COVID-19: How to Yes, And in 2020

COVID-19 has had a huge blow across the world. For performers, theatres, and festivals, social distancing can be both emotionally exhausting and financially worrying. It’s been amazing seeing the improv community sharing ideas and love with each other. The following isn’t intended as a definitive resource, but a gathering of some of the best ideas being shared out there. I’ll do my best to credit ideas wherever possible.

Hopefully, these things will help us all get through this safe and sound.

Communications about COVID closures

As theatres, there are a lot of people you need to communicate with to make sure that your message is clear. Some ways of communicating might slip through the cracks with all the other changes. Here are some quick things to remember.

  • Update your webpage to remove any cancelled shows or classes. Put a message on your front page.
  • Update your voicemail (thanks to Jessica Brown for reminding me about this one).
  • Update any automated email lists. Also, send an email to your mailing list.
  • Contact the local press about your closure. Take down any listings.
  • Take your tickets down from any place they’re available online.
  • Contact any business partners.
  • Contact any sponsors. Some sponsorships are based on advertising in your slideshows/programs. Be transparent with them. Most will understand and it will help maintain your relationships down the road.

Pirates of Tokyo Bay added a dedicated page for updates so patrons can gather all this info in one place.

Festivals have some additional concerns:

  • Contact hotels
  • Contact your venue if it’s not your regular venue
  • Obviously contact performers, but also be available to help them to get in touch with their airlines
  • Contact your designers / merchandise providers

Financial Resources During COVID Closures

Covid finances

Image by mohamed mahmoud hassan

For many theatres, after covering rent and utilities each month, they will just break even. Even with a nest egg, savings will deplete quickly.

Local art guilds exist in most places. They’re overwhelmed right now.

Local, state/province, and national governments all have their own programs. It couldn’t hurt to look at their specific relief offerings.

The Improv Stimulus Package is a fundraiser for improv spaces.

Improv Theatre Relief Fund is another fundraiser for improv spaces.

Performing, Watching, and Connecting During COVID Closures

covid performances

Image by mohamed mahmoud hassan

E-MPROV is still going strong.

Oozebear is a place to do online shows with very little technical knowledge needed.

For those with a little more know-how, there are many conferencing tools out there. Zoom seems to be the most commonly used by theatres right now to both improvise with their teams and teach, but experiment with others and see what works best for you and your needs.

P-Graph has always been one of the leading voices out there in playing with technology. They’ve already started streaming. Look to them for ideas (and buy their great book while you’re at it).

The Nursery/Maydays Online Drop-in Class is a great model on moving your classes online.

Tiny Improv Fest – ONLINE Edition is a great online place to share and watch videos set up by John Windmueller and other awesome folks.

Virtual Theatre Education Resources is a huge slew of other resources shared by Stefan Gearhart.

Teaching Theatre Online: COVID-19 A great resource for testing online teaching.

Elana Fishbein is teaching a course online on Sunday March 29th.

Quarantine Improv Facebook Group is not exactly a performance opportunity, but a place for us to share bits and keep each other sane.

Ways to still bring in income with these

Keep gift cards available on your site for future shows.

Leave donation tabs on your website and social media offerings

Sell tickets to your online shows. Be aware that these shows are still in development and people are also underemployed right now, so be more accommodating on ticket prices or sliding scales.

Alternatively, open a Patreon giving donors access to online shows

Don’t be aggressive. Remember, many of your patrons are worried about their own income. Put the ball in their court to make donation and ticket payment options in their hands.


Stay safe out there (and in there). We’re all learning how to cope with this, but improv has always been about adapting. Spolin, The Committee, The Compass, Neutrino – they all learned to reach audiences and celebrate the art in new ways. If we truly believe that a lack of a script is a gift, not an obstacle, then let’s treat COVID the same way. Let’s not view it as an obstacle that hinders our old ways of performing, but as a way to free us to find new ways to celebrate and share improv with people in these days. We hope you will keep supporting each other and sharing what is working for you. Maybe some of these methods will even stick around after theatres open up again, and they will continue to enhance our improv community so we may reach even more people.

Much love to all. Keep washing your hands.


The Hambook is Coming

The HambookOver the past four years, The Hambook has published essays on improvisation for free online. Now, it is releasing all of its works in one hardbound compendium, The Complete Hambook.

