Spotlight on Detroit

thumbnail_1389710217-300x300[1]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.

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Photo by Heather Sejnowski

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.


Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America.

Spotlight on Kansas City

thumbnail_1427051454-300x300[1]Kansas City is just around the corner and submissions are wrapping up soon. If you don’t know much about the festival, I got to talk to Ashley Osborn about what visitors might get to experience this year. And it sounds pretty amazing.

Kansas City is geographically in a great spot. It’s kind of a hub for so many improv cities. What’s the improv scene in Kansas City like right now. What kinds of shows are really growing?

KC’s improv scene just keeps growing, it’s a pretty exciting time. We have three different theaters producing shows every week and more and more troupes lining up to play. Long form shows, including competition shows, house teams and class shows, and harold teams have helped to increase audiences at the Kick Comedy Theater and the Uptown Arts Bar while short form has expanded with more shows per week at ComedyCity in the past year. Sketch has also brought in a new crowd that we want to keep too.

The festival is a great opportunity to showcase different kinds of improv to your audiences. what do you hope to showcase at the festival for local audiences?

We want to show our local audiences what all is out there in the improv scenes across the country so they stay hooked and grow along with us. We also want to show them that we have a stellar scene ourselves by showcasing our local troupes that fill our theaters every weekend. We work hard to keep getting better and the festival is a great opportunity to both learn from our visitors and appreciate our locals.

Will there be any headliners or workshops this year?

Yes! We just aren’t quite ready to announce them yet! As soon as we have all the details locked down, we’ll get it out there.

What are some of the things performers can do while they are in Kansas City?

KC is awesome , we’ve got stuff to keep you busy. Take a tour of Boulevard Brewery or just go drink a few in Westport, the Country Club Plaza, or in the Power & Light District. Check out our signature bbq burnt ends at Joe’s Kansas City, Jack Stack, or any one of our many bbq joints around town. We’ve got museums, live music, Sporting Kansas City soccer and the Kansas City Royals. You won’t be bored.

What will the venue be like this year?

We have two venues this year, same as last year. Our first weekend the festival will be held at the Kick Comedy Theater in Westport, home to the KC Improv Company, the producers of the festival. It is an intimate theater connected to the best burger and beer spot in town, the Green Room, so its basically perfect for improv. Our second weekend will be held at Musical Theater Heritage in Crown Center, an absolute experience to play in with seating on three sides of the stage.

If a performer has never played in KC before, why would you tell them to come?

Come to our festival, you’ll be glad you did. We “treat” our visitors as much as we can, truly inviting you to enjoy our festival. Meet our improvisers, enjoy our audiences, partake at our afterparties. Go Royals.

Submissions are open now. Please check out this great festival.


Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America.

Spotlight on Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival

The Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival enters its 13th year. The festival is held at iO West in Hollywood and is going to have a mix of celebrity shows and improv troupes from around the country even a 7 day improv show trying to break the world record! I was able to interview iO West Artistic Director James Grace about the fest:

NICK: It’s amazing to think it’s the 13th year of the festival. What are some of your favorite memories from the past 13 years of the fest.

JAMES: Each Festival we’ve had, there’s been such a joyful mix of beginners to comedy legends, performing, watching and celebrating the art form that has changed each of our lives, so it’s hard to choose only a few memories but I’ll try.

I loved the SNL vs MadTV shows from the first few years of the Fest, with cast members from each show “competing against each other” in one big montage; they were the ultimate example of collaboration.

I also love seeing the performers from outside of LA as they make connections and friendships during the course of Fest week and then seeing them return year after year. There are also some amazing local groups (who who seem to be at the Fest annually) which are some of the best improv groups of all time like; Beer Shark Mice, Opening Night! The Improvised Musical, Weirdass. The various casts from TV and film coming to improvise is always a thrill like, Community, The Office, Reno 911, Broken Lizard, The Sarah Silverman Program just to name a few. But I have to say, seeing Monty Python’s Eric Idle on our stage was like having the Beetles stop by, it was awesome!

NICK: What do you look for in a submission?

JAMES: With a submission, we are looking for the quality/experience of the group or person submitting and we are always looking for original and unique content to add to the Festival. Try to shoot and edit your submission videos as professionally as possible, so we can focus on your talent and not be distracted by sound or picture problems.

NICK: What can a troupe expect when getting into the festival?

JAMES: Troupes that get into the Festival, not only have the opportunity to perform for peers, comedy heroes and industry; they also have the opportunity to learn in workshops and panels from top instructors, comedy heroes and industry. On top of that they will get to see some of the best improv groups in the world, be a part of history, performing in the 7 Day Improv Show and make new connections and friends that will be with them for life. So I guess they can only expect a life changing experience!

