Admit to Everything

A Look Back at the Alaska State Improv Festival

A Festival Happened Here

A Festival Happened Here

When I’ve been telling people I went to an improv festival in Alaska, the first thing they want to know about is… Alaska. And it’s understandable why. Alaska is still a far away frontier filled with danger and beauty. So let’s talk about it for a moment. Juneau, Alaska is surrounded on every angle by beautiful mountains and snow-caps. Lakes and rivers. Oh, and humpback whales. But as foreign an experience as the small little town in the north was, one thing was very familiar; a love of improv.

Juneau has a small downtown, a very small downtown. I walked it’s circumference a few times while I was there. But almost every book store or coffee shop I stopped in at knew I was “one of the improvisors”. In a town that size, people care about their community and are excited to see art grow there. And in a town that size, you’re going to run into other performers at just about every meal or excursion and get a chance to sit down with new folks over a meal and talk improv. Even without a festival going on in the evening, it was a lovely improv experience.

But there was nothing “small” about the improv. Eric Caldwell and Michael Christenson are known for shows around the country that are the farthest thing from “playing it easy”. In a community that may very well let them get away without challenging themselves, they play on the edge of absurdism and dadaism in wonderful ways. The result is a small and educated community prepared to enjoy the many kinds of improv out there.

Glacier Runoff

Glacier Runoff

And that’s what they brought into town; puppetry, apocalyptic cabaret, shows exploring the themes of Lovecraft and 1930’s pulp and more. I personally was very happy to showcase invocation to an audience like that at the beginning of my Sunday show.

Oh yeah, and we all got on a boat and watched humpback whales.

This is about as far an experience from Del Close Marathon as one can get. It’s like getting welcomed, ever so briefly into a little secret art community and have the chance to share your art and learn from theirs and then go home. I’m actually torn now because I would desperately love to submit a show to visit again next year, but I’d almost feel guilty of robbing some other performer a chance to experience such a thing.

Huge thanks to Eric and Mike and all of the volunteers who were there every day. This isn’t going to be an “every year” festival for most performers. It’s a big journey. But I hope every troupe tries to visit this place and recharge their improv.

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

Festival Review: The Phoenix Improv Festival Rises For the 13th Time!

I had the great opportunity to attend the Phoenix Improv Festival last weekend and this festival has no signs of slowing down. The theme of the Festival seemed to be a throwback to early High School. Which would make sense since the festival just hit puberty at 13 years. But PIF has always been a mature festival from the get go. You know like a kid that has an old spirit? That’s PIF in a nutshell.

The venue is unbeatable to this day. Held at the Herberger Theater which holds a little more than 300 people you are in a theater that would make William Shakespeare jealous. Also, the teams that played were solid, coming from all over the country, New York, Los Angeles, Cedar City, Chicago and of course their local improv scene which has grown tremendously over the past 13 years.

It was great to see the Arizona community come together for this festival. The Torch Theater, JesterZ, NCT Phoenix and Not Burned Out Just Unscrewed were all on hand to hang out with each other, perform and celebrate improv in their state.

One of the many great things about PIF, is they know how to take care of their improvisors. They take cover one night of hotel for your team, den mothers who drive your drunk team everywhere and get you safely to and from parties and workshops. Our Den Mother for King Ten was awesome and made us all sack lunches ala the theme of the festival. Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich, kool-aid and an apple! Thanks Stacey Gordon! The thing I really lov e about PIF is it’s not just a festival, for one weekend out of the year you are a Phoenix Improvisor. They treat you as if you are a part of their family.

For the last two years PIF has tried to do an unconference. How this works is improvisors attend, make up what topics they want to talk about during the morning session and then come back later to chat about those topics. I thought this was great idea, but wasn’t well attended unfortunately. Improvisors really missed out.  I will say that I attended and got a lot of great information from it and the people that were in there did as well. It was a great way to share and exchange information. Topics included everything from diversity in improv to team management. I hope to see it grow.

Bottom line. Look for this festival next year. It’s by far one of the great festivals in the country and has consistently been for the last 13 years. One of the first festivals out West, and I see many more years to come!

Nick Armstrong

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. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what you want.

To e-mail nick e-mail For more information visit: or

Spotlight On: Coachella Improv/Comedy Festival

Indio, CA isn’t a city known for its improv. But it is a city known to many improvisors. It’s the crossroads of the roads that connect many improv cities. Many a roadtrip has had a brief stop in Indio to stop at Burger King. Jeanette Knight wants to change that. She wants Indio to be, not an improv pitstop, but an improv destination. Their having their first improv festival in July and I got to learn a bit about it.


Indio is – in a way – already well known to improvisors in the southwest. It’s right on the freeway that connects many improv cities. But this is the first year; you’re trying to make it the destination of an improv pilgrimage. Why the decision to start an improv festival in the city?

