In an effort to encourage local stand-up comedy and continue renovations at the building, Scene One Theatre will host a Comedy Night Fundraiser on Saturday.
The one-night only comedy show will feature five comedians from Jefferson City and Columbia, each doing a set of about 10 minutes of original material. Doors will open at 7 p.m. Saturday, with original music being performed by local musician Erin Lammers, a student at Helias Catholic High School, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Lammers has begun recording her original music, and Ben Stumpe said people can find her music on Spotify or Apple Music as Erin Mitchell. The actual comedy will begin at 8:30 p.m.
"It's just a nice way to promote another local original artist," event organizer Amy Pringer said of having Lammers perform Saturday.
Since moving to a new space on Ohio Street last year, Scene One has been working to renovate it to match its purpose as a black box theater, a type of space where distractions are minimized to enable audiences to be fully immersed in the show being presented.
"It's about a transformation into a blank canvas," Pringer said. "When you go into a theater, you think 'I'm going to sit in seats and there's going to be this curtain and there's going to be a stage.' Well, black box takes that away so you're not distracted by that. You can really focus on the raw talent that's on stage. It's just a very different experience."
A lot has already been done or is in progress. However, there is at least one major project remaining — flooring. Pringer said the existing carpet isn't right for what Scene One should be, but it's glued down, meaning the process of taking it up is time consuming and costly as the glue will have to be ground down.
"As a black box theater, you really want this blank, dark space in order to let your audience's focus on what's important, which is the scripts, the performance, the actual art," Pringer said. "(Taking up the carpet) will make it more flexible as a space."
Pringer noted Scene One is a nonprofit and all the funds that come to the theater are put back into it.
She said the theater's regulars are trying to do as much as possible themselves, but they want to be careful and make sure this is done right, especially considering the building shares space with a day care below and tenants above.
Ben Stumpe, a recent Helias graduate, will be one of the comedians as well as the emcee of the event. Stumpe has been doing stand-up for about a year and a half, performing in Columbia. Pringer said when she heard about his comedy, she suggested to Mark Wegman, founder and president of Scene One, that they hold a comedy night.
Stumpe said he began getting into comedy through watching stand-up specials and other comedy shows, such as "Saturday Night Live," on TV. Some of his favorite comedians include Brian Regan, Ellen DeGeneres, Daniel Tosh and Jim Gaffigan.
"I just wanted to make people laugh," Stumpe said, noting he started with theater and taking speech and debate in school.
He then transitioned to writing his own skits and plays at Scene One before taking on stand-up for the first time. However, Pringer said Stumpe has always had an instinct "to be a goofball out in front of everybody," and stand-up was just formalizing that natural ability.
"He's just refined his approach with comedy and writing," Pringer said. "He's done phenomenal stuff."
Stumpe said being on stage as a stand up comedian is a totally different experience than going on as an actor. In acting, he said, there's often other people and elements on stage and audiences can be focused on different aspects of a show, where in stand-up it's just that one person all alone.
"You're the only one on stage and you have their attention," Stumpe said. "In stand-up you have to elicit laughter. You're a writer and a performer, you have to combine those two to make your own act."
Stumpe said he has taken some courses through Second City, the renowned comedy club based in Chicago that has turned out countless household names in stand-up and acting, including Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Alan Alda, Bill Murray and John Belushi.
Stumpe will be heading north soon, moving to Chicago to study at DePaul University, where he will major in communication and media, and minor in theater studies. He said he's excited to start, noting several comedy clubs are within walking distance from his school.
The show Saturday will include free popcorn, along with a cash bar and drink specials provided by Shrunken Head Tropic Lounge. Proceeds from the drink specials will also go toward the flooring renovation at Scene One. Pringer noted the show is meant for those 18 and older, primarily because of the material that will be performed. Other than Stumpe, performers will include Cole Brendel, Aaron Nickens, Kovoski George and Clayton Mistler.
Pringer hopes they can "pack the house" Saturday in support of local comedians and the theater itself.