NICK: What kind of workshops will you be offering at the fest?

JAMES: We will have a wide range of comedy workshops and focuses, from individual to group improv to casting to marketing your group and much more. There will be the chance to study with the top improv teachers in the country as well as workshops taught by special celebrity instructors. We will also have several panels at the Festival with topics beneficial for brand new improvisers to veteran performers as well as some special panels with casts of your favorite comedies giving a behind the scenes look into their show.

NICK: This year you’re having 4 competitions. Can you explain that and what do they win?

JAMES: The four competitions are a HAROLD COMPETITION, a DUO COMPETITION, a CAGE MATCH COMPETITION and a STAND UP COMPETITION.
For the HAROLD COMPETITION, two teams are given 25 minutes to perform their take on the classic improv form the Harold. Winning prizes include a showcase at the famous Comedy Central Stage at The Hudson Theater, a 4-week run on the iOWest Main Stage and more.

For the DUO COMPETITION, each two person team is given 25 minutes to improvise, battling against another two person team for the funniest set. The winning prizes include $200 and the opportunity to host a monthly Duo show on the iOWest Main Stage. For the CAGE MATCH COMPETITION two teams are given 20 minutes each to do whatever kind of improv they want. The lights will be cut at 20 minutes. Winning prizes include a showcase at the famous Comedy Central Stage at The Hudson Theater, a 4-week run on the iOWest Main Stage and more. For the STAND UP COMPETITION ten comics per each first round competition, 5 minutes each, and the top two comics chosen by audience vote each night go to the finals. Our Stand Up Competition finalists will get the opportunity to perform another 5 minutes with special guest headliners on the championship night. The winning prizes include $200 and the opportunity to host a monthly Stand Up show on the iOWest Main Stage.

All competition details are listed at http://ioimprov.com/west/festivals/annual-improv-comedy-festival/

NICK: There’s a 7-Day Improv Show! You guys are trying to break a world record. How did this all come about?

JAMES: This year as we looking to set the Guinness Book of World Records for Longest Continuous Improv Show (150 hours straight, starting 7pm Sun Aug 2nd -and ending 1am Sun Aug 9th) with our 7 Day Improv Show. This show will allow for more stage time opportunity for our Festival groups, in addition to their Festival showcase show.

This show was pitched to me by two performers from the iOWest Theater, Keith Saltojanes and Rob O’Connor and I loved the idea of so many improv groups getting to be a part of history, so we sat down and figured out the logistics of doing a show like this. We will be live streaming the whole show and I expect some extremely interesting improv to take place in those early morning slots. I can’t wait to see this show!

If you’d like to instantly submit to the LA Comedy Festival you can do so HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

Spotlight on the Stumptown Improv Festival in Portland

The Stumptown Improv Festival is the answer to Portland’s growing improv scene. I’ve heard tales of cool gift bag for improvisors who attend as well! I was able to interview Jed Arkley of The Stumptown Improv Festival and asked him some questions about the fest:

Tell us a little about the Improv Community in Portland.

The improv community in Portland, like a lot of things in Portland, has its own flavor and tempo. We’re not home to major schools like UCB or iO or Second City, but that has allowed Portland’s improv community (and comedy scene in general) to find a distinctive voice. We’ve got our own theaters and training programs (Brody Theater, Curious Comedy), as well as a slew of independent teams and coaches, that approach improv in their own way. It would be hard to pinpoint Portland’s “style”, but I think it’s fair to say that improv here puts a high value on strong relationships, realism, and playing to the top of our intelligence. We’re really a long-form town, in all the ways that term can be used.

At the same time, our community is going through a really fantastic growth spurt. The past few years have seen a cornucopia’s worth of new groups sprouting up and, most importantly, performing and performing and performing again. We’ve always had a ton of improvisers, but it’s good to see the scene starting to edit itself, push itself, and become stronger.

Why did you decide to start the Stumptown Improv Festival?

I was driving back from the Vancouver International Improv Festival in 2013 after performing with my group, Whiskey Tango, and it just hit me: “Wait a minute. We can have a festival in Portland. There are festivals in Vancouver, Seattle, LA, San Francisco…this is a no-brainer.” Also, Vancouver puts on such an amazing festival, from the quality of the comedy to the way they treat the improvisers, that I was super-pumped after being there. I immediately called Erin and Leon (the other two co-founders) and the three of us have been kickin’ it/rockin’ it/jammin’ out ever since. In addition, as mentioned above, we really wanted to give the improv community a platform from which to shine and an opportunity to kick their comedy into high gear. Bridgetown was a big help for the standup scene here in that way and we wanted to do the same for improv. Exposure to amazing groups from around the country, as well as a little healthy competition, can help out groups immeasurably.