The facility, the Indio Performing Arts Center, is an ideal venue for an improv festival because it consists of three small intimate theatres plus a centralized 300 seat ballroom. Indio is already known as the “City of Festivals” due to the Coachella Music Fest, the Tamale Fest, and the Riverside County Date Festival. While most people might know Indio as a rest stop on the I-10, the demographics are quickly changing along with the improv scene. There are at least three local improv groups, some of whom grew out of classes taught by Jeanette Knight at the Palm Canyon Theatre and the Indio Performing Arts Center. We view improv as an under-valued art form and are proud of the “ripple effect” we’ve had relating to not only the art form, but also its philosophies. Another part of this “ripple effect” takes place in the mountains above the Coachella Valley at the Idyllwild Arts Academy, an internationally recognized boarding high school for the arts, where Jeanette teaches improv, introducing and inspiring a whole new generation to the art form. The Coachella Valley is highly supportive of the arts in general.

Coachella is nationally known as a music city. What are the advantages and disadvantages of tying to promote a different art form in the city?

The Coachella Valley consists of a string of cities beginning with Palm Springs to the west and La Quinta to the east. It is known as the show business retirement capitol of the world, with lots of celebs and former celebs living here. These folks are still interested and want to be involved in theatre and improv. As a resort destination, the Coachella Valley tends to be seasonal, with high season being winter. However, that is changing along with the demographics and we want to be part of that evolution.

There’s no real improv scene in Indio, but there is a theatre scene. How is improv perceived in Indio. What are your hopes in terms of exposing audiences to improv, possibly for the first time?

The theatre scene here not only exists, but is growing and thriving by leaps and bounds. The Indio Performing Arts Center (IPAC) was established in 2006 as a 501c3 non-profit organization, and we have collaborated with several theatre companies and individuals (including the likes of Cloris Leachman, who presented her one woman show here) as well as producing our own shows. IPAC just produced the critically acclaimed play Marvin’s Room, which featured Kirk Geiger, the original Ty in both the stage and film versions of the cult classic comedy, Sordid LIves.
As part of the festival, we have seasoned improviser Andy Harmon offering workshops. Andy was authorized by Viola Spolin to teach her style of improv in the United Kingdom for over twenty years. He is currently teaching and presenting improv at the Coachella Valley Repertory Theatre in Rancho Mirage, a neighboring city. Jeanette founded the longest-running improv troupe in the valley, Joe and Mustard, in 2001, and though many members have moved on to use improv as an extension of other work, like tools for corporate training, we hope to re-unite at least some of its members for the festival. Andy’s Trouble in Public improv troupe performed as part of the 9th annual L.A. Improv Festival at I.O. So while at this time we have no “host” improv troupe, we have our roots deeply grounded in improv.

Your festival is in the slight minority among improv festivals in that there is no host improv theatre presenting the event. Your venue is one that might not typically see an improv show. What is the venue like? What kind of experience can visiting performers have on that stage?

Indio Performing Arts Center

Indio Performing Arts Center

The venue is ideal for an improv festival. Because there are three 100 seat theatres, we can have performances and/or workshops happening simultaneously. Each theatre has comfortable, raked, movie theatre style seating, with cup holders. Yep, your beverage is allowed in the theatre, and there is not a bad seat in the house. There is a bar that serves liquor for those over 21, as well as bottled water and soda. We plan to have an informal reception Friday evening in the centralized 300 seat ballroom. Great roomy dressing room with lighted mirrors and individual dressing areas.
The venue itself is so outstanding, that H&M rented it for its invitation-only Coachella Music Fest after party, which, rumor has it, hosted the likes of Katy Perry.

What other events will be happening as part of the festival, outside of evening performances?

Reception Friday evening 6pm on. Workshops Sat and Sun 10am-2pm. Performances 4-9pm both days. Awards at conclusion on Sunday evening.

As mentioned earlier, many performers only know Indio from its rest stops and gas stations. What are some of the things performers should see while visiting? Where are the best places to grab drinks or breakfast?

It being off-season, many world-class spas, restaurants, and hotels offer special discount deals. There are 4 or 5 casinos nearby, many of whom bring in top names as entertainment, including Bud Friedman’s “Improv” shows (Fantasy Springs Casino.) Online casino games are now trending where you can play online and sometimes win real prizes. As a matter of fact, Asgardian Stones doing well in the online industry. Empire Polo Grounds, Thursday night Palm Springs street fair, weekend College of the Desert Street Fair, Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, Indian Canyons, Tahquitz Canyon, Coachella Valley History Museum, Shields Date Gardens, Hot Air Balloon Rides, Biplane rides, Wet n Wild Water Park. “Sunnylands” is the name of the Annenberg Estate in nearby Rancho Mirage. They give tours of the estate and grounds. It has a rich history of political retreats and was the site of two recent meetings President Obama conducted there. And of course there’s the “magic healing mineral waters” in Desert Hot Springs where you can dip in the pools on Thursdays for only $3.00 for the day. Free 2nd Sunday will be taking place at the Palm Springs Art Museum on July 13.
Within walking distance is a Mexican restaurant and a thrift-store shopper’s paradise. Within a short driving distance are a Super Target, Mickey D’s, KFC, and all the usual fast food stuff.