The Hambook was conceived in 2015 after I had a whispered conversation with a friend about improv theory. We were at an improv venue’s bar, surrounded by improvisers who had just performed, and felt we couldn’t talk openly about our love for the art form. I felt embarrassed to admit that I loved improvisation and wanted to try new things. Things may have changed now, but around that time, I felt a sincere fear to express an earnest interest in the art. I felt that taking it any more seriously than my peers did might label me as uncool. But the truth was that I had moved across the country to Chicago for improv alone. Not to study comedy, not to find my voice, and not to make it big. Just to improvise.

I went home and looked at my bookshelf and saw books about all sorts of different arts. They discussed new ways of approaching the arts and made new arguments. Then I looked at my improv books, and I only saw a few. All of them said mostly the same stuff, the contents of which had grown stale and hadn’t been updated since their authors first started teaching it back in the 90’s.

I created The Hambook to inspire discussion in a community that desperately needed it. Improv has mostly an oral history, passed from teacher to student, but that knowledge often gets lost in the mix and we barely know who to credit for specific ideas, forms, and moves. I thought that if we could publish a magazine every few months, years from now we would be able to point to the smart individuals who created those ideas. We could also watch as opinions are discussed in real time, as one author reads an essay they disagree with and writes a rebuttal a few months later.

We could also watch how the society surrounding improvisation grows and changes. We could discuss how to live a balanced life as an improviser, how to keep relationships while teams fall apart, how to use improv terminology properly, and how to invest in our audiences. So many positive changes could be made to the culture if we just came at this art formally, proudly, and carefully.

That’s why it had to be a magazine, not a “zine.” It had to be a PDF, not a blog. It had to be a book, not a podcast. I tried to take this project as seriously as possible so that the contributors and readers would feel proud to care about improvisation. As I hold the book in my hands now, I couldn’t be more proud.

The Complete Hambook is over 650 pages, contains over 60 essays, and is being sold at cost, so no one is making money from this project. You can buy it at thehambook.com. Thank you for your support!

Non-Profit vs. for Profit Festivals

“Oh!  An article about the tax implications of various business entities, this is the type of article that improvisers are dying to read,” he said to himself, unaware of his self-delusion.  I nerd out about this stuff and I have helped lots of actors, writers, and other creative professionals decide how to properly structure their businesses from a tax perspective.

Image result for non-profit

What is A Non-Profit?

When it comes to theaters and festivals, the big question is always “Should I be a non-profit company?”  There are different types of 501(c) organizations, but the 501(c)3 is the type we’re talking about – we don’t really have time to get into the rest of them  Let’s first clarify what a non-profit 501(c)3 company is not:

  1. It is not a company that cannot make a profit. There are many profitable non-profit companies (I’ll explain this weird oxymoron in a bit).
  2. Nor is it a company that has to give any profits that it makes to charity or distribute it to its members at the end of the year.
  3. It also is not a type of organization that guarantees that you’re going to be getting hundreds of thousands of dollars in grants your first year in operation. It just makes you eligible to apply for them. Big difference.

So, what is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization?  It is a corporation that is formed within a US state whose sole purpose is some public benefit and whose profits will not benefit any specific individual or individuals.  In a regular company, if you own the company the profits of the company are yours to keep and you’re taxed on those profits.  In a nonprofit company, you can’t just take out the money from the company whenever you feel like it.  That’s super illegal and that’s when you’ll get a call from the Attorney General (or Attorneys General if you’re operating in multiple states).  You can pay yourself a fair salary though!

Why Would I Want to Be A Non-Profit?

The big draw?  You don’t have to pay income taxes.  That’s hella cool.  If you make $20,000 in profit, not one cent of that goes to the IRS.  Screw you, Uncle Sam!  You still pay some taxes (payroll, property, sales, etc…), but you are exempt from taxes at the Federal and State level.  Cool!

Also, it makes you eligible for grants!  Now, grant writing is a whole art in-and-of itself, so we won’t go into details, but there are groups looking to support organizations like yours!

Also, donations!  Anyone can donate to any company they want; you can technically just send Jeff Bezos a check for $1,000 and call it a donation. But, only 501(c)3 organizations can receive tax-deductible donations, so come tax-time your patrons can try to itemize their donations on their taxes and get those sweet, sweet tax refunds.

Why Wouldn’t I Choose to Be A Non-Profit?

Do you like paperwork / can you hire a lawyer or accountant to handle the paperwork for you?  In order to become a 501(c)3, you must file a Form 1023 with the IRS and pay a $600 (or $275, depending on the size of your organization) application fee.  You will also have to form the company at the State level, request exemption at the State level, and sometimes register with an additional governing body (for example, CA requires charities to register with the Office of the Attorney General in order to solicit donations), so you can very easily find yourself spending $1,000 or more just to form the organization.

