Of the dozens of festivals I’ve visited in the last few years, The Detroit Improv Festival was a special treat this year. Partially, because it was a return to my own native soil (Auburn Hills, MI represent). Partially because it was amazing to talk to the people of Detroit who – popular to what the news might tell you – are incredibly hopeful and united in very rough times. But mostly, it was special because DIF was the first festival to build their lineup from submissions here on the NIN page. As a result I not only got to check in with old friends, but was able to meet so many new friends in person who I’d first met here. I got to talk to many new faces I recognized from avatars here and see new shows from groups who hadn’t really made the festival circuit before.
Of course none of that would have been possible without the incredible work of all the people behind the festival. Chris, Keith, PJ and Michelle were hustling non-stop. James was keeping the fort down at Go and the volunteers were always around to help the visiting performers. DIF has undergone a huge growth in the last year, bringing in more troupes and more venues and certainly more headliners. Susan Messing, Jill Bernard, Craig Cackowski, Rich Talarico, TJ Jagadowski, Dave Pasquesi, Rob Belushi & Dave Razowsky at the same festival certainly exposed the people of Ferndale to some of the best improv in the country. A free family friendly show on Saturday afternoon also delighted crowds. I’m sure a lot of newcomers to improv this weekend had some preconceived notions shattered and hopefully they’ll continue to visit shows at Go Comedy and Planet Ant in the year to come.
The festival did a great job of showcasing improv to the people of Detroit, but it also did a great job of showcasing the city of Detroit to improvisors. They designed many parts of their festival with the performer in mind. Not all of the venues were traditional theatre spaces, but all were within walking distance of Nine Mile and Woodward Avenue. It was easy to get from venue to venue to see the shows and friends you wanted to see. A tour of Detroit and a weekend barbecue were also available in addition to donated food throughout the week from local restaurants.
A fairly unique addition to this year’s festival was Pam Victor’s Geeking Out Interview. Many festivals have featured live podcasts, but Pam offered a very in depth interview with experienced improvisors for an audience. This year she interviewed Razowsky and Clifford about their long and successful history and memories of their training. As a special treat, the show also featured our own Nick Armstrong talking about NIN and also a special announcement of Improv Utopia East coming to Pennsylvania. Pam is one of the most dedicated people out there on preserving some sort of heritage for our craft.
It was in many ways one of the first large opportunities we’ve had to sit and meet people from the network and learn what kind of things you’d like to see in the future. Some great ideas came from discussions – some that may show up down the road – and some that are great and simple ideas that might start showing up on the site in the next few weeks.
High applause for The 2013 Detroit Improv Festival. It’s in a beautiful city and the people do their best to showcase improv to the people there as a beautiful art form from people across the continent (big hello to all our Toronto friends). I look forward to seeing the festival grow for years to come.
Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America. He ate more coney dogs in Detroit that what would typically be considered “healthy”