Disclaimer: My heart belongs to two cities: Phoenix and Detroit. The Detroit Improv scene quieted down about ten years ago, but it’s back in full force and their festival is quickly becoming a “must go to” event. If you haven’t been up to DIF, I strongly recommend it. And personal guarantee, if you visit Detroit for their festival this year and have never had a coney, I will buy you one with a Vernors’.
There have been some changes to the festival since last year and I got a chance to talk to Jessie Kunnath about the festival this year.
Last year was a big growth year for The Detroit Festival, and also a year of a lot of change. What does that mean going into the 2015 festival?
Last year we really stretched the seams on our festival, extending the activities from a 4 day festival to a 7 day festival. Moving into 2015’s festival we have evaluated what worked and what didn’t and made adjustments. We decided as a board that a 4 day festival is the right length for our community and we’re working on making it as organized as possible.
We’re keeping some of our most popular events such as the Saturday afternoon BBQ and family friendly show. One of the things we are modifying for this year is that we are keeping all the festivities within the downtown Ferndale area, easy for walking and parking.
Outside of the festival, the Detroit scene has seen a lot of growth. What kind of improv are audiences used to seeing in town now?
Within the last couple of years, the improv community has really begun to grow. Not only are classes filling up at all of our local improv theaters (Go! Comedy, ComedySportz Detroit, Michigan Actors Studio, Planet Ant), but other notable groups such as The Detroit Alternative Comedy Collective (DACC) has formed and brings indie troupes into local restaurant/bar/brewing establishments for improv nights.
Improv audiences in Detroit are great! Due to the talent of our local improvisers they have been exposed to everything for fast-paced short-form to monoscenes and Harolds.
Along the same lines, what kinds of shows are you hoping to bring into town to expose audiences too?
One of the most amazing things about DIF is somehow we’ve been fortunate enough to bring in premier, veteran improvisers and this year is no exception. We’ll be releasing the full list of acts in early June.
One great thing about the festival is the proximity of the venues to each other. Where will performers be playing this year?
Performers and audiences can except all activities and shows to be within walking distance of downtown Ferndale. We’ll be utilizing Go Comedy and The Ringwald theaters and also adding in a new partner Local Kitchen & Bar.
The festival is right near the border of Detroit and Ferndale, which means really interesting things in both directions. What are some things visitors should check out near the festival?
Detroit is a revitalized city. Sure there’s still some bad streets but there is so much new life. If you are a foodie, a craft brew lover, a historian, a music lover or a sports enthusiast we have things for you in the Detroit-Ferndale area. If this is your first trip to the city, be sure to drink a Vernors’ ginger ale or Faygo red pop and get yourself to a coney island pronto. We have a bunch of craft breweries popping up all over too. If you have some extra time during the week, be sure to check out a Detroit Tigers baseball game at Comerica.
Detroit doesn’t have a reputation for food, but there’s a lot of fantastic food that just can’t be found outside of Michigan. What are some things or places people should check out to eat?
I don’t know why Detroit doesn’t have a food reputation – let’s change that one meal at a time, shall we? This year we are fortunate enough to partner with Local Kitchen & Bar that has nice higher-end pub/bistro feel to it. Their menu changes seasonally and they have many vegetarian-friendly meals. Try their brunch!
There are also amazing restaurants within walking distance of the DIF venues: Anita’s Kitchen (Middle Eastern), Como’s (Italian), The Fly Trap (cozy diner featured on Diners, Drive-in & Dives), Imperial Bar (gourmet tacos) and M-Brew (all Michigan-products – great burgers). But if you are in the must-eat-in-Detroit mode, there’s the iconic American vs. Lafayette coney island rivalry for the best coney dog (a hot dog in a steamed bun covered in meat sauce chili topped with diced onions and mustard).
Outside of shows, what other activities will be happening for performers this year? Classes? Parties?
Along with our premier shows, we be offering premier workshops taught by those headliners. We’re still confirming the who, what and when but rest assured this year will have an amazing selection to pick from.
Each night of the festival, DIF will be hosting a festival-sponsored afterparty as well. The location will change from night to night, but it’s a great chance for the performers to mingle amongst other performers and volunteers. In the past, our after parties have had karaoke, made-to-order drinks and a live DJ. Do NOT miss.
What are your great hopes for the festival this year?
I’ve been with the Detroit Improv Festival since the beginning, serving as a volunteer, then a director and board member. My greatest hope for this festival is that we can live up to everyone’s expectation because this festival really is top-notch. I want to be able to show that DIF is dedicated to their mission statement of advancing the art of improvisational comedy in metro Detroit. I’d like to show all the attendees (including those laypeople) that Detroit is a blurb on the map that has a vibrant and strong community, mixed with that mid-west niceness.
Submissions are only open for a few more days. Get on that and submit.