Spotlight On: E-MPROV – Improv Online Worldwide

A few months ago I participated in an improv show online on E-mpov. I saw the potential of Improv online as a way to connect the improv community worldwide. I had a chance to interview the Artistic Director of this online adventure Amey Goerlich to chat with her about:

NICK: How did E-EMPROV start?

AMEY: Terry Withers Created E-MPROV.COM here is what he had to say about it:

I wanted to perform more than I was.  My son was 6 months old and Jenn needed help.  I was still doing improv shows when I could but they put an amazing strain on our day to day.  I knew about video conferencing and I decided to look into it.  I couldn’t believe that you could just broadcast a video conference.  That blew my mind.  I decided I would try to figure out how to do that, certain that either my lack of tech knowledge or old computer would stop me.  Somehow they didn’t.  I wanted there to be a way for a show to happen and build momentum for the next one.  YouTube didn’t really lend itself to that.  I decided I would try to design a website, guessing that my lack of tech knowledge or old computer would stop me.  Once again I was wrong.  Then I invited a bunch of improvisers to give it a shot.  Since improvisers tend to be wonderful people, they agreed to give it a shot.

NICK: What is the goal of E-MPROV?

AMEY: E-MPROV is dedicated to embody and celebrate the principals of long form improv as an equal opportunity performance option to all. We are devoted to the widespread promotion of long form improv nationally and internationally. Combining electricity and improv to create a new way to universally connect to others through the power of Improvisation.

NICK: What do we have to look forward to with e-mprov?

AMEY: We are creating a lot of new shows like our College face offs where we have two college improv teams compete against each other and the team with the most likes on their e-mprov set will move on to the next College face off.

We are also connecting with improvisers globally.  We have one international team that performs live every sunday at 10am and we just started International Jams.

We have Improv talk shows, Bit shows, Regular house teams which includes a High School improv team.  I’m even doing a monthly show where i improvise with kids under 4 years old called Look who’s talking improv.

NICK: How can improvisors get involved?

AMEY: Easy go to our website E-MPROV.COM and on the bottom of our front page you can register as a team or an individual. We have 3 Jam shows a week one being international where you can play with people from France, Tokyo, England, Australia and many more countries.

NICK: What have been your biggest challenges?

AMEY: Probably the technology on google hangouts.  We have so many ideas and it’s just a matter of trying to play with the format to do different things with it.  Also the international aspect of E-MPROV is tough because they want to also do shows live but at prime times for them which usually means 7 or 10am EST in the US.  But we are game for anything.

Nick Armstrong

Nick Armstrong is Founder and Camp Director 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.

10 Years of Funny

A review of the San Francisco Improv Festival

I had the honor of being a part of the 10th annual San Francisco Improv Festival this September with my team Glassworks. This festival was huge! Well, compared to most festivals that is. The SFIF hosted over thirty teams from across the country, featuring performers like Adsit & Eveleth, Razowsky & Hamilton, Susan Messing, Armando Diaz and more. Plus workshops! And it all happened over the span of two weeks. Yep, two weekends jam packed with top-notch performers guaranteed to make you feel some sort of way (and hopefully a bit of laughter).

The festival made its home at the Eureka Theater in the heart of San Francisco. It is an excellent theater with a capacity of over 200 people. All of the seats are fixed in place, lined with red velvet. The stage is pretty large, allowing scenes to grow with the environment whether it is a dance studio, farmstead, or food court. Though I must mention that a larger space calls for an intense focus on projection from the performers. Soft-spoken scenes were often too easy for the audience to miss.

Check out this rad poster design! Now that’s some smart advertising right there. An attractive poster is always a plus at festivals.
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Our team received several preparatory emails leading up to the festival, including individual board representatives to answer any and all of our questions beforehand. The fest made sure to tackle technical details a month ahead of time, which is extremely comforting for both the performers and the folks running the festival. You don’t want to be scrambling to make everything work on the night of the show. Kudos to you all at SFIF! It was our responsibility to figure out the rest of the details once we arrived in the city. Things like finding the theater, figuring out if there was anything we needed as a performer (e.g. badges, wristbands) and finding a place to sleep. I’m happy to say that we were able to complete all of these tasks on our own.