What can improvisors expect when attending your festival?

A preeeeeeety amazing gift bag. A really tight and friendly gang of Portland improvisers. A smart audience who appreciates intelligent and original comedy. A venue that is close to perfect for improv.

What do you look for in a submission?

Be honest, realistic, and listen. When I say “realistic”, I don’t mean that you can’t be at a Space Monkey Farm, but, if you are, make that the most honest Space Monkey Farm that we’ve ever seen. Note: don’t ever name your improv group “Space Monkey Farm”. Don’t be goofy. Trust that you’re already funny enough and let it develop.

What are some fun things your city has to offer an improvisor who is considering coming out to you?

The Greatest Summer Weather in the History of Humankind. So much good food, from restaurants to carts, that it starts to make you a bit angry. An attention to detail in all things alcohol-related (think: craft beers, craft cocktails, craft distillers) that you wonder if Portland is just denying that it has a serious drinking problem. Across the board, attractive and approachable men and women who will be showing their skin.

Where venue is the festival held at?

Milagro Theatre. Low-ish ceilings and ideal capacity (121) make it such a nice stage to play on.

Only a few more days to submit to the Stumptown Improv Festival click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

Spotlight on Improv Fest Ireland

NIN has welcomed our first ever international festival to use our instant submission service, that festival is the Improv Fest Ireland. We were able to interview Neil Curran, who runs the festival in Dublin. Here is what he had to say:

What is the biggest difference you see between the US an Ireland when it comes to improv.

The improv scene in Ireland has been growing rapidly in recent years and long form is becoming more and more popular.  While the long form scene is still in its infancy, there are wonderfully talented performers and troupes emerging around the country.  I’m quite passionate about community in improv and its a joy to see other troupes embrace this notion as we witness more and more jam nights and shared stage events.  We don’t have a dedicated improv theatre in Dublin yet but more and more venues are opening their doors and embracing the art form.  While our excellent stand up scene dominates the comedy circuit, the improv community is working hard to forge our own personality in the arts and comedy community.  And this makes it a great time to be part of the improv scene here.  Improvisers are learning their art from many improv instructors, locally and also through visiting international instructors.  This is empowering performers to create their own style of improv, taking elements of what works for them from each instructor rather than abiding the style of one instructor or theatre.  For example, troupes are creating their own formats or personalising established formats and also blend game work with narrative.

For folks coming out of the country will you have hotel room blocks or how will you help them with housing?

We will have an accommodation partner for the festival where discounted hostel rooms will be available for performers.  There is no short supply of accommodation options in Dublin.

What workshops can improvisors look forward to?

We haven’t confirmed the instructors yet for the festival as the application window is still open, but we have been overwhelmed by the call for instructor applications.  As with previous years, we will be offering a diverse range of workshops catering for improvisers at all levels.  There will also be coaching opportunities where troupes can work with an instructor.  For example, last year we had instructors from Second City teaching character workshops through real people, an instructor from Sicily teaching about being physical in improv, to name but a few.

What venue is the festival at?

Since the festival’s inception, the festival’s home has been Dublin’s iconic Theatre @ 36 in the heart of the city.  However with the growth of the festival last year we are also in discussion with additional spaces that can cater for the prime time shows and the audience sizes they attract.  I can’t say the venue names yet but needless to say its another iconic space in the heart of the city.  Dublin is a small city by international standards with a population of less than 2 million, but what we don’t have in size we make up for in our rich culture and history

What are some fun things to do in Dublin?

There is no shortage of things to do in Dublin and the best part is everything can be either walked to or travelled to on a short bus/Luas (tram) journey.  Famous for Guinness, Dublin is home to many great pubs and bars.
The Guinness Storehouse tour is a fun way to find out the magic behind how they make a pint of the ‘black stuff’.Trinity College is our most famous college and is home to the Book of Kells which was found in an Irish monastery in the 6th century.  The book is housed in the “Old Library’ which is a sight to behold in itself.
The Dublin Literary Pub Crawl is very popular, and has storytelling guides take you on a tour of some of Dublin’s best pubs where you can stop off for a pint in each one while they recite famous stories and tales, some written by Ireland’s finest writers.The Leprechaun Museum might sound like something for the kids but at night, her interactive story telling tours bring us to the dark side of Irish folklore.We’re only scratching the surface here but its just a small insight into all the great things the city has to offer.

