If you like comedy, get ready to feel like a kid in a candy store. Or at the very least, someone who’s excited to learn about a Jamaica Plain space hosting comedy shows three nights a week.
Spearheaded by Boston Latin theater teacher and JP resident Joseph Gels, The Riot Theater opened its doors Halloween weekend with five improv shows scheduled Thursday through Saturday, joining Greater Boston’s already thriving comedy scene. Currently the programming only includes improv groups, but Gels says there’s plans to diversify in the future: Stand-up is slated to begin on January 8, a theatrical production has set its sight on a short run this summer, and MassMouth has already joined in, working on collaborative routines with Improv Jones, the theater’s producing group. But even without the varied genres, the lineup has a lot to offer, each troupe touting its own aesthetic. Included in the mix are the aforementioned Joneses, nationwide outfit Comedysportz, the who-done-it comedy narrative Bistany’s Mysteries, ImprovBoston’s Touring Company, and, on Thursdays, an indie night, which invites groups with varying experience, from people with, say, five years in comedy under their belts to a group that might be putting on its first show ever.
Since opening, the cozy storefront 49-seat theater (which is shared with A Far Cry Orchestra) has seen audiences ranging from single-digit crowds to a full house, the numbers growing more consistent each week as audience members spread the word to friends. But Gels is hoping that soon, they’ll be “getting the randos off the street—that’s really a big thing.”
“All the shows we’ve been having have been great. Even when there have been smaller crowds, the space is still able to feel very intimate,” says Gels between bites of a sugar cookie at Fiore Bakery, just blocks from The Riot. “We’ve even had a couple shows that have only had like four people at them, but those four people were dying. What I’m really hoping for is just a space that’s able to sustain itself. I’d like to get more people in the door to see how awesome the shows we are doing are. And I want it to be a space where artists can grow. Hopefully we’ll start getting some performers from JP who want to be there and become part of that community as well.”
As for getting the JP community involved—as audience members or as performers—The Riot’s prime “main street” location right next door to Jeanie Johnston’s can only help the cause. “Come have a laugh, go back for a beer,” says Gel. “All the performers will be going for a beer after the show.”
THE RIOT THEATER, 146A SOUTH ST., JAMAICA PLAIN. THERIOTTHEATER.COM