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I was only there for a few nights during the second week of the festival and am sorry to say that I did not have much of a chance to meet other performers from the festival, but did have a chance to meet two of the producers, Jamie Wright and Chris Hayes. Both of them were incredibly friendly and had open arms when we needed help. The entire SFIF staff was always ecstatic, willing to help in any way they could.

Guys, the bay area is absolutely beautiful! During the day we were able to swim in the Pacific Ocean! I’m from Wisconsin, so that’s pretty special. We explored the city, ranging everywhere from the cliffs on the western shores to Haight & Ashbury to the cities surrounding the bay. Parks dotted the landscape, trees grew high into the sky and the water was clean. There’s definitely a reason that improv is deeply rooted in San Francisco. The 60’s brought The Committee and now the city has improv theaters and training grounds like Leela, EndGames, BATS, and Un-Scripted Theater.

Overall I really enjoyed my time in San Francisco! The performer wristband granted me access to EVERY SHOW, the variety of talent was incredible to watch, and the city is truly special. Do yourself a favor and check out this festival when it comes back for its 11th year! Also be sure to schedule in plenty of time to explore the area. You won’t regret it.


Elliot currently resides in Eau Claire, performing with Glassworks and helps run the festival there. He also used to operate an underground venue called “The Playhouse” in Eau Claire, running shows nearly every weekend with both musicians and improv.

Go To Camp

10685966_10204122700242136_484299118_oI’ve heard about Camp Improv Utopia for a few years. It always sounded like a really great opportunity I should probably taken advantage of sometime but when it came to going – for whatever reason – I always stayed in my own little world.

And then Nick Armstrong invited me to come out and play. And he made it super easy and super fun for me to do it. And that action of saying yes reminded me of the yes I said years ago in my first improv class – it had this feeling of scariness and newness. I was surprised by my fear and the feeling of a wall I didn’t know I had up coming down and I pushed myself to step out into a moment that I knew at the very least was going to be wholly different from anything I had experienced before.

And what a moment it was. In terms of expectation, I knew the instruction was going to be excellent – five of the most talented and skilled leaders of what we love to do where going to be there. But what I didn’t expect, what was absolutely transformative to me where the people. The community of players who came together that weekend were open and friendly, hungry to learn and ready to play and that energy was incredible to be a part of.

10676862_10204122700362139_1884060643_oFurthermore, this feeling of inclusion and community – permeated throughout the camp. It was invigorating to see real collaboration over the weekend – instructors in conversation with folks from all over the country sharing ideas, exercises, and mentoring. Artistic directors, festival managers, and newer improvisers sharing stories of their home theaters and learning and playing and doing bits together. Each class, each meal, each moment was an opportunity to connect and these wonderful improvisers were not only open to it – they were excited for it. And they made me excited for it too.

It’s been hard for me to write this piece because it has been hard put into words what Camp Improv Utopia did for me. Because it quite simply transformative. This incredible sense of community reconnected me with why I love improv. I love this art form because at the heart of it, you get this unique opportunity to connect with other people. And at camp, just like on-stage, when we slow down, we listen, and we connect, something beautiful can come alive and something transformative can happen.

I will tell anyone who will listen to me – you need to go to camp. And if you need help getting there, let me know. Do not underestimate, as I did, the rare opportunity we get in our lives to push ourselves into being more aware and more awake to each other and to build something great together. Nick and the Camp Improv Utopia East community reminded me of not just the importance of but necessity of that.


In Philadelphia, Maggy serves the Artistic Director for Figment Theater where she coaches and teaches regularly. She was the director of Davenger, a PHIT house team that won Best New Act at the 2013 WitOut Awards.

The Improv Movement is Upon Us!