If a troupe gets into your fest? What can they expect?

A troupe can expect to be part of a festival in one of World’s most friendliest and fun cities.  The festival runs for a week and we will have shows and jams from all over the world.  There will be learning opportunities from world class instructor,  jams and mixer shows with talented performers from other troupes.  Last year we had performers from 13 different countries!  Troupes also receive a strong box office split for their professional performances.  But probably most important of all, is the highly coveting Improv Fest Ireland goodie bag.

What do you look for in a submission?

Programming the festival line up is a very difficult process and we really want all troupes to submit the best application they can.  Things for troupes to think about:
* What separates your application from the rest?
* What makes your show special?
* Do you have a unique genre show?
* Does your troupe have a particular strength?
* Is your show unusual or unique in format and setting?
* Does your application give a good sense of your troupe’s personality?
* Have you video footage you can share?

As someone who has been to Dublin, I can say Neil is right, it’s one of the friendliest and fun cities to go to. If you get a chance go! To instantly submit to the Improv Fest Ireland click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv camp for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

Spotlight on Improvaganza

Improvaganza is celebrating a decade of putting on a festival in Honolulu, Hawaii. In addition to being in one of the most beautiful places on Earth, it’s also one of the most well organized and welcoming festivals in the Western Hemisphere. I was fortunate to attend the festival five times and I highly recommend visiting. It’s a bit of a larger trip than many festivals, but it’s one that will almost certainly spur your growth as a performer and a troupe and introduce you to some lovely improv. I had a chance to talk to Producer Garrick Paikai this week and talk about the festival.

I’ve spoken up the festival many times and the response is almost always, “Well sure, Hawaii is beautiful.” But the festival is about so much more than that. Could you talk a bit about the philosophy of the improv scene in Oahu and the goals of the festival?

“Aloha” and “Ohana” if you hear those words you immediately think of “Disney’s Lilo and Stitch.” or words on a post card from Hawaii. But to the people who live in Hawaii they mean so much more. Roughly translated Ohana Means “Family” and Aloha means…. well it means Aloha… We say it as a greeting and in departing, we say it describe how we feel we about one another, but more so it’s a word of affection and warmth. “Aloha” and “Ohana” is two words that describe our culture here and our im[prov scene. We improvise with aloha (Love and Affection) and we believe all improvisers from all over the world are our Ohana (Family.) That’s what we want every single persons who participates in our festival to feel. From those who apply to our festival this year, to those who have been a part of our festival in the past, to every audience member who comes out to watch the festival; Improvaganza strives to make people feel like family.

A couple years back, you focused on forms other than Harold. Almost every year, you try to showcase certain kinds of shows to your audiences. What kinds of shows are you looking for in 2015?

Part of our mission statement is show case a diversity of improv shows and formats. We want to see what people can create with improv as an art form. in the past we had an improvised rock band, an improvised puppet show, even contact improv dance. This years we are looking to feature improvised plays and genre-prov groups. There are so many up and coming groups around the country whose focus is creating full on improvised narrative plays with costumes and small set pieces and other groups who specializes in creating and performing a particular genre of work. we would like to feature those groups this year. Don’t get me wrong.. if you have a kick-ass Harold or short form show we want you to apply too. again its all about diversity of improv shows.

DSC_0321A lot of people’s idea of Honolulu is limited to pictures of Waikiki, but there’s a lot going on all over the city, and right in the area where the festival is. What are some of the things visiting performers could see and do during their stay?

Oahu has a lot to offer other than Waikiki, First of all its no joke Oahu is beautiful. During the days I highly recommend checking out our beaches and hiking trails. Most times our local improvisers will offer to take visiting improvisers to there favorite beaches or hiking trails. Then there is the Food. if you haven’t tried local and Hawaiian food you are missing out. Again our local improvisers have no problem taking you to some of there favorite food joints. We have these great adventure tours like the pirate ship tour where you travel along the diamond head cost in pirate ship. its a lot of fun. then there’s Red Light District tour which offers to take you around some of The Chinatown infamous landmarks with storys of its history The Red Light District tours are quite popular and has even been featured in the Huffington post.. The Aloha Festival is usually going on at the same time so there is usually a parade in Honolulu as well.

One reason people are sometimes hesitant to submit to Improvaganza is that airfare is steeper than for many other cities. What are realistic expectations for the expense of visiting?

