SPEECHLESS, Silicon Valley's PowerPoint Improv Throwdown, Returns 8/20 at Public Works

Silicon Valley's monthly public PowerPoint throwdown, SPEECHLESS, will launch a pre-show open mic, in which techies used to giving presentations can take the stage. Called Crowdsourced, this warm-up invites the public to try their hand at the hit PowerPoint comedy show, with the winner competing against seasoned professionals at the live show.

Apart from the open mic winner, SPEECHLESS' participants in the show 7:30pm August 20 (open mic begins at 6:30pm), will include former audience volunteer Ben Cohn, Web Developer Rajeev Dhar, actor Mariah Howard, and former SPEECHLESS champion Olive Mitra.

SPEECHLESS takes place one Thursday each month at Public Works, 161 Erie Street, in San Francisco's Mission District (off Mission between 13th and 14th Streets). Admission is $12 advance/$20 at the door. A full bar is available, doors open at 6pm for Crowdsourced, open mic will begin at 6:30pm August 20. Upcoming SPEECHLESS shows include: 7:30pm Thursdays with exceptions, August 20, September 18 at the San Francisco Improv Festival, October 15 at Public Works. Information can be found at www.speechlesslive.com and www.facebook.com/speechlesssf.

It is estimated that every second, in offices around the globe, some 350 PowerPoint presentations are given (21,000 per minute, 1.26 million per hour). Hapless workers from Cupertino to Chengdu are pinned to their plastic chairs, fighting sleep, while managers, developers, and sales leaders drone on and on, aided by visual charts, graphs and photos. In response comes SPEECHLESS, Silicon Valley's hilarious, snarky, irreverent entertainment, in which tech workers, entrepreneurs, and entertainers live out their worst nightmares to the vast amusement of packed houses. Created by Sammy Wegent and produced by Scott Lifton (Mortified SF) and Anthony Veneziale (Freestyle Love Supreme), SPEECHLESS puts players on the spot with nothing more than a stage, a microphone, and a PowerPoint deck of images they've never seen. The result is a series of fall-down laugh-riot presentations, often presented by engineers, programmers, and product developers from major tech companies, vying for prizes and bragging rights.

At each show, a virtual spinning wheel (developed by a software engineer, of course) determines what kind of random talk the speaker must give - it may be a TED Talk, app launch, new hire orientation, video game pitch, quarterly report, even a sexual harassment seminar - while outrageous slides are presented to accompany their talks. A panel of judges scores each presentation on a F.U.T.I.L.E. system (Funny, Understandable, Transcendent, Informative, Legendary, Entertaining). Contestants are chosen via advance web applications, with one audience member selected at each performance to participate.

In addition to its monthly performances, the SPEECHLESS team has also entertained and trained at some of Silicon Valley's most innovative companies, including Google and IDEO. SPEECHLESS has been showcased at comedy festivals including SF Sketchfest, the San Francisco Improv Festival, and the tech conference Funnybiz. From Walmart's head office in Bentonville, Arkansas to Google's campus in Bangalore, India, SPEECHLESS is going global one PowerPoint deck at a time. The company has just launched SPEECHLESS 101, a series of interactive on-your-feet classes open to the public offering training in the art of off-the-cuff presentation.

SPEECHLESS is the brainchild of Sammy Wegent, Senior Game Writer and Narrative Designer for Zynga where he helped launch FarmVille 2: Country Escape for iOS and Android. Wegent, who acts as onstage host for SPEECHLESS, is also an actor/comedian/writer /director/producer/teacher, who has been seen in national television shows and commercials, and has performed comedy in venues and festivals across North America, including the Chicago Improv Festival, YouTube Live, SF Sketchfest, the Toronto International Improv Festival and more. He is a past winner of the Battle of the Bay Comedy Competition and still holds the title, "The Funniest Person in the Bay Area." Wegent has made dozens of online comedy videos and short films, including the autobiographical web series, Everybody's A Comedian. He has taught acting, writing, improvisation, and stand up comedy at several institutions including the San Francisco Comedy College, University of California Berkeley, and Georgetown University.

Producer Scott Lifton has been the Producer and Host since 2005 of Mortified (www.getmortified.com), a live stage show created in Los Angeles that has branched to nine cities, spawned two books, a television show (The Mortified Sessions on The Sundance Channel), and a hit documentary (Mortified Nation). He has been running Mortified in the East Bay for the past eight years, developing talent, editing material, and promoting. The show has grown to become the most successful of all nine cities, selling out to an audience of 800 people every month in both SF and Oakland. Lifton is also a leader in corporate team building, leading and producing events all over the country, for major companies including Google, Apple, Microsoft, and Goldman Sachs. As a theatre producer, he has produced several comedic musical plays, including Spring Break the Musical, and Heavy Metal Playground, winner of the Best of Fringe Festival Award in San Francisco.

Producer Anthony Veneziale, is also a writer, director, and actor. He is an original producer of PBS' re-launch of The Electric Company, the Tony Award winning In the Heights, and the San Francisco Improv Festival. As an actor, he appeared in Che (dir. Soderbergh), Hereafter (dir. Eastwood), Trauma (NBC), All My Children (ABC), Sex and the City and Looking (both for HBO). He also created a television pilot for Adult Swim of his freestyle rap theater show called Freestyle Love Supreme which received new life on the Pivot network last spring and will be airing in the fall 2014. Freestyle Love Supreme has toured all over the world to sold-out houses in Edinburgh, Montreal, Aspen, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York City, and London. Anthony has also taught improv for the past 15 years around the country and has written for Sesame Street (PBS) and WallyKazam (Nickelodeon).

Pictured: Contestant William Hall had to incorporate this outrageous picture into an impromptu PowerPoint presentation in SPEECHLESS. Photo by David Allen.

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