First impressions are important. What kind of shows are you hoping to have at your festival to showcase to the public in your first year?

We have assembled a selection committee that has been instructed to focus on quality–be it long form improv or stand up comedy. So we expect to have a wider array of genres represented than your typical improv fest. We are interested in showcasing improvisation (long-form, short-form, comedy and/or drama) and memorized and/or improvised stand up sets. Our submissions so far have reflected that same variety. “StrongBose” (Nick Armstrong and Josh DuBose) is the only improv group confirmed to perform at this point in time, as our selection committee has yet to meet and make the final decisions on submissions.

I know that this festival is being used to test the market for future festivals. What are your long terms goals for an improv scene in Indio?

For the Coachella Improv/Comedy Fest to endure and become a wildly popular event that helps to foster and showcase emerging and established world-wide talent, educate the general public and “improv junkies” as well as honor those who have made major contributions to the art forms.

Submissions are open until the end of April. Submit now.

Spotlight On: The San Francisco Improv Festival

The San Francisco Improv Festival celebrates it’s 10th Year in September! I was able to do an interview with the Executive Producer of the festival Jamie Wright.

NA: You guys are celebrating 10 years of the San Francisco Improv Festival. How exciting is that? Tell us a little bit about your history.

JW: We’re super-excited to have the 10th anniversary of the Fest happening this year. We have a ton of great stuff happening – improvisation is exploding in San Francisco right now and the scene is full of new groups, schools and some new venues that are going to be fantastic. The fest has gone from a 12-week season of improv when it started to the focused, 10-day event of workshops &  shows with some of the best in the biz. We’re also excited about the work we’re doing around improv history via our documentary on SF’s The Committee, their influence, and the story of how they created [the] Harold. This years fest should be huge – we’re bringing back some favorite headliners, looking to get some surprise new ones and we have our most geographically diverse submission pool yet, so we’re really looking forward to putting together our lineup.

NA: What can improvisors expect from the SFIF this year?

JW: Probably the biggest difference between this year and years past is the load of workshops we are going to offer. We’re in talks with some fantastic teachers from all over the country & from all the different major national schools, and we’re looking to put together a sampling of what you can learn in SF’s improv scene as well. Also, we’re going to focus a bit more on our post-show hangouts. We’ll have the usual performer prices at our full bar for the immediate post-show schmooze, but we’ll also make sure there’s another place to wander off to for libations at different local joints, most likely in North Beach.

NA: San Francisco is one of the most beautiful cities in the world. What attractions can improvisor partake in?

JW: September is the time of year to be in SF. The summer fog goes away and everyone breaks out their warm weather gear and you see all the local restaurants put out their terraces. There’s the usual run of SF tourist things to do which are all worth a go at least once, but you also have all the major parks in SF (Golden Gate Park & Land’s End are amazing) and you’re an hour’s drive to wine country, a short BART ride to Berkeley & Oakland (SF’s Brooklyn), and the Mission is a foodie’s wet food dream. Though that last part makes it sound way less appetizing than it really is.

NA: Tell us about the venue improvisors will be performing in.

JW: All our improvisors get to play in a 200-seat theater sandwiched between downtown, North Beach and the waterfront. It’s a great, professional theater space to work in with a fairly massive stage to play on. We also in talks on having a satellite 80-seat stage about a 5-minute walk away, just up in North Beach, but more on that as it becomes clearer.

NA: 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 SF?

JW: We just want to make sure that people feel like they were taken care of and that they were actually in San Francisco. We’ve all done pile-on shows or revues where we feel like we were just given a slot and expected to fend for ourselves – it gets even weirder when it’s not your town. We want everyone who performs here to have the feeling like they got their due, they had a decent house to perform to in a pro venue, and that they got to meet & mix with a bunch of their fellow improvisors, gathered here in this amazing city from around the country & the world. The SF improv community is really cooking right now and it’s an exciting time to be here – come check it out!

So what are you waiting for SUBMIT Today! Or visit

Nick Armstrong

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. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what you want.

To e-mail nick e-mail For more information visit: or

The Orange County Improv Festival Soars into its 2nd Year

This last weekend I had the opportunity to perform and attend the 2nd Annual Orange County Improv Festival in Fullerton, CA put on by Spectacles Improv Engine. Their headliners this year where Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger, King Ten, Dr. God out of iO West and Mister Town City out of UCBLA.

The festival was great, the Orange County improv scene is building a community still, but it’s even more than it was last year. Thanks to the hard work of the Spectacles Improv Engine led my Josh Nicols and Matthew Thomas. The venue is a small 99 seat theatre but most of the shows had a great crowd and an enthusiastic audience. The fest offered improvisors hotel deals and great workshops from some top instructors out in the West like Jason Pardo (King Ten/iO/Annoyance), Brian O’ Connell (iO/Dr. God) and Luis Cortez and Drew Coolidge (Ranger Danger and the Danger Ranger).

Something that was really fun this year was in the gift bags, the OC organizers made each team their own Wine label which was pretty cool (See below). It’s the small things people. And you could of course count on the parties every night for improvisors. After the show they had a second space right behind the theater with a keg of Negro Modelo. Yum!