Also, what happens if you want to pay yourself?  As a board member of the non-profit (non-profit organizations don’t issue stock, so they don’t have owners), if you are managing the day-to-day matters of the company you are an employee. This means you can’t just write yourself a check and call it a day.  You have to run payroll and do all those fun withholdings (you know all those random taxes and such that get taken out whenever your employer pays you), which might mean hiring an accountant or just getting familiar with QuickBooks.  It’s not something that people are often ready to deal with.

So, I Should Be a For-Profit Festival?

I mean, maybe?  If you’re doing it by yourself and will be investing your own money, you get to write off the money you spent as a business expense come tax time.  And any profits are yours to keep because you can use your bank account as your business account.

If you have multiple partners (business partners, not romantic ones), then you’ll have to form a partnership, LLC or corporation. This means more paperwork to make sure everything is divided and accounted for properly.  There will also be additional tax considerations as a result.

Just Tell Me What I Should Do, Jeff!

Nah, I’m a man of mystery.  But also, it really depends on what YOU want to do with the festival.

  • Are you and your business-minded friends planning on producing a festival for profit? And are you wanting to grow into a large business where you produce several festivals nationwide? In that case,  your best bet is the LLC or C-Corp.
  • Are you by yourself just wanting to have a reason to invite amazing performers to your town? And perhaps maybe make a little money on the side? Then you’d probably just want to be a sole proprietorship. This is the default business structure if you haven’t registered your business as an LLC or corporation.
  • Does your festival have a charitable purpose? Or one that benefits a specific population? And are you looking for support from larger organizations (for grants) or corporations (donations or sponsorships) to support you? Then the nonprofit might be best for you.

It’s important to have a vision for how your festival will grow and ultimately what you want from it.  This will help you decide on the best format to start with.  And if things change as the festival grows,  know that change your structure later.

Good luck and happy producing!

A Tribute to Amy Louise Sebelius

Amy Lou

Amy Lou

There is no euphemism suitable for the end of Amy Louise Sebelius’ life. Early in the morning on November 24th, our Amy Lou died. While filled with love, her death was the only somber part of her life. The rest was technicolor.

Amy Louise Sebelius, Amy Lou, was a goddamned firefly wrapped in a rainbow riding a unicorn while reciting Henry the 4th. She was moonbeams and fireworks screaming across a perfectly blue-black star studded sky. And standing next to her, on-stage and off, I always felt like I could fly.

At its very best, improv is about vulnerability. We stand up in front of people and invite them to watch us swan dive into a trust fall again and again and again and again. And because of the incredible faith in each other it takes to do that in tandem, the people we stand up on that stage with often become closer than the closest of friends. Amy Louise Sebelius was that for so many of us, and for me.

I met her at the inaugural Camp Improv Utopia Yosemite. But before I met her, I heard her voice. Raspy and yet lilting, laughing and yet poignant. Her energy was like a red carpet unrolled into Oz. “Heyyyy, come in!” she said excitedly. “Oh my god, do you believe in ghosts? You have to hear this story.” I was immediately wrapped up and carried away by her energy.

We spent that weekend in Yosemite learning a new improv form, which itself is a gift. But the greatest gift for me, was that I got to learn about her. I watched her initiate with rapturous excitement. When I perform, I often feel uncomfortable with situations or initiations that skew toward the absurd. And then there’s Amy Lou. She was so beautifully comfortable with the fanciful. She would initiate something that on face value seemed so unattainably absurd, but then would instantaneously become grounded and filled with delight. I learned from her joy. I gravitated to her passion. I basked in her shine.

I remember a day, toward the end of her life, where I was sitting at the foot of her hospital bed working on my laptop as she slept. It was late in the afternoon. I heard that raspy voice say, “Would you look at how beautiful this is. We are so lucky.” I looked at her and saw a blissful smile across her face. I followed the light in her eyes to the window where the sky was filled with the most beautiful early sunset. We sat there for a moment taking it in. The moment was ended by her hedgehog finger puppet telling me that he wanted some chocolate. The perfect mixture of tenderness and hilarity, that was Amy Lou. Beauty and bits, always and forever.

To say that I will miss her doesn’t feel like it even comes close to describing the grief left in her absence. I just know that I want to be the kind of performer that lifts others up and carries them along on a skyrocket of delight. And I know that I want to live a life filled with the love and joy and technicolor that she carried and flung into the atmosphere everywhere Amy Lou went.

