With a roster of more than 40 skilled improvisers, Theatre 99 co-founders Brandy Sullivan and Greg Tavares have assembled the comedic equivalent of the Avengers. Each member brings their own particular skills to the stage, and the revolving lineup keeps things fresh in a way that few other shows can.
"The big rule in improvisation is you should be able to play with anybody. So that's what our concept for the Meeting Street Maniacs is — any six, seven, or eight members of our ensemble in a group doing long-form improvisation together," says Tavares. "Because there are so many different combinations between 45 people, you'll never see the same group twice, and they get a thrill from working together as well. It's like pick-up basketball but funny."
While the Theatre 99 roster was bursting at the seams with talent and regularly performing, Sullivan and Tavares realized they had yet to name the group. Looking at the manic nature of each performance, both from the audience and performers' perspective, they decided to brand the ensemble as the Meeting Street Maniacs.
As has long been the goal of Theatre 99 and the Charleston Comedy Festival, the Maniacs highlight the best in local comedy, with performers capable of holding their own among touring acts from all across the nation.
"You can't have a festival and shut out your local people. That doesn't make any sense. We're local artists, so it'd be like shutting out ourselves," says Tavares. "We feel like the work we do here — and I don't mean we as just Brandy and myself, but everything underneath the improv at Theatre 99 — is world class and just as good as anything we bring in from off."
And just as important as having the opportunity to shine on stage, the Maniacs crew is able to share a good time with their fellow local performers and hometown crowd.
"Getting together with a bunch of comedy people and improvisers, it's a party," says Sullivan. "It's super positive, fun, and funny. Everybody is so different. It's a very eclectic group of folks."