I really enjoyed the camaraderie and welcoming nature of the Orange County improv scene. Everyone was excellent and took care of the improvisors. The highlight of the evening came as the OC Improv Festival offered Camp Improv Utopia campers (Former and Future) the chance to do an improv jam. With about 20 people we did a big group montage that was fun, but the big moment came at the end when we were taking a group picture and the post show music started playing “Proud to be an American” in true improv fashion everyone, including the audience, started singing it. It was a fun moment and a great way to close the fest.

This year only brought out teams mostly from the West. I’d hope by year three we see more teams coming from all over the country as the festival grows.

Nick Armstrong

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. He has also taught workshops around the country. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what you want! To e-mail nick e-mail For more information visit: or

San Diego’s Freshman Outing

Improv This Way

Improv This Way

San Diego has had improv for a long time, but the last couple of years has seen a huge growth in performers, quality and involvement in the national community. Several theatres have grown, at least one new one has started, and this past weekend they put on a proper festival.

I was lucky enough to be in San Diego for the event, and even perform with Galapagos on Saturday evening. The whole festival was well organized and the shows were great all around. And while there were a fair amount of performers in the audience, there were plenty of audience members seeing improv for perhaps the first time. I can’t imagine a better introduction.

One of the important things traveling performers always want to know is “How close to the venue is the hotel?”. San Diego may be #1 in the game on this one. The distance from my room to the stage was probably about 200 feet. Finest City Improv has a lovely venue attached to The Lafayette Hotel and graciously provided their stage to the festival. The closeness was nice of course, but having that close of a relationship between a festival and a hotel meant many other conveniences throughout the weekend, inducing a pool party hosted by local troupe Swim Team and one after party at the hotel bar across the hallway.

The Venue itself was great for a first year festival; not as huge as some festivals, but a great size to welcome the public and introduce them to new improv. The Finest City folks were among the most generous of their time and energy of any festival I’ve visited and their volunteers could not be more involved and motivated. A lot of that is unquestionably rooted in the energy of Amy Lisewski and Chris George. They weren’t by any stretch of the imagination the only people working hard, but it was apparent that their love and passion for improv were the inspiration for many people. Everyone at the festival clearly believes in their vision.



And that vision goes to working together with all the artists and performers in San Diego. It was great to catch up with Mike McFarland from Sidestage Improv and other performers from around the theatres in town both performing and coming to share together in the excitement of the weekend. It was the performers of San Diego all working together to celebrate. It was in fact sad that one improv company decided to isolate themselves and not involve themselves at all with the festival. It’s always disheartening to see companies like this think that working together to educate the public is somehow hurting their business model. It’s an outdated idea and one that I hope dissolves in San Diego in the next few years.

The programming for the weekend was solid and consistent, pulling a slightly regionalized set of performers, but also shows and instructors from farther away providing exposure to different styles. Workshops from Bill Arnett, Cook County Social Club and The Reckoning were not only an incredible collection of ideas, but a great investment in the future of San Diego performers. The shows were not only solid from start to finish, but well balanced and ordered to give each block’s audience an good variety of shows – something that many festivals overlook. Also, on a personal note, it has been fun this last year visiting festivals where I knew at least a little bit about every troupe performing through NIN. I won’t call out every show, but the highlight had to be Cook County Social Club sitting in with The Reckoning. That’s the kind of show you don’t get to see that often. The Laser Improv Show was another show that got people talking if only because it was nice to see someone trying something new and unique.

Overall, if this is indicative of how San Diego runs festivals, they’re off to a great start. I have no doubt they’ll continue to grow. The festival was great and will continue to be great because of the hard work and enthusiasm of people like Vanessa, Gary, Emily, Kevin and especially Kat who was working and organizing practically every minute of that festival. To each of these people and to all the other volunteers and organizers, a sincere thank you from all the performers and audience members who enjoyed themselves this last weekend.

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

Photos Courtesy Finest City Improv

My Experiences on the Road: My 2013 Improv Travel Diary

This weekend marked the official end of my 2013 improv travels. I wanted to share with you my experiences over the last year of meeting some amazing improvisors and show you why I love this community so much! I hope you enjoy!

The Experience: Milky Way Improv Festival:

This year marked the first improv festival ever in my hometown in the Sacramento/Roseville region in northern California. I was extremely proud to finally come home and know that not only was there a great improv community forming but a really amazing improv fest in one of the most beautiful venues. It was a classic theater in old town Roseville with an audience of 200 plus!

Why You Should Visit:

Sacramento has got a lot of history to check out, plus the Milky Way Improv Festival is a nice place to perform and a supportive audience and improv community. Also, if you are ever passing through or find yourself in Sacramento Blacktop Comedy Theater always has its doors open for out of towners.