If you want to honor her there are lots of tangible things you could do. You could put on some red horn-rimmed glasses, you could do a Harold, you could eat pizza, you could pet your favorite kitty. But the best way to honor her is simply to stop now and then, take a deep breath and honor the beauty in front of you, because that’s what she did every day of her life. And after you take that deep breath and acknowledge the moment, take off your shoe, make a puppet out of your sock, and do some bits for the person standing next to you. And laugh. Beyond it all, laugh. She’ll hear you and if you listen close enough, you will be able to hear that inimitable raspy voice laugh back and say, “Oh my god! I love you!”

How lucky I was, we all were, to love and be loved by our Amy Lou.

Cape Town is Taking Submissions

Mama City Improv Festival - Cape Town

I’m dusting off the old festival spotlight. For those new to the site, this used to be a regular feature of the blog as a way for people looking to travel to learn more about the festivals they might consider visiting. As the festival FAQs on the page started filling this role, the posts were phased out, but a festival in Cape Town, South Africa is a much bigger trip and consideration for most of us looking to travel.

I was incredibly lucky to personally be able to attend last year. It was an experience I’ll always remember. I’m sure many visitors here are curious about a festival so far away so I reached out to Eva Gilliam, the producer of the festival to talk a little more about it.

I was very lucky to be able to meet the people in the Cape Town improv community last year. It’s such a passionate group. How did it evolve into the community it is today?

Improv in Cape Town has been a relatively small scene, but present for over twenty years. Theatre Sports, with troupe Improguise has been performing and teaching for ages! About 7-8 years ago, The Long Shots, started by Jason DelPlanque (now of The Maydays, UK) came on the scene, and also began teaching and performing. But being so far away from so much of the global scene, we stayed pretty insular, building our skills through self-teaching and occasionally getting off the island to learn from Chigagoans, New Yorkers, and Brits. This made us all very close and passionate about what little we could learn (before there were SOOO many books!) and share share share with each other. When we started the festival, the excited busted forth! We could now learn even more and share with other improvisers! A passionate community grew! If you’ve visited us for fest these last years, you probably experienced feeling like a rock star – cause to us, you all are!

What was behind the decision to start an international festival?

Ashley Comeau, from The Lusty Mannequins based in Toronto, found The Long Shots (of which I am a member) to see about coming to teach a workshop with her then boyfriend, now hubby, Connor Thompson. When I called her back, in our first conversation, we hit it off! Considering how far it is to get here, and the costs, we thought, a workshop with us wouldn’t be enough – we want to share this in a much bigger way, and use it as a springboard to boost and inspire our community. A festival was born!

Cape Town is pretty far removed geographically from other improv communities. Who have been some of your inspirations? What are some of the things that being a little more isolated has brought to the community?

Being so far away means we really rely on each other to bring bits and bobs that we learn to the table. We do a lot of reading, and when one of us gets out and about in the world of improv, we try and bring back everything we’ve learned to our people back home.

performances in cape townThis isn’t your first year bringing international guests out to the festival? How was that experience in previous years?

We’ve had AMAZING performers from Canada, USA, Norway, Denmark, and SA – and it’s been a total blast. Each troupe has brought something unique, and we’ve learned so much from them. But also, our local audiences see the possibilities beyond what we’ve been offering. And that makes them more excited about supporting us here at home! That’s one of our goals! We want that!

What kinds of new shows are you hoping to attract this year? What would you love to show off in town that hasn’t been there before?

We are happy with experimental and traditional improv – because our scene has been so isolated, we’re just so excited to show South Africans all that is possible out there, and what we are doing here.

Every festival with an international ensemble treats it a little differently. For those looking to submit as an individual, how does the ensemble work?

As an individual, we’ll match you with other individual international performers to play on a mixer team. You will get a performance slot, and rehearsal times (with or without a coach, your call!) You’ll also get all the perks of a troupe – discounted tickets, workshops and perks.

Many performers visiting for the festival might never have had an opportunity to visit Cape Town outside of the festival. What would you love their memories of the city and the festival to be?

Cape Town is a stunning city with nature to blow your socks off, amazing food, adventure, good times and good people. The fest embodies that with a down home, grassroots feeling. We’re small, cozy, and fun-as-hell.


The festival is taking submissions right now. Click here to submit before time runs out.

 

 

Come play in AFRICA!

Troupe and individual performer application deadline extended for the Mama City Improv Festival in Cape Town, South Africa!