Yeah that’s a big expense and finding a good place to stay is a challenge too. its true for us leaving the state to be a part of another festival as well. traveling to and from Hawaii is expensive. Depending where you are traveling from the cost differs. You can find round trip flight s for under $500 and and you can find places to stay like for $80 a night. Other than that I want to say that the average flight down here is between $500 and $600. We try to help folks out, by researching good hotel rate for them. We also suggest that groups check out air bnb or similar sites because often renting a vacation rental house is cheaper than the hotels (especially if you have a large group).

DSC_0332What are some of the best places to eat around the festival? Also, please explain Haupia pie.

JJ Dolan’s has great pizza and is always a favorite of our festival patrons. Lucky Belly has great ramen and their new sister restaurant Livestock Tavern has unique dishes like zucchini bread pudding, beef tongue sandwiches and persimmon salads. Downbeat Diner has great diner food but also has vegetarian options for almost everything on their menu. One of the newest places people like to eat, drink, and hangout is Bethel Street Tap Room which has great hoagies, salads served in mason jars, and some of the best cupcakes in town. Wing Ice Cream has some of the best home made ice cream I’ve ever tasted. Each week they come up with special flavors like lavender and basil, mango haupia, etc. You must try it. Oh and we’re in Chinatown so there are a number of Chinese restaurants near by. These are just a few of the great places to eat near by. Ask any of our local improvisers and you’ll get tons of suggestions of places to eat based on whatever you happen to feel like eating that day.

Haupia Pie is basically a coconut cream pie. Haupia is a traditional Hawaiian desert. A creamy coconut pudding with a gelatin consistency made with coconut milk. Creamy coconut goodness.

What activities outside of shows will be part of the festival this year?

After Party! There nothing like a good after party after each run of shows. We do have an Aloha Friday after party, where we invite folks to where aloha shirts and dresses, We have a pot luck on Saturday night. and there is a Karaoke schedule party schedule this year too. One of the highlight for me is the annual Mash Up on our closing night of shows. the Mash up is a jam session where all our performers are put into random teams and asked to create a show together in 15 minutes. then they perform it in 15 minutes. its so much fun.

Kumu Kahua

Kumu Kahua

One of your venues, The Arts at Marks just got a facelift. What are the venues like this year?

That’s true, The ARTS at Marks Garage just finished their first round of renovations. we expended our 60 seat theatre to about to 100 seats and we now have a proper dressing and green room. I’m quite happy with our renovations because we can hold more people in our venue. the second locations is Kumu Kahua theatre.

A visitor to Improvaganza can’t leave without hearing about Ohana. Can you tell us a bit about it?

Like I said earlier Ohana means family. and if anything we want everyone to feel like they are a part of our improv family here in Hawaii. and to expand on what I said earlier Improvaganza offer more than a chance to perform in one of the most beautiful places on earth and workshop with some the best improv teachers, Improvaganza treats you like your coming back home even if its your first time coming to Hawaii. No Matter who you are, where you come from, the type of improv you like to perform, if its your first time to Hawaii or if you live here your whole life. We welcome everyone as if they are a part of our family. If its one thing that our festival is known for its local hospitality. We hope that we can share that with all of you this year.


Think about it. It’s a chance to visit Hawaii and actually perform improv. There’s nothing better than that. Submissions are only open for a few more days. Get on that and submit.


Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America.

Spotlight on Baltimore Improv Festival

Baltimore has gone through a lot lately, but the show must go on and the 9th year of The Baltimore Improv Festival is showing no sign of slowing down. It’s just what the community needs so please check it out and submit if you can. I had a chance to interview BIF Executive Producer Mike Harris about this years festival.

9 Years is amazing run for an improv festival. What has been the biggest challenges of running a festival?

Thanks Nick. We’ve been really fortunate to have so many great troupes come visit. They’ve really allowed us to build a loyal audience for the festival. Every festival has to figure out what makes it unique, and for us, it has been the enthusiasm of the Baltimore audience. We’ve chosen to keep our festival at one venue to keep the audience concentrated. Which is great for giving performers a chance to get in front of large audiences, but also means we have less slots to offer and have to turn down some really good troupes. That’s probably the biggest challenge right now, saying no to folks we want to invite.

What do you look for in a submission?

Subjective though it may be, we do put funny first. Always like to see troupes that are having fun playing with each other, and showing solid grounding in improv fundamentals. Nothing wrong with breaking the rules as long as it comes from a deliberate choice to do so. Beyond that, we look for troupes that have uniquely marketable formats and increase the diversity of the festival lineup. Any chance we get to offer something Baltimore hasn’t seen before, we’ll take it.