Improv Utopia

Improv Utopia

The Experience: Improv Utopia

My next adventure was at Camp Improv Utopia. This is a camp I am the Founder and Camp Director of. Being a Boy Scout growing up and an improvisor as an adult I wanted to combine both my loves of childhood and adulthood because I figured…Yeah improvisors are like adults and kids all at the same time that would be cool! Flash-forward to 4 years later and I’ve had the amazing opportunity to meet improvisors from all over the country connecting me to them and learning about their improv, their festivals, their cities and their theaters. Also, what my campers showed me was how great the improv community really is. I might have provided the venue for this but the campers and the national improv scene have created the camaraderie there.

Why You Should Visit:

Camp is an amazing experience that brings the national improv community together for a camping retreat. Filled with workshops, camp activities and more it’s a great place to have fun and share your love of improv with a great community.

The Experiences: Spectacles Improv Engine: (Fullerton, CA)

Spectacles Improv Engine visit!

Spectacles Improv Engine visit!

My third stop was at Spectacles Improv Engine in Fullerton, CA. This is a great and growing community in southern California that has a great community of improvisors. Lead by the amazing and wonderful Josh Nicols, they have not only created some great teams and improvisors but have brought an improv festival to Orange County with such acts as The Reckoning attending. The thing I love about the scene down here is their willingness to learn and grow. Bringing great acts and workshops to their community and not being afraid to bring other local improv theaters into their community to try to expand the presence of improv behind the Orange Curtain.

Why You Should Visit:

The Orange County Improv Festival is hosted by Spectacles Improv Engine and they work hard to get great acts and workshops together for their out of town and local acts. They are also just extremely nice and fun to hang around with!

The Experience: DuoFest

DuoFest is such a cool festival. Intimate and amazing this year was headlined by Scot Adsit and Jet Eveleth and they put on a hell of a show. But the thing I got most out of this festival was how passionate their organizers were especially one of the board members Rick Andrews.

Why You Should Visit:

If you have a two person show this is the mecca for it! That’s all they do no exceptions. Also, it’s Philly! Historical and beautiful. Go visit Independence Hall and say hello to the weird tour guide there! I loved it so much here I found our East camp in Pennsylvania this same weekend!

The Experience: The Detroit Improv Festival

Razowsky and Clifford at the Detroit Fest!

Razowsky and Clifford at the Detroit Fest!

To the EAST! In August, I was off to Detroit, MI to attend my second year at The Detroit Improv Festival. When I say I love this festival, that’s an understatement. The gang here have really taken an improv fest and turned it into a rock concert! This year they had pretty much every major improv headliner there is…TJ and Dave, Craig Cackowski and Rich Talarico of (Dasariski), Razowsky and Clifford, Messing with a Friend with Susan Messing and Tj Jagadowski. I mean Detroit was the improv mecca for a week in August! Thank god a nuclear bomb didn’t go off  in Michigan or improv would have taken a huge hit! This was truly a great event bringing acts from all around. And not only do they have great acts but they have great full audiences too! And they treat their improvisors very well here. I was so full from all the free food it was crazy!

Why You Should Visit:

Hands down one of the best improv festivals in the country right now. A chance to mix and mingle with improvisors and headliners from all over the US and Canada and a ton of great opportunities to see great shows and do workshops from the best.

The Experience: Ventura Improv Festival

Performing with Kind Strangers in Ventura

Performing with Kind Strangers in Ventura

Labor Day Weekend! I went to the small beach community of Ventura, CA and stopped off at The Ventura Improv Festival. Run by the Ventura Improv Company, the festival is mostly local acts with a few acts from out of town. The theater and community is really great here and very welcoming. A mix of short-form and long-form, the audiences were packed in every night giving us improvisors a great and enthusiastic crowd. The one thing I really get from this festival is their tightness as a company. They almost seem like family there. And they should be…the company has been around since 1989 bringing improv to the Ventura region.

Why You Should Visit:

Located in a beautiful beach city, they are always willing to put up traveling improv groups or have you in one of their shows. It’s a great community that makes you feel at home!

The Experience: The Kansas City Improv Festival

The Mullaney Chain: Kansas City!

The Mullaney Chain: Kansas City!

Off to the Midwest! In September, I found myself deep in the midwest at the Kansas City Improv Festival in Kansas City, Missouri. This was a really fun fest for me. It was a dream come true to play with Kevin Mullaney, Jill Bernard, Trish Berrong and Ed Doris in Mullaney Chain. I also got to play with After School Special, which is a local troupe who invited me to play with them and we had such a fun and magical show in front of a packed house.

Why You Should Visit:

The improvisors in Kansas City are really great and welcoming and they have a few improv theaters there. A great chance to meet improv vets and see some great acts. Also, Kansas City is a great place to hang out for the weekend. And if you do pass through go see After School Special. They’re pretty rad!

The Experience: The Red Rocks Improv Festival

The Narrows - Zion National Park

The Narrows – Zion National Park

Man, I can’t say enough about this festival. I’ve been their since it’s inception four years ago and I keep going back. This is for sure the smallest fest with the biggest heart. Run by Off the Cuff Improvisation out of Cedar City, Utah it’s a weekend of not only shows and workshops but group bonding! One of the highlights of this fest was trudging through water in Zion National Park with a group of improvisors from all over. We even jumped off a rock into icy cold water!