31 Oct to 4 Nov – be a part of Africa’s first and only international improv comedy festival, now in it’s 3rd year. Small, sweet, fun-as-hell! With classes all day by some of the best, and shows all night with some of the most hilarious troupes from Africa and abroad.

www.mamacityimprovfest.com

#improv #africa #comedy #capetown

Posted by Eva Gilliam on Sunday, June 17, 2018

 

How to Make Your Improv Theater More Trans Friendly

In improv, we aim to create an all-inclusive community of diverse people who come together to create something that disappears as quickly as it was created. It’s beautiful and by its very nature, those diverse voices are essential to creating unique and dynamic work. I want to talk about ways we can make our community safer for transgender and gender non-conforming people.

I’m a trans and non-binary person, but I’ve been improvising since before I had the language to describe my experience of gender. My understanding of myself has shifted, but in the years I’ve been improvising, few changes have been made in the community to make our theaters easier to navigate for trans people. Most of the changes I’m suggesting are cheap and easy to adopt, but could significantly improve the climate of our theaters. Check cosmetic surgeon specializing in ear surgery in Minneapolis when you want cheap and quality surgery.

Gender-Neutral Bathrooms

One way to make your theater safer for transgender people is to do away with “men’s” and “women’s” restrooms and opt for gender-neutral ones instead. A survey conducted in 2015 by the National Center for Transgender Equality showed that 59% of transgender people had avoided using a public restroom in the past year, and that 24% had been verbally harassed or had their gender challenged. That study doesn’t even begin to touch on the experiences of restroom related violence that is all too familiar to trans people. Public restrooms are one of the most unsafe places for transgender people, largely because they are broken down into men’s and women’s – a binary system that best protects those who adhere most strongly to gender roles.

You can instead opt for gender-neutral signs on your restrooms. Some cities already require a single-occupant, gender-neutral restroom in all businesses, but it’s not widely mandated. Instead of men’s and women’s signs, you can replace both with a sign that says “Unisex” or “Both” or “We don’t care. Just wash your hands.” This option works especially well for theaters that have single occupancy restrooms.

For restrooms with multiple stalls, it’s slightly trickier. In some states, it’s required that theaters have both a men’s and a women’s restroom. Heck, some buildings are just built that way. In this case, you could use a small sign near your restrooms to indicate that your patrons should use whichever space makes them most comfortable. Something like: “Presently, our restrooms are labeled men’s and women’s, but we encourage you to use whichever restroom makes you feel most comfortable. If you experience any problems, please talk to our staff. Thank you.” It’s short, sweet, and lets trans and gender non-conforming people know the theater’s management is there to support them, despite unfavorable laws. Avoid language like, “use whichever restroom fits your gender identity” because it ignores gender non-conforming and non-binary identities who don’t identify with either the men’s or women’s option.

Share Pronouns

When you’re all learning each other’s names at the beginning of a new improv class, ask for pronouns as well! Pronouns are just words we use in place of names, so it only makes sense that we would share them with each other as part of introductions. If you’re feeling extra fancy, you could add a place to give your pronouns in your online class sign-up forms – that way they show up on rosters automatically. Just be sure that if someone gives you a different pronoun from the one they listed in their signup sheet, you honor the ones they shared with the class.

Names and pronouns should be relearned at the beginning of every new class or level. This allows people the opportunity to share new pronouns they might be using. Identities change and the words we use to describe ourselves change along with them! All of this advice goes for the formation of new house teams, new staff members, etc. – names and pronouns once again! It’s a good habit to get into.

In my experience, when you ask a class to share their pronouns, at least one person won’t know what that means. That’s ok! I like to say, “Pronouns are the words we could use instead of your name. Like, she, or he, or they.” There are more pronouns than just those three, but that usually gets the point across quickly. If not, you can give an example in a sentence. It’s ok if someone doesn’t understand pronouns or why it’s important. We’re all adjusting to a new culture surrounding gender! It’s rewarding to lend a hand to improvisers who are feeling a little left behind.

Lastly, people will make pronoun mistakes. Teachers, students, staff, audience members. It happens. In my experience, the best way to fix it is to correct them in the moment and move on immediately. No one should be shamed for making a mistake, but it’s also important not to make trans people feel guilty for insisting that everyone honor their pronouns. I once had an improv teacher who stopped referring to me or giving me feedback in class because she was too caught up in trying to get my pronouns correct. I’d rather that she mess up than have my identity impact my experience of the class.

