Spotlight On: Omaha Improv Festival

DSC_0807The first time I heard about The Omaha Improv Festival I was excited to submit and perhaps perform in a place I’d never played before, until I realized I was already set to play in Del Close Marathon. I know I’m not the only one. There’s a lot of curiosity about the sophomore festival. I got to talk with Dylan Rohde about the festival and the city. The festival is coming together quickly and it could be a great place to go experience something new.

Omaha is a bit of a mystery to many performers from outside the region. Many performers have never visited to perform before. What’s the scene like? What are some of the things you celebrate in your improv?

The scene started 3 years ago, and most weekly performers have been doing it 1-2 years right now. We have about 40 people who perform regularly, and they are very dedicated to helping make the community thrive. There is a little bit of a mix between stand-up and theatre, but we’re mostly our own entity. Characteristics of our style is that we play a little slower, average scene is 2-4 minutes, but they are fairly focused on game, while still have solid relationships. Above all else, we strive to have fun in every scene.

The Backline

The Backline

Backline is the main venue. What’s the venue like? What kind of audiences generally come on down for shows there?

The venue is sharp, and fairly large. The entire space consists of a large lobby, performance area, green room, costume and props room, warm-up room, and small rehearsal/sketch room. It’s downtown, just outside of the historic Old Market. Our audience is generally 24-34 and a mix between small groups of friends or dates.

Last year you had some great coaches and surprises. Outside of a performance slot, what can visitors expect to get out of the weekend?

You can still expect some amazing shows performed by both our great coaches, and some good teams visiting. We are bringing in a very heavy UCB list of coaches this time around, but their individual styles are very different. This time around, we have everything located downtown. The hotel is 1 block away, and will also be the location for one of the workshops. This should make it very convenient to get around. If you fly here, you shouldn’t even need to rent a car. The furthest anyone will travel for a show is 5 blocks. This should also give them a chance to go explore our city. May is also the most beautiful month in Omaha, before it gets too hot, just after it was too cold. The city is completely covered in green and the temperature is perfect.

Your festival this year runs from Wednesday until Sunday. Many performers sometimes shy away from festivals if they’re likely to be scheduled on days they can’t get away from their day jobs. How will the scheduling of local and out of town groups be set up this year on weekdays?

The weekday slots are more designed for our new local teams to get a chance to be a part of this. We try an be as inclusive as we can, and this is the best way for us to do this, and still maintain a killer line-up during the weekend. We don’t really expect outsiders to be here for the Wednesday night show, or probably even Thursday.

Who wouldn't want to ride this?

Who wouldn’t want to ride this?

The show is going to be near the Old Market. Many visitors aren’t familiar with the area. What can they do during the day in Omaha? What are some of the best places to eat around the venue and hotel?

My favorite place for lunch in all of Omaha, or really any city I’ve been in, is Block 16. If you like burgers, gyros, or phillies, this place is for you. They also have great unique sandwiches like a buffalo burger with duck confit as their daily specials. Pretty much all the restaurants downtown have great food though, and are all within just a couple blocks. The Old Market is great for people who want to walk around old brick streets and check out a huge array of stores for blocks and blocks consisting of many antique shops along with fashion, music, and other ‘mall-type’ shops. We also suggest everyone check out the Henry Doorly Zoo while here, it’s one of the best in the nation. They can also easily walk down to see the Missouri river, or cross it and start gambling.

Every festival strives to showcase great improv to local audiences and each festival has different goals in that regard. What are you really hoping to showcase to your audience? What kind of shows are you looking for to come and perform?

Even more than our audience, we do this for our performers. We want them to see what else is out there in the world. See how other cities perform, learn from some of the best coaches out there, and above all else, have fun. We want people who want to have fun to come and perform.

Everything that’s been said of the 2013 festival is that it went off great. 2014 is an opportunity to grow and try new things. What are you really hoping to accomplish in this year’s festival?

Last year, one of the biggest downfalls was that performers stayed at a single venue all night because it was too much travel or hassle to bounce around. this year, we’re hoping people go from one venue to the next to see the shows they want to see. We also brought in over twice as many coaches, and half of them are female, compared to last year’s mostly all-male line-up.

When the festival’s done and people go home what do you hope people will be saying about the festival and the improv community in Nebraska?

I hope they say the same things they did last year, including that we aren’t jokey, we’re very accepting and friendly, and this is one of the most professionally put together mid-sized city improv festivals they’ve been to.


Submissions for Omaha Improv Festival 2014 are open right now, but won’t be for long. You can submit right now.

Photos courtesy of The Omaha Improv Festival and Schubox Photography

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