Why You Should Visit:

The location and people! Off the Cuff Improvisation is a great company that takes care of you. Finding you places to stay, bringing in huge crowds in such a small community and even renting a huge van to commute you around to different nature hikes. This city is surrounded by beauty not only by nature but by the friendships you make here.

The Experience: Coldtowne Theater (Austin, TX)

Austin, Tx is just a fun town! I was invited out to teach and perform out here and was amazed at the family feeling I got from them! My friend Amy Carpenter, who I first met in Phoenix on one of my favorite teams Mail Order Bride, let me stay at her house for the weekend. The backyard was filled with chickens and I even had a welcome sign in my guest bedroom. Amy was also converting one of her rooms into a small theater! The Artistic Director of Coldtowne Cody Dearing has done a wonderful job in creating a great environment there and they are always welcoming in bringing in guests and troupes. Hit them up if you’re in town!

Why You Should Visit:

Austin, TX is an amazing town with tons of great food and food trucks. Coldtowne Theater puts on some great shows and their theater is a fun place to perform, you can feel the passion of the artform all over.

The Experience: The Denver Improv Festival

Who doesn’t like fall in Denver? What a beautiful city. And not only that they have such a wonderful community. The Denver Improv Festival, run by the non-profit organization Group Mind Foundation runs heck of a fest! On the first night the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse offered performing improvisors free beverages! You know they were all over that! It’s a beer town of course they would! Again this is a festival that brings in great acts and workshops too. It’s also a well established improv community that has around four major improv theaters.

Why You Should Visit:

Denver is beautiful in October, which is when the festival usually happens. The Group Mind Foundation and the participating theaters make you feel welcome and offer performers some great perks.

The Experience: GhostFest (Phoenix, AZ)

This improv marathon is one of the only ones that I know of out West. It’s a two day marathon with a ton of shows and performers. GhostFest is a fundraiser for the popular Phoenix Improv Festival. The great thing I love about this marathon is people experiment! Shows are not alway about being funny, which a ton of them are, but they are not afraid to be serious and take some risks.

Why You Should Visit:

A great opportunity to meet a ton of improvisors and do a lot of shows. You can even hop into shows. If you’re around you might just be asked to join. It’s a fest that is fun, funny and spiritual all at the same time.

The Experience: Finest City Improv (San Diego, CA)

Finest City Drink Menu

Finest City Drink Menu

My last stop was Finest City Improv who will officially open their theater in December, but has a soft opening happening now. Run by their Captain Amy Liweski, an improv warrior in my book, is really trying to grow the improv scene in San Diego. Opening this theater is one way she is doing it, the other way she will be doing it is by producing the San Diego Improv Festival that will be Valentine’s Weekend in February of next year. I love watching the thirst and passion to create a community down here. They’re not alone we even got to hang out with some of the Sidestage Improv folks too who have their own shows, but also cross pollinate between the two and will be helping put on the festival as well.

Why You Should Visit:

San Diego it seems always has great weather. And the Finest City gang always have an open door policy to any improvisor from San Diego or from out of town. The cool thing about the theater there is it’s attached to a hotel, so you can get a room, food and drink anywhere at anytime even in the theater! I got tater-tots and Lava Cake one night! YUM!

Wrap up:

It’s been a great and fun journey and I really want to say that if you get a chance to go to a festival or go to a theater if you’re visiting a town or city do it! You will always feel at home when you visit improvisors, theirs always a room or couch waiting for you, an eager improvisor to show you their city or have you perform with them. I can’t believe how far we’ve come as a community in only really the last 5 years. It’s been pretty amazing! No matter how big or small the fest or theater is, one thing is always true in all my travels. Improvisors are the most kind and amazing people on this planet!



Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for grown ups in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what you want! To e-mail nick e-mail For more information visit: or






Who should I submit?

The hardest choice in the world

The hardest choice in the world

Back in the olden days (circa 2002), submitting to festivals was a bit more of a chore; mailing addresses, VHS tapes, CD-Rs with pictures. It was a messy business. On the other hand, one part of festival submissions was easier back then, knowing who to submit. Before improv theatres started growing in many cities, most improv troupes were islands and – unless you lived in Chicago – most performers were in one, or maybe two shows.

It’s a different world now. Performers have more freedom to explore their craft and play with many new players. That’s a great thing. The only tiny downside is that when an exciting festival is on the horizon, we have to ask “Who should I submit to go?” It’s not the hardest question in the world, but here’s a few things to think about to have the most fun year round.

1. Have an honest conversation with your group

We’re improvisors, so we say “yes” to everything. When you ask your friends if they want to go to a festival, they will instantly and excitedly say yes. Then later – maybe – they’ll ask when it is and what it might cost them to go. There is nothing more disheartening than getting accepted to a festival and then having to decline because your troupe can’t get the time off from work. And as a festival producer I can tell you, you won’t get blacklisted if that happens. We understand things come up. But it will lower your chances a bit of further invites.