Pronouns Should Be Listed on Staff Name Badges

If your staff and teachers wear name badges, their pronouns should be listed below their name. This prevents people from being misgendered while working and shows your theater’s commitment to gender inclusivity.

Ditch Gendered Terms

Replace “guys” with “folks” or “friends.” Replace “ladies and gentlemen” with “everybody.” A lot of times, especially with English, we’re forced to use gendered language that excludes some groups. This isn’t just for transgender and gender non-conforming people; I’d bet cis* women have felt alienated by these words, too!

Sounds nitpicky? I get it! I grew up in southern California, where it’s routine to call everyone dude, so this one was a little hard for me. Language is inherently gendered. If this switch feels tough to do, it’s because you’ve spent your entire life using language that alienates certain genders. The only way to change it is to start with the words we opt for on a daily basis. It’s tough, but at the end of the day, making your community feel included should matter more to you than cool slang you picked up as a kid.

Sell Gender-Neutral Merchandise

This one’s small, but if your theater sells shirts you don’t need to label them men’s and women’s. Instead, opt for “crew neck” and “scoop neck” or “t-shirt” and “fitted shirt.” Small, but everything counts.

Have a Clearcut Discrimination Policy

When a student signs up for a class or a new staff member is brought on board, they should be asked to sign a discrimination policy and a sexual harassment policy. These policies should be zero tolerance, and should detail the consequences for harassment and discrimination of any kind. You can have a lawyer draft this policy, but if you’re looking for some inspiration, I like HUGE Theater’s. You can find it on their website, and I especially like theirs because they’ve made a clear protocol that allows students and staff to report harassment and transphobia to a third party for investigation.

These are just a handful of ways improv theaters can be better toward their transgender students, patrons, and staff. I haven’t even touched on the world of inclusion initiatives and scholarships. There are a million things to be done, but it’s a start. Thank you for reading and valuing the safety and diversity of our community.

Thanks,

Laurel Posakony

they/them

(See? It’s that easy!)

*Cis is short for cisgender, which refers to anyone who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth.

Femprovisor Fest Offers Woman a Voice!

We  had a chance to interview Jill Eickmann who runs the Femprovisor fest now in its 5th year. Take a look and consider submitting for this fest. It takes place in San Francisco, CA.

What are you looking forward to most this year for the fest?

This is our fifth year! We are looking to showcase a diverse women collective.  We are crossing our fingers that a trio of femprovisors from Improv Mumbai will be joining us this year, making this our first year as an international festival.

How important is this festival for women in improv, especially in light to what is happening in our industry?

What I find so important right now- is creating a safe space for womxn to connect and play together.  We need a space to truly be ourselves without any pressure to conform to any female stereotype or role.  Those of us in all lady teams often agree- this pressure to be a certain type of woman starts to fade once you are not the “only” or “one of the only” womxn on a team.

We need a space to be unapologetic with our voice, truly be ourselves- in all its multiplicities, and take big risks. Most importantly, we need a space where our sisters can support our choices.  When in a male majority or patriarchal industry, a feeling of scarcity can ensue for female artists.  In addition to healing our male/female relationships, we also need a great deal of healing from our sisters.  Femprovisor Fest gives women the opportunity to support and lift one another up.  This festival is about supporting cooperation over competition.  I also see this festival as a space to recharge and get support from other bad-ass Femprovisors to then go home and keep your voice alive.

What kind of shows are you looking for?

We want to see womxn play together with delight and love for one another.  We want to see unique and under-represented voices, experimental forms, and performers who share their voices unapologetically. Off the stage, we are seeking artists who support building community and are excited about engaging in the many festival offerings: workshops, seeing shows, participating in panels, and of course- PARTIES!

Tell us about the venue

This will be our second year at The EXIT Theater- MainStage in downtown SF.  The EXIT is home of the SF Fringe and a wonderful, risk-taking venue that has been a haven for SF Bay Area artists of all walks of life since 1983.  From magicians to burlesque dancers to Shakespeare to new works to the rowdy sketchy show- The EXIT is home to ALL.  The MainStage theater is an 80 seat house with an intimate and fun cabaret feel- perfect for improvisational theatre of all kinds.

Why choose the Femprovisor Fest?

You are an improvisor who not only wants to play boldly and take big risks but you also are extremely passionate about social change.  You want to be a part of the conversation, you want to inspire others, and you want to lift up and support your sisters on and off the improv stage.

You can instantly submit to the Femprovisor fest right HERE.