On my way back to California from Camp Improv Utopia East over Labor Day weekend it all finally came together for me: The improv movement is here and is not going to stop. Recently, the bigger improv theaters, iO, Second City, The Annoyance and UCB have all embarked on getting bigger and better spaces. That tells you something about the state of improv when the big theaters are looking to grow. There are tons more improvisors than ever before. But guess what? It’s not just in the big cities.

Mostly overlooked is the improv movement that’s happening in our country and beyond. Pretty much every state has an improv theater or festival now. On our site alone we have 74 theaters listed, 80 festivals, over 700 improv troupes and over 1,300 members. Sure we have tons more work ahead of us, but we accept the challenge.

During camp I met, for the first time, many theaters and festivals I’ve never come in contact with like The Baltimore Improv Group, The Providence Improv Festival, District Improv Festival, Arcade Comedy Theater, Figment Theater, Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) and so many more. What makes me smile the most is that these improvisors, who work their 9 to 5 jobs accounting, administrating and waiting tables, have this inner passion that is screaming inside of them to go forth and make improv. Getting a space, in a pizza parlor, a bar, on the street…Wherever they can! They don’t see this as a financial endeavor but an improv endeavor. You see it radiating in their eyes when they talk to you about what they’re doing in their towns and how important it is, not to them, but to their cities and communities. They’ve discovered this great thing that makes them happy and they want to give it back.

That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the National Improv Network was founded on. That’s why we do all this. It isn’t for fame or money. It’s for us as a community. We want to be heard, we want everyone to know about this art-form and we will scream it to anyone that will listen. NIN is happy to do our small part in all of this, but we are here and improv is here throughout the country because of you! YES YOU! reading this right now! It’s for real now and it can’t be denied. And we want to get better at it, we want to do more with it and we want to connect like never before. The pieces of the improv puzzle are coming together. We still have work to do, there are still some bumps in the road but we have the passion, the numbers and the strength!

I’ll leave you with this. And this is what I say to my campers at the end of camp. Take what you’ve learned and go back to your communities. Help them grow. Share with everyone you can, help anyone you can and work together.

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 at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught improv workshops around the country.

Announcement: The NIN Sister Festival Project Launches

The National Improv Network (NIN) is launching a project that puts improv festivals together to help them grow, share and become known nationally.

How does it work?

Preferably a festival from one side of the country pairs with a festival from the other side of the country. For instance our first pairing is The Phoenix Improv Festival and The Detroit Improv Festival. The great thing about this pairing is they are on opposite sides of the country and their festivals fall at different parts of the year. Heck if you know festivals in other countries you should do that too. We have some listed on NIN.

Why?

Our goal is to get festivals together so they can help each other cross promote, help each other out and share information. What works at a fest, what doesn’t etc. Also, it’s likely The Detroit Improv Festival doesn’t have the same contacts and submissions as the Phoenix Improv Festival so during the off season of PIF they will help DIF promote their submissions and vice-versa.

So what do you do next?

Go to the Festival page on NIN and look up a festival you may want  to parnter with. We will be sending an e-mail to our festival members with this blog too so they know what’s going on. If you feel more comfortable having us introduce you to a festival please e-mail me at nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com. I’d be happy to get you in touch.

If you’ve partnered with a festival let us know! We will promote it on our site and spread the word as well. So join the movement and help our community grow even more. Yes and!

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.

 

Spotlight On: Red Rocks Improv Festival

This year marks the 5th year the small little town of Cedar City has and improv festival. It’s inspiring to see this community grow and expand every year. Cedar City has about 35,000 people in it and is a college town, but that doesn’t mean its been an easy road. Off The Cuff Improvisation who runs the Red Rocks Improv Festival, have had their challenges but in the end have hit them head on. Now they are a festival that attracts acts from all over the country to sold out crowds. Here is an interview I did with Co-Founders TJ and Wendy Penrod.

It’s your 5th year as a festival! What can we expect?