Have a realistic conversation with your troupe before submitting. Find out who can go, who can’t. If one member can’t make it, will your show still be solid? Will it hurt your group mind to go without a member? Often times the answer to both will be yes and it’s not a big problem, but it’s best to ask.

Pro Tip: Try to bring what you promised to a festival. IF you submitted an eight person show and only seven people can make it, that’s understandable. If you submit a four person show and one person and two different people not in the submission come, you weren’t accurately representing yourself and it will hurt your chances of being invited back.

2. Talk to the festival

Get in touch with the festival producers. They’re always happy to talk to you about your show and offer advices on their own festival. Each festival has their own vision of what they’d like the weekend to be like. They also know how many slots they’ll have available. Tell them about your shows and what each one can bring. They may offer specific suggestions of what is more in tune with their festival. They may offer only some general advice on what they’re looking for that you can consider. Please keep in mind that a festival producer does want to help, but offering advice on which show would be a best fit for their festival doesn’t guarantee acceptance. Most of the time, festivals wish they could invite everyone, but it’s just not possible.

3. Don’t oversubmit

If you feel there are a couple of troupes that might be a good fit for a festival, there’s nothing wrong with submitting both. Smaller festivals will likely not accept both because they want variety, but larger festivals often accept two troupes with some overlapping members. But don’t submit every show you’ve ever done. You know which shows are the ones you’re proud of and which ones are filler. The reviewers don’t. Your good shows will get lost in your own shuffle.

That said, don’t be afraid to mix it up sometimes. You might be on a couple of house teams that travel frequently. But there’s nothing wrong with once in a while taking a gamble and submitting a show that doesn’t travel often. You might not have the name recognition, but sometimes it’s the little offbeat shows that fill a gap in a festival schedule.

Bonus Note: Theatre owners

Most of the advice here was for autonomous troupes that submit for themselves. Many theatres have a slightly different setup where the theatre’s artistic director wants to send some representation of their theatre and needs to choose which shows to submit. A lot of the same ideas can be easily modified to your use, but keep in mind that – especially if your a younger theatre – many of your shows will be pretty similar in style. You love those shows and know the subtle differences between them, but the submission reviewers don’s share that context. Try to view those troupes from an objective point of view and see which troupe best represent your theatre. Keep in mind that you’ll probably be submitting to a few festivals throughout the year and you can always rotate the troupes you submit.

Have a good luck
Make good choices when submitting to festivals and you’re likely to have a more well rounded festival season. Don’t forget, submissions for Eau Claire and Phoenix both close tonight.

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

A Mile High Achievement! A Review of The Denver Improv Festival

1086732_1383861295183501_1580790716_nDenver is named The Mile High City because its official elevation is exactly one mile or 5,280 feet (1,609.3 m) above sea level. And living a mile above sea level is a growing improv scene and bringing them together is The Denver Improv Festival run by the non-profit organization Group Mind Foundation. The Festival took place over one weekend in three venues The Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, Impulse Theater with workshops held at The Bovine Metropolis. The Festival Headliners were Convoy out of UCBLA, Switch Committee hailing from Chicago and MegaPowers from Los Angeles. The festival was pretty much sold out the entire time with audiences of 150 or more. It was a great and welcoming audience too! Each night ended with a party too for the public and improvisors. The one night found improvisors belting out Karaoke tunes at the Voodoo which was amazing.

One of the biggest differences I saw this year was DIF getting more sponsors. This was a goal of theirs and they made good. You never know how until you ask. And it seemed this year they were hugely successful getting donations monetarily and product-wise. Improv is a growing art in any community and festivals often times bring attention to the art form. It’s great to see that the Denver business community came together to help DIF happen this year. Also as a side note in the “Only in Denver” category a dispensary was also a sponsor. Ah Denver!

20-1up-arcade-bar-denverBeyond the parties DIF offered improvisors many great perks: Great hotel deals in an expensive hotel city, free beers and drink specials for performers and a pretty hefty gift bag filled with munchies. They really made improvisors feel welcomed. And one of the outside highlights of the festival is my annual trip to 1Up Barcade. It’s an arcade bar that houses games like Ninja Turtles four player edition, Track and Field and The Simpsons. A great place to bond with your fellow improvisors.


So if you enjoy community, a fun city with a great barcade and a welcoming group of improvisors I highly recommend you check out the ever growing Denver Improv Festival. Good time, great city!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is the Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for grown ups held in California and Pennsylvania every year. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what you want!



Choosing your dental insurance

Choosing a dental insurance plan is almost as big of a decision as choosing a dentist. And in some ways, picking a plan is more challenging. One or two visits to the Cavitations The Silent Killer for a checkup and cleaning will likely be enough for you to figure out whether you and the practice are a good fit over the long term. But you may not discover problems with your dental insurance until you really need the coverage


Understanding Dental Insurance
Unlike health insurance, which people rely on to pick up the costs when they are faced with big healthcare bills, dental insurance primarily focuses on covering low-cost, preventive treatments. Most plans will cover 100% of the cost of preventative care such as cleanings, checkups and x-rays, 80% of basic treatments such as fillings, and 50% of more complex and costly procedures such as root canals and crowns. And typically, you will need to be a member of a dental insurance plan for at least a year before coverage for the costlier procedures kicks in, and up to six months for some basic restorative services.