Fall with Grace

In September of 2016, I took over as Artistic Director of M.I.’s Westside Comedy Theater in Santa Monica, California. And in the months I’ve been there I learned an important lesson, probably one of the most important ones an artist should learn… It’s just as important to fall with grace as it is to get the part. It’s all about being a professional.

In my time as AD so far I’ve had to make some very tough decisions on the infrastructure of house teams and personnel at the theater and I had to do the hardest job any AD ever has to do. To cut teams and to restructure things. Now to give you some insight on what an AD goes through to make a hard decision like this. Here are some things AD’s do and think about to make this hard decision:

  1. Watch as many shows as possible and take notes, not just on the team but the individuals on it. Study them.
  2. Before cutting them give them the opportunity to grow by giving them or their coaches notes to help guide the team.
  3. Is the team progressing artistically as an ensemble?
  4. Are the individuals progressing with this ensemble or are they being hindered by the ensemble?
  5. Is the show bringing a consistent house? – Yes we have to think about this as we also have to keep the business afloat.
    1. More times then not, if it’s not bringing a house it’s a team that’s not doing a great job.
  6. Is there commitment to the team?
    1. Players showing up is consistent in rehearsal and the show
    2. Coach showing up
    3. Consistency in rehearsal
  7. Do they care? Is there passion?

Now I’m sure I am missing some, and I’d love for AD’s to chime in if they read this, but going back to my point…It’s just as important to fall with grace as it is to get the part. This is huge to me. Getting a slot as a player on a MainStage team is huge. Congrats, you’ve gone through some good filter to get there. Now that you’re on the team it’s a commitment and you have to really show up for that commitment. We watch for this and it’s the professional thing to do. You auditioned, took a spot someone else might have got and you have to represent not only yourself but the theater. Now, when you get cut from a team or your team gets cut, fall with grace. I’ve cut teams in the past, or made students repeat classes and have received a ton of e-mails thanking me for the opportunity to perform or take a class. But some e-mails I’ve received are down right nasty and/or just unprofessional. It really irks me to see this happen. I take this into account going forward with anyone. I am a forgiving person, but watching someone handle themselves in a professional way, goes a long way. That’s someone I see making it, or becoming a stronger performer. Performers that take things for granted is not my cup of tea.

When you get cut or leave a team, get held back in class an AD has taken great care in their decision. The question you should be asking yourself when you get cut is, “How can I get better as an artist?” This should be the e-mail you send to the AD. More then likely they will be armed and ready to help you succeed.

 

Improv Is My Therapy (Part 2)

**This piece is an editorial, and does not necessarily reflect the views of The Improv Network or any of its members or staff.  It is also not an endorsement of any political candidate for office.**

Several months ago, I wrote an article entitled “Improv Is My Therapy” which detailed how some of the philosophies that we are taught in improvisation are similar to those that one might experience during the course of therapy.  A few days ago, Donald Trump, was nominated to be the 45th President of the United States.  Many people in the community have felt very upset by this, and I too have felt a roller coaster of feelings since the announcement.  Regardless of where you stand on the election, we can agree that this election has been extremely divisive.  But, in the end, we’re all on the same team.  So once again, I call upon the great wisdom of the improv philosophers who have come before us to guide us in this difficult time along with ketamine bipolar therapy.

Rule #1: Don’t Deny

Our two-party system is essentially a two-person show in which instead of building something together, we just wait until we have a chance to initiate and dominate the scene.  There are also some people sitting on the back line, wanting to contribute, but they are largely ignored (we should probably also listen to what they have to say).  One of the first things we learn in improv is to never say no.  It’s safer to say no, it’s easier, it means that we get to be in complete control of a situation that nobody has the answers to.  (Improv and real life are oddly similar, no one really knows what is going to happen next – and some people claim that they definitely know what should happen next).

And this isn’t to teeter into moral relativism.  There are times when one side is wrong, when something is clearly going in one direction and someone throws in an upsetting curveball.  But in many cases, we have something to learn from the other side.  If you want to play the game of a scene, but your partner wants to play with patient narrative work, you both bring something valuable to the stage and you can build something amazing if you work together to integrate both of your respective strengths.  But before you build, you must accept what is given to you.  The reflex to outright deny someone else’s perspective because they aren’t like you is dangerous and unproductive. On other news, checkout https://www.emergencyhomesolutionsoc.com/mold-removal-orange-county-eco-friendly-options/.