This will be a bigger better festival than we have put on before! In our fifth year you can expect to have an amazing time, watch some kick ass shows, see some beautiful sights, attend some awesome parties, eat delicious food and get to know improvisors from all over the country as well as the beautiful state of Utah.

You are known for not only having a festival, but taking improvisors on outdoor adventures. Is that happening again this year?

Yes! We have planned 2 hikes this year. The first hike will be on Friday to Kannaraville Canyon waterfalls. Plan to get wet on this hike as we explore a deep slot canyon with some waterfalls only 10 minutes out of Cedar City. The second hike will be on Saturday in Zion National Park. We will be hiking the Emerald Pools loop Trail. On this hike you will be able to see the iconic Red Rocks of Southern Utah and everything Zion National Park has to offer. The hikes are free and transportation provided. Both hikes are in the easy category as well so we encourage everyone to come.

What workshops can improvisors expect?

There will be workshops! The who, and when are still being figured out at the moment. As soon as this information gets finalized we will be posting it on our Facebook page and sending it out to everyone who is performing at the festival.

What does the little town of Cedar City Utah have to offer improvisers?

Cedar City is a beautiful town located in the heart of the Red Rocks of Southern Utah. It is known as Festival City USA. Despite its small size, Cedar City is home to many different Arts organizations and hosts a variety of festivals throughout the year. Including the Utah Shakespeare Festival, the Neil Simon Festival, the Groovefest American Folk Music Festival and of course The Red Rocks Improv Festival and many more. It is also home to Southern Utah University and because of its proximity to National Parks it is a hub for outdoor adventurers. Cedar City has all the perks of a small town, friendly people, clean air and great restaurants (if you get there before 9pm when they all close!)

OTC runs the Red Rocks Improv Festival and you just celebrated 10 years. Tell us a little bit about that…

That’s correct! We have survived for ten years! If OTC was a person we would be going into 4th grade. 3 years from puberty. We can’t wait for our bodies to change and our voices to drop.

We started out as college students in a coffee shop and now we run our own theatre and school. We strive to better ourselves and our festival is one way we do so. We’ve been really fortunate to get the support of our town and the amazing national improv community and we’ve been able to learn from some of the best in the business. We LOVE improv, and for everyone involved in OTC our festival and theatre are a product of that love and we want to share that with as many people as we can and give back to those who have given so much to us.


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.

Performing and Coaching Improv Online – The Pros and Cons

Last Tuesday I was asked to be a part of a google hangout  improv show for a website called e-improv. e-improv is a website that streams live improv shows via Google Hangout. The show I was in was called Let’s Get Serious Guys! Hosted by the lovely Juliette Everhart from the Kansas City Improv Community and The Recess Players. We were also joined by Founder and Artistic Director and old student/friend of mine Dylan Rhode from Backline Improv Theater and The Omaha Improv Festival in Nebraska. Like anything in improv I always like to do new things and I saw this as an opportunity to give it a try. I’ve also coached online improv with a Kansas City group that Juliette is on and I’ll go into detail about that experience as well.

The Show: e-improv

For the show on Tuesday, I was exciting and nervous all at the same time. Playing with people you haven’t played with, but also it’s online! Will I be able to hear them? Will I miss some moments? How will it go? The first part of Juliette’s show was an interview session which she asks Dylan and I to come up with a theme in improv that we enjoy…

For Dylan and I it was easy, “Community” since we are both in the building community game we felt compelled to talk about it. Then after that we go into an improv jam for 10 minutes. We get a suggestion from a book and then here we go. I will say this, I had a fun time…Was the improv great? Not the best, I’m sure all three of us would agree, but still a fun time.

Technology still needs to catch up I think. Sometimes the delays in technology slowed the timing down and it was hard to hear. Talking over each other is nearly impossible to do online because of the way it is set up…Maybe that’s a good thing! 🙂

My overall view of it is that online improv will never replace a brick and mortar establishment, but what I do love about online improv is the fact that you can do it with anyone in the world at anytime and that is the best takeaway from this experience. What a way to build a worldwide improv community. I don’t think the founders of the site, which I intend to do a follow up blog with and interview with them, are intending to do.

