Spitfire Spotlight: Michael Shurtz

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What’s your day job?

Production Manager at the Center for the Arts at River Ridge.

Do you have any hobbies outside of improv?

Dungeons and Dragons, watching professional wrestling, playing video games, and a lot of other nerdy stuff.

What drew you to improv?

Comedy in general was something I gravitated toward at a very young age. However, my first exposure to improv was the U.S. version of Whose Line Is It Anyway and I loved it to the point that it annoyed the hell out of my mom. I first got started doing improv on a church team when I was 14 and was trained by an improviser from Chicago. It was almost a full year and a half before I actually performed improv in front of an audience. Until that point, we would practice to an empty room just honing the craft.

What do you like to do most on stage?

I like to play with space and time or personify objects and ideas rather than just people. For example, I’ve done a scene where everyone in it was representing a different drug and we were in a “waiting room” waiting for someone to take us (pictured below). Playing in the abstract is always a ton of fun.

Craig Lawrence as ambien, Chad Zeller as cocaine, Andrew Bekas as LSD, and Michael Shurtz as salvia. You can watch the full scene  here , starting at 39:45.

Craig Lawrence as ambien, Chad Zeller as cocaine, Andrew Bekas as LSD, and Michael Shurtz as salvia. You can watch the full scene here, starting at 39:45.

What makes a good scene in your opinion?

I think the largest compliment an improviser can receive is an audience member forgetting or not believing that it was all made up. Tricking the audience, even just for a moment, that it’s been rehearsed and written is magic. So to have a good improv scene, you really need all the elements of a good rehearsed scene. Defined characters, clear goals and motivations, an interesting story hook, and a satisfying ending. These things can be as ordinary or fantastical as they need to be, as long as they’re present. I guess it helps if it’s funny, too.

What's the most memorable moment you've had at Spitfire?

I did a two-person set with another performer named Andrew and it was one of the most exhilarating performances I’ve done in years. We were both so honest, in the moment, and downright hilarious that night. I know the audience felt some of the magic, too. I would really love to perform with Andrew again.

How would you explain Spitfire shows to someone who's never been?

Any Spitfire production is polished, professional, and hysterically funny. When you have a theater that specializes in improv and everyone involved loves it as much as the next person, you get an amazing end product.

How would you describe the Spitfire community in 5 words or less?

Usually eating at The Burg.

Brian Roller, Nadine Noky, Michael Shurtz, and Zach Mouriz playing Family Vacation in Whose Line St Pete.

Brian Roller, Nadine Noky, Michael Shurtz, and Zach Mouriz playing Family Vacation in Whose Line St Pete.

You can see Michael Shurtz perform in Whose Line St Pete, 3 First Dates, and Funny You Should Ask. His teams, Big Ray’s Rib Shack and Shurtz & Tights, perform in The Spitfire Open.