What are some fun things to do in Baltimore?

Best thing about Baltimore is that you won’t mistake it for being anywhere else. We’re a funky, friendly city-sized small town. Baltimore is made up of a borderline absurd numbers of small neighborhoods. Great thing about that is that each one has its own flavor. So in a matter of blocks you can come across entirely different food, music, shops. So, I’d say hit Fells Point, Little Italy, Canton or Mount Vernon and just walk around and see what grabs your interest. And the Inner Harbor is fine. A little touristy and the one place that probably seems least like Baltimore, but tons to do.

With the riots that are happening in Baltimore. What can you say to an improvisor who is hesitant to submit to your festival.

Baltimore has a reputation that predates the recent demonstrations, and we, like a lot of American cities, have deeply rooted, systemic issues and injustices. The problems that came to a head these past few weeks will still be here for the 9th Baltimore Improv Festival and, sadly, probably the 99th Baltimore Improv Festival. That said, the amount of violence was greatly overstated. The overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were completely peaceful. The vast majority of the city is safe, and that includes the area where the Festival will be held.

Will there be workshops at the festival?

Absolutely. We will have two sessions of workshops on Saturday and two on Sunday. Hopefully we will be able to offer around 10-12 workshops over the course of the weekend, and we absolutely encourage members of accepted troupes to propose workshops they would like to teach.

To submit to the Baltimore Improv Festival click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

New Multimedia Improv Book is the Future

He’s the Co-Founder of iO West and a member of the legendary group Beer Shark Mice and he’s written a new book that is one of the most comprehensive books I’ve read in improv. It is even multimedia. I had a chance to interview Paul Vaillancourt about his new book “The Triangle of the Scene.”

N: When did you start writing the book?

PV: I started actually writing the book about six months ago but it is something that I’ve been thinking about for years and that I’ve been practicing in my classes so when I finally put fingers to keyboard it went pretty quickly.

N: Why did you write the book?

PV:I have been doing this for nearly 30 years and I really love teaching so when I finally landed on the tools that make up “The Triangle of the Scene” I felt like I had something new and concrete to share with people so writing a book seemed like the next logical step.  I had been getting really great results with the triangle in my class and students had been expressing to me how much this approach helped them, so I wanted to share it with a larger audience.

N: Do you recommend this book to improvisors of all levels?

PV: I do.  I think that basics are really important and I always keep coming back to them no matter what level of improvisor I’m working with as a teacher or coach.  Most of the time when I end up coaching a team nowadays they have been around for a while and have kind of lost their way a little bit or are looking to sharpen up their work. When I work with them I try to bring them back and strengthen those basics and that seems to do the trick.  In this book are the approach and exercises that I use with my level 1 class all the way up to those more advanced teams I work with.

N: Tell us what you want improvisors to get from your book.

PV: Improvisors are going to get a set of specific, concrete, replicable tools that they can use over and over again for building better long form scenes.  Giving people notes on one specific scene doesn’t really help them get better because they’ll never do that same scene again.  We need to  identify the bigger lesson or strategy that they can apply to other, different scenes in the future.  I think the tools in this book will do just that.

N: You’re book has media elements in it, not just a book, which is different then any improv book I’ve seen yet. Tell us about that.

PV: I bought a book about film making which I really liked but then I saw there was an iBook version with embedded video and I was blown away by how much better and more understandable the concepts were when I saw them in action. I immediately thought that this technology was perfect for a book about improv.  In the past Charna wrote “Art by Committee” that came with a DVD but that interface always seemed a little clunky – are you going to read the book sitting in front of the TV?  But now technology have given us the option of seamlessly integrating the two so the reader has it all there in front of her.  And I think that being able to read through the principles and description of the exercises and then, right away see it IN ACTION will really bring those lessons home in a very powerful way.

N: You Co-Founded iO West. What made you want to do that?

PV: I was living in Chicago and I had done pretty much everything that I could do there.  I knew I wanted to move to LA, but I really felt like the iO was my home and I didn’t want to leave that community behind.  Then I realized that if I opened an iO in Los Angeles I could kind of have my cake and eat it too. How often do you get to do that in life?  So, I pitched it to Charna and we decided to do it.

N: What were the challenges of starting another branch in Los Angeles?