When you spend so much time in front of a screen that it causes a tired, strained feeling in your eyes, you may be suffering from a condition known as computer vision syndrome. This problem is so common that is it said to affect somewhere between 64 and 90 per cent of office workers.

I think they are trying to just build community and you know what…I’m on board with that. It never hurts to do something that brings improvisors together. Hey if you have fun and it makes you laugh, then follow that.

PROS – Meeting and playing with people from all over the improv community that you would never get the opportunity to play with.

CONS – Technology makes improv connections hard and there is limitation in physicality. You are pretty much doing talking head scenes.

Coaching Online:

I was really hesitant to do this. Call me old school. I coached a team in Kansas City, MO. So in the spirit of yes, and… I did it and I don’t regret it. Yes, you are limited in what you can do as a coach.

It’s hard to get physical or get up there with them to demonstrate and there are certain exercises you can’t do. But I coached them for almost a year, off and on, and I saw an improvement in them and they felt an improvement in their play. My motto is this, if they feel they’re getting something out of it and I see improvement then it’s worth doing.

PROS – Getting coaches from around the country to teach you their style and philosophies along with some of their exercises. Coaching online can help improvisors grow.

CONS: Limited in what you can do with teams and technology can some time crap out on you. Also, it can be hard to hear or see things depending on visibility of the camera and mic set up.

 

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.

Competition Or Collaboration?

You’ve started and improv group, your improv group has grown. You’re getting an audience, selling out the pizza parlor you’ve been performing at. It’s time to grow, so you get your own space and your own improv company. But what’s this, another group has done the same thing as you and have opened an improv theater in the same City…”NOOOOOOO! But there going to take my business!” “All the improvisors will perform and train there not here, all the audience will go see them, not us.”

As an owner and/or performer you’ve probably witnessed or have been a part of the above scenario. It happens in most cities. The new kid on the block comes in with their new theater and improv philosophy and you see it as a threat or don’t agree with their style.

It is my philosophy that improv cannot work in competition it has to work together…

How Corporations Work:

Corporate America is a results based system. Meaning they will do anything they can to get a bottom line and make more money for their investors and their executives. It’s a shitty system. We all have seen it single handily destroy the America we once knew. Causing a huge rift between the class system. Corporations hand out pink slips and buy the competition or try and put them out of business. They most likely never work together. It’s a cut throat world and everything needs to be cheaper and make sure their labor costs are down. I’ve been in this world. I’ve seen in first hand.

How Improv Works:

Improv is an ensemble based system. Where a group of friends or strangers get together and collaborate and try to achieve a group mind. They encourage a yes and philosophy and bounce off the last thing said. Add information and heighten their fellow ensemble members idea. The growth is collaborative.

Now…How Improv Cannot be a Corporation.

Improv is not a corporation and it shouldn’t be treated as one. Improv business should be treated the same way as the philosophies of improv. You can’t have one or the other. Improv is a community that wants a home or many homes. Improvisors want to seek many philosophies and want to expand their artistic repertoire. Embrace this. Run your business like an improv ensemble. Accept the new improv theater that just opened down the street. Welcome them with open arms and give them advice if they ask for it. Remember the old days when someone moved into your neighborhood you brought them a pie. You don’t have to go that far, but brownies might be nice. 😉 Share information. Let them know the permit process might be hard and here’s an easier way to do it etc.  Don’t isolate them, you don’t have to believe in their philosophy over yours but you do have to accept them. Work together. Use your powers to raise awareness to the masses of improv.

Here’s an exercise: Count how many improv theater seats in your town, let’s say 500 and now see how many people you have in your city, say 200,000. There is no competition. You can easily work together to tap the potential audience market by raising awareness. All 500 seats will be filled every weekend.

