going through some old emails—someone was asking us for milestones—and I don’t remember this, but some of our founders were talking about opening a theater one day. Back in 2010 that was unrealistic, so it’s really something we’ve been working slowly but very steadily towards for seven years. It’s really exciting to have those doors open and get to work.

I imagine the role of Managing Director changes from theatre to theatre depending on size and content. Describe your role as the Managing Director for those who may not know what that is.

Let me start by not answering your question and describing the Artistic Director first, and then I’ll describe the difference between the two, because that’s where it gets interesting.

The Artistic Director, as we see it, is to make sure that everything that is happening within the theater is excellent. Of course, that can mean a number of different things. It can be the best improv you’re ever going to see, it can be some really experimental stuff, it can mean including a lot of people. His job is basically to make sure what happens on the stage is reflective of the quality that we want to see and bring to Hartford and Connecticut.

My job as the Managing Director is very different. It’s to keep the doors open, keep the place running and make sure we stay alive. What my job covers right now is a really interesting question because I’m in transition. Until last week, the main focus of my job was to make sure the construction project got finished. Now that it is done, my job is managing the staff that’s working and running the theater; building community relationships and connections to help build out the audience; to keep an eye on the big picture, making sure everything under the umbrella is getting done; and making decisions about what our priorities are as a company to make sure we are fulfilling our mission.

Continue reading Open Those Doors and Enjoy What You’ve Made – Checking in with Sea Tea Improv

The Phoenix Moment: An Oral History of Sea Tea Improv Pt. 3 (Extended Edition)

An Oral History of Sea Tea Improv Pt. 3 (Extended Edition)

By Briana Haynie

In September of 2012, Sea Tea added five new members; Casey Grambo, Helena Morris, Briana Haynie, Jeffrey Schaefer and Zach Herring. As a whole they’re known as Generation 3. In addition to growing in numbers and in presence, Sea Tea was hired by The Mark Twain House in Hartford, CT to perform an interactive live game of Clue, using characters from Mark Twain’s books, inside the author’s historic home.

Soon after Gen 3 started, the company became proud owners of a studio on Pratt Street in Downtown Hartford. One of their proudest achievements yet; it was a major milestone for the company for now they not only could grow their education program but they could also offer up a home for the expanding improv community in Hartford.


JULIA PISTELL: On a certain level the moment I really realized we were getting into something bigger than I originally thought was when our friends, our personal friends, stopped coming to shows and all the shows were full of strangers.

KATE SIDLEY: I think a moment that really crystallized it for me was when we had our photo shoot this year and we recreated the original Sea Tea group photo of all of us walking up a street arm in arm. [This time] we were such a large group that we barely fit in the street and we joked that after our next generation we’re going to need to take a picture of us walking down the highway. That was a big shocking moment for me when I compared those two photos together and thought, “wow this is an army of comedians and how awesome to be a part of forming a comedy army.”

JULIA: I was recognized at CVS by my cashier and that was also, that was like one of the first times I’ve ever been recognized for anything, I was really surprised and until around that time I felt what we were doing was just a very small thing and I realized it was getting larger than I assumed it would.

DAN RUSSELL: The first time we got asked to be on the Colin McEnroe show, that was a big deal, that was pretty early on, that didn’t feel like we deserved it yet. And it wasn’t like it was just a show about improv and we were a guest; we were the topic of the show, the title was Sea Tea Improv and that felt like a big deal. Somebody had heard of us and I didn’t know who they were, it’s local radio but it still felt pretty big.

JOE LEONARDO: Right now it feels big and it doesn’t feel big at the same time. I’m just in a weird limbo where I go to Hartford and I feel accomplished and then I’m in New York City I feel like I’m not trying hard enough, like I’m not working hard enough.

LAURA MANASEWICH: I think probably the studio was a good visual for me to understand what we were. When I started, I wanted to be a part of playing all the time and for me that was what this was always going to be. I think that the realization of having a visual representation and a space to keep our stuff, a name and an address was really when I put it together, this is a big thing, this is bigger than it has been.

Continue reading The Phoenix Moment: An Oral History of Sea Tea Improv Pt. 3 (Extended Edition)

This Year’s Halloween Costume

Briana Haynie

There’s a simple reason why I’m going to be Dexter this Halloween, and it has nothing to do with the TV show because I’ve never seen it. No, my own sick unconscious and suppressed personality has chosen my Halloween costume this year.

Let me explain. A few weeks ago I was in Hartford, CT parking in the Morgan Street garage (a great place to park because after 9 p.m. at night, they never make you pay). I was one of the only people parking; everyone else was leaving. The air was crisp, the first signs of fall. I was in a happy mood, mostly because I sang the song Popular from Wicked all the way from Stamford to Hartford. That’s a two-hour drive with Popular on repeat.

As I walked away from my mother’s Orange Honda Element, I hit the lock button twice simply because on the second hit of the button the car gives out a loud beep, and I wanted to scare the other commuters. No dice; the world today with its fancy talking automobiles, no one even looks up from smart phones when one beeps on its own. Idiots.

I headed west towards the exit. No elevator today, the stairs for me. The crazy straws I call legs could use the work of going down one flight of stairs. As I reached for the door a gust of wind hit me from the south and I noticed a button was undone on my blouse. “Funny,” I thought. “I could have sworn I buttoned that this afternoon. My gut must have grown.” I reached to fix my button with my left hand as I reached for the door handle with my more dominant right hand. All the while looking down, I gave a hefty thrust to the door and the button. One of these actions was met with a scream.

Due to my lack of focus I had accidentally opened the door on two businessmen, almost nicking the nose right off the taller one’s face. I scurried by, embarrassed by my inappropriate lack of clothing (I didn’t manage to button the blouse). The taller man yelled after me, “You could have killed me!”

I stopped, caught off guard by his exaggeration. Slowly, with the air of a hawk noticing his prey, I turned on the balls of my new purple Converse. Smiling a sadistic smile—not unlike the one Flo from Progressive plasters on her face—and without thinking, I said, “Don’t worry. I would have cleaned up the blood.”

Lightning flashed! Thunder boomed! Everything turned black and white, and that was it! That was the moment my true serial killer nature first revealed itself. As I spoke, I continued to turn so that by the time my sentence was finished I was facing down the stairs; a full 360 of terror. Slowly I walked off, listening to the nervous laughter of the businessmen as they continued on their journey home.  As for me, well, I was off to improv.



This Year’s Halloween Costume appears in The Annual #6, Pre-order your copy today!