Spotlight On: Crossed Wires

“Expect a show that is like going to a movie theater to see a movie, but the movie theater is stuck in a tornado.”

Crossed Wires is an improv duo featuring Amanda Rogers and Steve Wyeth. Based out of Madison, Wisconsin, Crossed Wires will be performing in tbe 6 o’clock block on Saturday night of the 2020 Countdown Improv Festival. In this spotlight interview, Rogers and Wyeth talk about their show format, the genesis of their duo, and the top post-show hangout spots in Madison.

We are so excited that Crossed Wires is back for the second year in a row! For the benefit of people who haven’t seen you perform, can you describe your show for us? What can audiences expect to see this year?

Steve Wyeth: Fortunately, it looks like we’re able to use the Atlas stage to do the show, so you’ll be getting the full effect. We basically perform a short movie, with tons of action, montages, and even music! It’s a wild ride!

Amanda Rogers: Expect a show that is like going to a movie theater to see a movie, but the movie theater is stuck in a tornado.

The “ABC Title” show format has been an Atlas Improv Co. favorite for years. How have the two of you taken that format and made it your own? What distinguishes a Crossed Wires ABC Title show from other takes on the format? 

SW: It tends to be a lot faster paced, for better or worse. Also, because we always intended to take it on the road, we provide our own sound track. The biggest difference however, is we bring a really — I don’t want to say goofy — but goofy energy to the format.

AR: Our version of ABC Title takes out the beginning elimination round and streamlines it in a way that allows us to blend our stories a bit. 

What are some of your favorite and least-favorite movie genres to perform, and why?

SW: I like action and horror best, for this format. They allow us to do big, wild stuff. Crossed Wires is at its best when we can hit the gas. Least favorite? Rom Com. It just doesn’t move that fast, which I don’t mind in some cases, but I think it’s better suited to an ensemble. What I’d love to try sometime is a musical!

AR: Favorite Genre: Light-hearted horror because… I like to play murder, for fun? Hate: Rom-Coms… Ugh, feelings…

You both perform as part of a larger ensemble at Atlas Improv Co. in Madison, Wisconsin. What inspired the two of you to start working together as a duo? How do your performance styles complement each other?

SW: My recollection of how we got started is that we were having drinks after a show. It was a pretty light crew hanging, myself and Amanda, and maybe two other people. The discussion was on teams, generally. Atlas artistic director Dan Row had put an idea out there of Atlas members forming smaller teams, in order to better travel to festivals. Amanda was pretty new to the company at that time, though I already viewed her as a very strong performer; she mentioned that she wanted to try a two person narrative format, but wasn’t sure who to ask; I said I’d do it. I don’t think she a hundred percent believed me, at the time. But, we got started, and it was clear to me at our first practice that this was going to be something special. We both have big time energy that we bring to the stage; Amanda is full of wild ideas, and I have this “go for it” mentality, and we just really complement each other.

AR: I really wanted to do a two person team for narrative and Steve offered to be in it. That was super cool. I feel like our improv styles are alike in a way that allows us to be on the same page easily, but are also flexible enough to go jump on the first idea. That makes our show seem like a runaway train. Just constantly moving forward. 

We love Atlas and we love Madison, and we can’t wait to come back there and hang out with you guys soon. In the meantime, please rank the following post-show Atlas hangout options from best to worst, and please explain your rankings:

  • Star Bar
  • The Brass Ring
  • The Tornado Room
  • Francisco’s (note: the internet tells us that they might have gone out of business)
  • Drinking Grain Belts that had previously been chilling in Steve’s car
  • Going home and taking a shower
  • Essen Haus
  • SW: 1: Essen Haus, it is the place of friendship and joy! Do they have the best drinks? No. The best food? No. Is the polka band sometimes infuriating? Yes. But it has an undefinable magic.
  • 2: Grain Belts from my car. Other than Grain Belt being the best beer in existence, it usually means a chill night hanging at the space.
  • 3: Tornado Room, and an excellent steak. This would be higher on my list, but the chances of getting a table are so low; maybe one out of three times can we get in.
  • 4: Star Bar. It’s close, and it has character.
  • 5: Francisco’s, RIP. A longer walk, but pretty good tacos. Sadly, it is no more.
  • 6: The Brass Ring. It kind of has everything you want: good drink selection, serves food. But, it is merely adequate quality, and lacks character.
  • 7: Going home. I’m usually too wound up to get to sleep anyway, so I’d rather stay out and be with friends who have had a truly meaningful impact on my life. I might also have a drinking problem.
  • AR: #1 Essen HAUS- the place of friendship and love
  • #2 Tornado Room- those steak sammies are amazing
  • #3 Brass Ring- would be higher on the list if they didn’t close so damn early.
  • #4 drinking Grain Belt (love chilling at the space)
  • #5 going home and taking a shower
  • #6 Franciscos is dead and I’m not even mad
  • #7 Star bar- too loud/ if the outside is open it’s up to a # 5

Finally, who do you think will be inducted into the Countdown Improv Festival Hall of Fame this year?

SW: Barack Obama. Remember him? I don’t remember any improv festivals getting forced online when he was president.

AR: I think you guys should be in the Hall of Fame because I love you so much!