PV: I think there were a few challenges when we first started here. One, our name. Before we shortened it to iO we used to go by Improv Olympic.  So when I would talk to people about it they would always think of The Improv – the stand up club on Melrose.  That, however, has really changed and people have gone from “What is that?” to “I’ve been there.  I’ve seen shows there.”  That change has been really gratifying.  Our second challenge was that there wasn’t really any long form improv going here when we came out here.  The improv scene was dominated by The Groundlings and ACME.  So, there was a little bit of educating the audience that needed to be done.  And our third challenge was that the LA students were just different than the Chicago students.  At the time, Chicago was the Mecca for improv so the students were mostly improv pilgrims coming to the holy land – they knew some improv and they wanted to be improvisers; that was their end goal.  In LA, the students have different backgrounds and different goals – many of them are actors who want to learn improv as a means to an end (doing better in the commercial auditions or whatever).  Improv was (and still is) for them only part of the puzzle while in Chicago it was the whole puzzle.  Nowadays, though, with the explosion of improv in LA I think we see a combination of those two kinds of students and that’s a pretty interesting change to see.

N: Where do you see improv in 5 to 10 years?

PV: This is a tricky one.  I don’t know that I see improv being that much different per se – I mean the basics are the basics and the principles of a good show are sort of timeless, but I am interested to see how technology might change the way we use or consume improv.  Like now, when I’m teaching I can refer my students to a specific King Ten Harold on youtube.  I couldn’t do that even a few years ago.  That thing that used to the archetype of “you had to be there” is now captured and sitting there waiting to be viewed. I think that’s a big change in improv already.

N: Beer Shark Mice is one of the premier ensembles in all of improv. What’s it like being a part of the group and does it influence your work?

PV: Playing in BSM is great – super fun as you can imagine.  It is a team of alphas and veterans so you can really go for it with everything you’ve got and you know that everyone else is going to do the same thing.  You can play in a really fearless way and I think that has really been the biggest effect on my work outside of BSM.  For example, before playing with those guys I don’t know that I would have been fearless enough to do Man vs. Movie (the world’s only one-man improvised movie).

N: Where can we get your book?

PV: The book is available on iBooks and there will be a Kindle version coming soon.

N: You perform a one-person improv show called Man Vs. Movie. Can you explain the show and tell us how it is just being you out there?

PV: Man vs. Movie is an improvised one man show that I do.  Inspired by an audience suggestion of a line of poetry or a lyric from a song I improvise a feature film complete with characters, plot, special effects and camera angles – everything you would see in a regular feature film but improvised on stage by me.

Being out there solo is scary and thrilling.  The most tense part is right before I hear the suggestion because I have no idea what I’m going to do for the next thirty minutes, but once I start, the show moves pretty fast and I don’t really have time to think or be nervous or any of that.  Things start happening and I’m really in the zone, discovering the movie along with the audience.  A lot of times I’m finding out what’s going to happen at the same time the audience finds out.  I like the show because it’s a little bit of a feat with a little ta-da at the end – like a magic trick.

N: Where can we find out more about your upcoming shows?

PV: You can follow me at any or all of the following: https://www.facebook.com/pvimprov

Instagram: @whatsupwithpv

I really recommend this book because it’s so different and very hands on with the multimedia aspect. You visually get to see what he’s talking about and makes it easier for you to comprehend and even teach. To purchase the book you can click HERE. Enjoy!

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Nick Armstrong
Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia a non-profit improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also teaches improv throughout the country.

1,000 Scenes with Morgan Phillips

I think it was Miles Stroth who said you have to do at least 1000 shows before you can become somewhat good at improv. Well how about 1000 online improv shows? Morgan Phillips is on a mission to do just that and guess what you can be a part of it. I interviewed Morgan about his project:

N: Tell us about your project and why you decided to do it?

M: To celebrate my 20-year improv anniversary, I’ve set out to do 1000 online improv scenes in 2015 — each one with a different scene partner.

N: When did you start this project?

M: I started on New Year’s Day, 2015.

N: Do you have a finish date?

M: My goal is to complete 1000 scenes before the end of the calendar year.

N: Tell us how it works, how frequently do you do these?

M: Anybody who wants to be part of the project just needs to send me their general availability, and we’ll set something up. Shortly before the scheduled time I send them a link to a Google Hangout, and (barring technical difficulties) they click the link and we do a digital improv scene together.

I’ve done scenes at all times of the day and night — including a 3am scene to fit the schedule of an improviser in Australia (Reid Workman, scene #111). I have to average approximately 2.75 scenes a day to stay on pace, so I really am looking for anybody and everybody who’d like to participate. So far my scene partners have ranged from artistic directors of improv theaters to a guy literally doing his very first improv scene (Joe Cherry, scene #70). Some of the people are friends of mine, but many of them are people I’ve never met before.

