Over the Rhine

A review of the IF CINCY Improv Festival of Cincinnati

A few weeks ago, I was very fortunate to perform with Switch Committee at the first ever improv festival in Cincinnati. The festival, produced by OTRimprov, went off without a hitch. They were very well organized months in advance in terms of preparation, marketing, and hospitality. This festival was run very smoothly and it looked like they have been doing it (running festivals) for a while even though it was only their first year. They were more than prepared in terms of providing performers with hotel deals and all the essential information visitors to their city would need (local restaurants, coffee shops, bars, uber/lyft info) for the festival. Everyone involved was so nice and hospitable. So, rather than being vague and saying “it was great” over and over, I’ll give some specifics on the things I loved. Here goes:

  1. CINCINNATTI! It is a very hip and stylish city with buildings designed with beautiful murals and street art. Before our workshop, we went to a coffee shop down the street from the theater called the Coffee Emporium. I got something called a Milk Way. Write that down. Milk Way in Cincy. There are a few areas of town that could be considered a little shady, but doesn’t every city have that? If you’re visiting to perform I would just ask the organizers or other local performers where the best places to go are instead of meandering around town on your own. It’s also really close to Kentucky, which we did not know. We thought our phones were messed up numerous times throughout the weekend while we were driving around.
  • Swag Bags We got bags which contained t-shirts, lanyards, chips, water, and other knick-knacks. I’m a big fan of the swag bag and most importantly the lanyard because I collect them trading cards. For some festivals, you have to purchase a t-shirt, but they were kind enough to include them in the bags. Free t-shirts may be expensive, but if you have the budget it’s definitely something I suggest the festival do. Keep in mind, you want performers to wear those t-shirts and represent your festival when they get back home. “Oh that’s a cool shirt, how was that festival, I think we’ll submit next year” is something that could come out of providing your performers with shirts.
  • Team Dinner They offered dinner to all the performers at the local hotel everyone was staying at. There was bread, croissants, cookies, pop, green beans, and mac n’ cheese, potatoes, and roast beef. It was a very nice gesture and I know all of the teams appreciated it. They didn’t have to do that, but they did and that speaks volumes about how they welcomed the performers to the festival.
  • House Dad We were assigned a house dad who was available to answer any questions we may have had while on our visit to Cincinnati. I love this because it gives visitors the ability to interact with a local performer and find out more about the place they are visiting. Phoenix does this too and it is extremely helpful for the performers in getting accommodated and feeling welcome.
  • The Know Theatre The theatre is beautiful and perfect for an improv show. There are two performance spaces within this theater. The ‘underground’ Cabaret stage right when you walk into the theater, which is a small and quaint stage perfect for a 2-man show and the ‘Mainstage’ upstairs, which is fully equipped theatrical venue with an enormous amount of space and a turquoise carpet perfect for a 10+ person ensemble. We got to play upstairs and very much enjoyed the amount of space provided.
  • Workshops They offered workshops to the performers. We were fortunate enough to be able to teach a workshop and it went extremely well. I know Susan Messing also taught a workshop and if she’s teaching a workshop that’s just another reason you should be at this festival.

All in all, OTRi did an incredibly fantastic and amazing job producing their first ever improv festival. I mean, hell, they got Susan Messing to headline their first year! That’s big time baby! The bar has been set and it’s pretty high. At the end of the weekend, the whole festival was a major success and I’m very excited to see how it grows and develops in the years to come. Teams looking for a new improv festival to go to should put this one on their radar.

Congratulations IF CINCY! Great Job!


  • is a graduate of iO, The Second City Conservatory, and the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago. Ryan performs improv comedy with his independent team Switch Committee as well as on the Playground team Desperado. In addition, he is an Associate Producer for Big Little Comedy, which is responsible for the Big Little Comedy Festival each year. In 2013, he completed an entire month of comedy by performing 31 days in a row for the month of January. He’s a frequent blogger (here, The Second City Network, and the iO Water Cooler) Instagramer, Pinterester, and Tweeter in his spare time. You can follow the madness @TheRyanNallen.

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