The typical cost of an individual dental insurance policy is around $350 a year. For a family, the cost is around $550, annually. If you pay out of pocket for two checkups and cleanings and a set of X-rays, your cost, on average, will be around $375-$400, according to the American Dental Association. So, with a dental policy, you’re basically pre-paying for your essential preventive care, with a little assurance built in that if you need a couple of fillings, or chip a tooth, you’re also covered.

You can buy dental insurance from an independent insurance agent, from an online marketplace such as, or from the Obamacare health exchanges.

Dental Insurance Caps, Limits and Deductibles
Most dental insurance policies cap coverage at $1000 -$1,500 a year. When you reach your annual cap, you will have to pay for your dental care for the rest of the year. Given that the average cost for a crown is $750-1200, and the cost of a single implant starts at $1500, you can exhaust your annual dental allowance fairly quickly.

Most dental insurance plans are also likely to have a “deducible,” an amount that you will have to pay out of pocket for dental services before your insurance will begin to cover their portion of the costs – typically $50 for an individual annually, and $150 for a family. But if you buy an insurance “bundle” that includes health and dental coverage, make sure that your dental plan deductible is separate from your health insurance deductible. It is not unusual for health insurance plans to have multi-thousand dollar deductibles before coverage begins. Unless you’re likely to rack up thousands in medical bills annually before you need dental care, you’ll ideally want your dental plan to have a separate deductible.

What Kind Of Dental Insurance Is Best?
If you have a dentist and really want to keep working with him or her, ask your dentist what insurance plans the office accepts and recommends. If you don’t have a dentist, or you don’t mind going to a new dentist, check the Rejuvenation Dentistry NYC one of the hugest rated professionals now a days.

Websites such as Consumer Advocate can help make it much easier to find the right dental insurance coverage. Consumer Advocate ranks both dental insurance and dental savings plans, based on the following criteria: the number of dentists in the plan’s network, the savings that you can expect from a plan, the cost of coverage (your premium), the annual maximum cap, and the dental treatments that a plan covers.

If you know what insurer you prefer, but need help in selecting a plan from among that insurer’s offerings, a web page dedicated solely to detailing the different benefits of an insurer’s plans, such as, is a great way to compare plans and choose the one that best suits your needs.

Dental Insurance That Covers Everything
If braces, dentures or bridges are something you or a loved one does or will need, make sure the insurance plan that you choose covers them. And check to make sure that the amount of coverage offered makes sense to you – $1000 coverage specifically for braces may be just what you’re looking for in a dental insurance plan, or may not meet your health and/or financial needs at all.

Dental insurance typically doesn’t offer extensive coverage for major restorative processes such as a full set of quality dentures, and processes deemed cosmetic such as veneers or dental implants aren’t covered by many traditional insurance policies. If you need a significant amount of restorative work, are ready to address long-term dental problems, or (as noted above) don’t want to wait a year before you can get that missing tooth replaced under your insurance plan, you may wish to look at a dental savings plan.

Dental savings plans offer discounts of 10%-60% on average dental care rates, for members who pay an annual fee. Dental savings plans are an affordable alternative to insurance, have no annual caps, no waiting period is applied for accessing care, and no restrictions on obtaining care for preexisting conditions. The best and most comprehensive website for comparing dozens of dental savings plans is

Websites can help to narrow the options, but only you can choose the plan that’s right for you and your loved ones. Carefully consider your options – dental insurance, a dental savings plan or self-insurance, and choose the dental plan that’s right for you.

So what’s my point? While on the road I still see this struggle. We want to do better but are afraid to go out of our circle sometimes to get that help or we think it’s cheaper if we just take care of it ourselves. We have too much pride in what we’ve created sometimes. Or we just don’t want to spend the money. It’s okay to ask for help. And it’s okay to spend money. If you do spend that money you’ll get more in return and it will save you time to do the things you need to do with your theatre like focus on your shows, scheduling and being an Artistic Director.


Remember we are improvisers and we need support even if it’s outside support. If your dream is to run a successful theatre then do it. But you’re going to need a helping hand. Let professionals handle all the hard stuff so you can focus on the stuff you’re a professional at.

Written by: Nick Armstrong

Nick is an Actor, Writer, Improviser and Director living in Los Angeles, CA. On TV Nick has been on the Emmy-Award winning shows The Office, Parks and Recreation and Grey’s Anatomy. He has also made regular appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live. Onstage you can catch Nick performing and teaching regularly at the world-famous iO West in Hollywood, CA with LA’s Best Harold Team King Ten and The touring Genre-Improvised Show Kind Strangers. Nick has also trained at the famed Groundlings Theater. He is the Founder and Camp Director of Improv Utopia an annual camp for improvisers. For more information visit 

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