N: What do you think about improv online? What are the pros and cons?

M: The technology is still in its infancy. There are frequent glitches, and sometimes we have to troubleshoot for several minutes before I actually start the Google Hangout broadcast. Once it’s up and running, it’s a lot more limited than actual, real-world improv. There’s less opportunity for physicality and space work, so there tends to be far less “going to the environment” than there would be in a standard scene.

That being said, it’s free. There’s no need to rent a space or book a show, and you can do it any time of the day or night. I highly recommend it for anybody out there who loves improv, but isn’t getting enough stage time. Provided you can find at least one other person who’s into it, you can literally add as much improv into your life as you can stand.

N: What has been the most interesting scene you’ve done so far?

Scene #221 (with Kevin Hines, head of the UCB training program in NYC) was an attempt to do my half of the scene live, on stage. It was an enormous failure, thanks to a huge delay between the scene and the live feed, and an unreliable internet connection. It made for an interesting video, though. The audience at the theater claimed to enjoy it, but it’s possible they were just being polite…

I think this project is so fun and I got a chance to do it with Morgan too. Our suggestion was Pun and we plotted to murder a co-worker. HA! Morgan is a super nice guy and very fun to play with! Go do it and help him reach his goal.

Do you want to be a part of this great project! Feel free to e-mail Morgan at morganphillips@gmail.com and join the fun!

____________________________________________________
Nick Armstrong
Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia a non-profit improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also teaches improv throughout the country.

Spotlight on The San Francisco Improv Festival.

I’ve been to the SF Improv Festival about 5 times since its beginning 11 years ago.  I can say it’s one of the premier festivals in the West and one of my favorite cities to visit. I was able to interview Executive Producer of the SF Improv Festival, Jamie Wright about this years festivities.

The SF Improv Festival is one of the premier festivals of the West Coast. What can improvisors expect this year?

It’s still early in our planning for this year’s festival, but some of what we’re cooking up for 2015 is 10 days of fantastic improv and sketch shows, master-level workshop instructors, a professional 200-seat venue to perform in, an opening night party for the festival as well as post-show cool downs in the lobby bar, parties, Friday night jams, and the festival’s traditional close out of Game Island with Ron West where you can throw down with other performers under the watchful eye of Whose Line’s former games director. All this *and* a staff that is committed to making you feel welcome, and an improv scene in town that is beginning to burst at the seams.

What does a troupe get if accepted?

Troupes accepted to the fest get one 35-minute performance slot in a double-bill. Troupe-members get a performer bracelet which entitles you to any empty seat in a show after the audience is seated, performer pricing on drinks at our (full!) bar, and early signup opportunities for workshops.

What do you look for in a submission?

Really in the end it just comes down to looking for great work by people who love what they do. If you broke it down specifically, we look at: the strength of ensembles, improv basics (accepting & building on offers, support, team play, etc.), character work, overall quality and professionalism, and throw in a little consideration for accessibility to the general public and uniqueness of format. We also look for a diversity of performance groups and of forms. If there’s anything that tips the scales for us in the decision, it’s definitely seeing joy in the work.

Where in SF do you hold the festival?

The festival is held at the Eureka Theater, which is sandwiched between the Downtown, the Embarcadero waterfront area and North Beach. The theater is a 200-seater with a raised stage and a pretty enormous green room. The Eureka’s history includes mounting the premiere of Tony Kushner’s Angels in America and more recently, for being the home of the SF Sketchfest and the SF Improv Festival. The location is great for enjoying SF; it is walking distance to the major lines of public transportation, has a ton of restaurants and bars within a 10 minute walk, and pretty unbelievable views of the Bay just around the corner.

SF is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. What do you recommend improvisors do in your city?

There’s the usual run of amazing things to check out; the Embarcadero waterfront & the Golden Gate, some of the best food on the planet, fantastic bars & night life, stupid-beautiful views of the Bay Area and pacific coast, and then you have places like the Mission (which is a cross between the birthplace of the Mission burrito and a ready-made location set for Mike Judge’s Silicon Valley), and the other famous cultural-epicenter neighborhoods like the Haight and North Beach. And these are just a few of the things within city limits.

Oh yeah – then there’s a couple hundred improvisors hanging out looking for something to do after taking in each other’s shows. And you’re in San Francisco. Pretty sure you can figure out some way to occupy your time…!

To instantly submit to the San Francisco Improv Festival click HERE.


Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

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