Rule #2: Yes, And

Accepting isn’t the only step.  Once we’ve come to a place where we have acknowledged each other, we should then build.  Both parties come in with an idea of what will be, but somewhere in between those two perspectives is the actuality of what should be.  America is a wonderful mix of diverse viewpoints and perspectives; consequently, there will be many views on what is right for our nation to do.  There is no answer or decision that will be universally loved by everyone.  People are going to walk away from the stage feeling like the initiation that they had wasn’t listened to, that their scene was edited too quickly, or that people didn’t get the game that they were trying to set up.  And it sucks, but we are building something together.

Rule #3: Treating Your Partner Like a Genius

are a bunch of ! Every, last one of them!  They’re irrational, selfish, and worst of all, they don’t care about American values.  Anything that they say is completely farfetched and not worth the air molecules that were vibrated to transmit the sound wave carrying their message.  Look, there are definitely people from either party that are dumb as hell.  But there are also sane, educated people who are going to make decisions that you disagree with.  Why did my teammate initiate a Harold opening in which everyone had to do a handstand?  Why is that a good idea?  Ugh, those Groundlings-trained people are ridiculous!  (Ridiculously funny, such great shows!)  If we don’t’ take the time to understand the other side, we’ll just build more animosity.  And yes, there’s a chance that it won’t always be reciprocated, but when it is it’ll be worth it!

Rule #4: Don’t Be An Asshole

All of what I’ve said assumes that the other person is acting in a relatively civil manner.  In the same way that we should have respect for each other on stage (not grabbing, kissing, choking, etc… without consent), we should also be respectful to each other in this discourse.  I have many friends who are legitimately scared for their lives because of what they feel a Trump Presidency may enable people to do (and the events in the past few days have corroborated those fears).  Using your views or the success of your chosen candidate to terrorize others is just as bad as the person who always initiates honeymoon scenes to try and kiss their fellow teammates.  It may feel like we are in different countries, but we all pledge allegiance to the same flag (there are some people who pledge allegiance to a slightly outdated American flag – I don’t know what to say in response to them).

Last Thoughts

Part of what fueled the fervor of this election was a group of Americans who felt that they were not listened to, and supported the first person to tell them “I hear you.  Your concerns are valid.  And let’s take those concerns and let’s make your country be as great as you want it to be.”  And yes, we might not agree 100% with all their concerns, but if we don’t ever listen, if we never assume that they might have valid concerns, and if we don’t try to build something together with them, then we can never grow as a team.  In that regard, Donald Trump is a helluva good improviser and I sincerely hope that he will be a good President (even though I personally, have many concerns about his recent and past actions).  As artists, it is important to use our voices to build bridges and support the voices of those who feel unheard, but also to stand up for what is right in the world.  Striking that balance between the two in the upcoming years might be difficult, but I believe in our ability to do it.  You all look like geniuses to me.

Your Submissions Can Excel

Excel CSVOne feature requested for a long time from festival producers has been the ability to download the list of festival submissions into an Excel spreadsheet. It was actually in the original outline for the site way back in 2011. Between usability and security settings, it actually turned out to be harder than anticipated, but it’s finally here.

Festival producers* can now download all submission lists (troupes, instructors and/or ensemble submissions) into a .CSV file. For those not super tech literate. This file can be downloaded to your computer and opened by Microsoft Excel. The .CSV format was chosen over the actual Microsoft Excel file format as it is more universal. Users with any spreadsheet program (Open Office, Google Docs etc) can use these file. In addition anyone who is all fancy pants and uses database software instead of regular spreadsheets can import the data as well.

What’s in the sheet? Well, between your festivals information, the troupe’s information, the submission information and the contact person’s information, there could potentially be hundreds of columns and that wouldn’t be useful for anyone. The current spreadsheets contain basic info on each troupe including where they’re from, how to contact them, when they’re available, they’re acceptance status and whether they’ve been contacted (And hey, don’t forget to contact everyone who submits if they’re accepted or not.)

To download the CSV file. Simply go to the submission review page. There will be a button at the top that says “Download CSV”. That’s it. That’s the whole instruction set.

Can this information be changed in the future if needs change? Sure. Might we offer other formats for more tech heavy users (SQL, JSON)? Maybe. We’ll see how it goes and how users needs change. But for now, please check it out and best of luck going through those submissions.

*For now, only the producer (or whoever they assign to be admin for the festival) can download this. It didn’t seem like something all reviewers would need access to. Disagree? My ears are open to any feedback. Drop me a line or leave a comment.

Pages: 1 2 3 16

Who’s Online

There are no users currently online