Internally, run your business like an improv ensemble. Get feedback from your audience, your performers and your partners. This will only help you grow and become better. Bounce ideas off each other, add information and heighten. Listen, listen, listen. Throw your ego out the door.

The Improv Community:

I’ve traveled the country and have seen many different improv communities and have heard their stories of competition and not getting along, and I have had many improvisors and improv businesses come through Camp Improv Utopia and I have heard these stories too. I know this community. We are a community that wants to grow. Improvisors aren’t going to just train at one theater, they want to try as many as they can. And they should. You should embrace that. Not embracing that will ultimately scare them away from your community or close your theater off and put you on an island. Trust your community, listen, share  and grow together. That’s what an improvisor wants, that’s an improv community. That’s what makes us different then every group in the world.

Don’t let your business be guided by competition, let your business be guided by collaboration.


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.

Discovery: How a Long-Form Audience Gets Involved

In short-form improv the audience is with you from the get go. Frequently asked to participate with a suggestion here and there or asked to come up onstage and be a part of a game. Short-form has a way of keeping and audience participating and being a part of the show and it’s great. Audiences love to be a part of something. In long-form, the audience participation becomes a little tricky. Most teams ask for a suggestion at the beginning and then the audience watches their show for thirty minutes. The show can be great or the show could be a stinker. Now, I’m not about to say that an audience has to be pulled up in a long-form show or has to constantly asked for suggestions, that’s not long-form. But I always ask myself:

How in long-form do we keep the audience a participant in the show?

Sure you can say the basics like a team that listens to each other, has fun and wraps the show up in a nice bow is a way to keep an audience captivated. It can. But what’s the thing that is the magic of long-form? The thing that keeps the audience surprised and leaning forward in their seats? DISCOVERY. It’s the discovery that the improvisor or team make in moments. This is what keeps a long-form audience participating in your show. Because right when you make that discovery, they do too and that makes them feel a part of the experience. If your team is truly in the moment and on the same page then the audience is right there with you and with each discovery comes a laugh, a lean forward in your seat moment, a wow, or even an aww every now and then. If your show lacks discovery then most likely it’s relying too heavily on invention and audiences can sense that, they don’t know what it is, but it’s not real or funny to them. If your team is in invention mode, then the audience has a chance to get ahead of you  and most likely be disinterested or not care.

Discovery vs. Invention:

Discoveries are found in the true moment of a scene. It’s the discovery that your show has been in a pyramid the whole time, that the two of you are siblings, but didn’t know till the middle or end of the show, that Jane was actually the waitress from the first scene, but the girl buying groceries and falling in love with the checker in the last beat. The simple discovery of knowing your partners want. It’s a way a show magically comes together. Through a series of discoveries.

On the other hand there’s invention. This is a dirty word in long-form improv. Invention is used when you have nothing and really just have to make something up, going for a joke or adding plot. John and Sue are in a scene and they are two students in a high school hallway. Sue gives John a glance and a wink, John then says, “I know you’re an alien.” Now, this could be a discovery if that was a lead on from another scenes, but pretend this is a first beat. It’s kind of out of left field and Sue was trying to give John the gift that she likes him. John doesn’t take it and invents a plot point instead. Now the scene is an uphill battle. In a moment of discovery, John takes the bait from Sue and adds information back. Then they continue to discover together building off the last thing said.

So, what to do? Simple, don’t get ahead of yourself. Listen, really listen to your partners body language, tone of voice, what they’re saying and how they’re saying it. And then you can start to discover the true scene together. Don’t worry about getting it right in the first moments of the scene. Just stay true to your character and what they want and then have a fun time discovering the rest. Your audience will appreciate you more and so will your scene partner.

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 nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com. For more information visit: http://www.nickarmstrong.com or http://www.improvutopia.com

 

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 www.nationalimprovnetwork.com.

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 nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com. For more information visit: http://www.nickarmstrong.com or http://www.improvutopia.com

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