Spotlight on Baltimore Improv Festival

Baltimore has gone through a lot lately, but the show must go on and the 9th year of The Baltimore Improv Festival is showing no sign of slowing down. It’s just what the community needs so please check it out and submit if you can. I had a chance to interview BIF Executive Producer Mike Harris about this years festival.

9 Years is amazing run for an improv festival. What has been the biggest challenges of running a festival?

Thanks Nick. We’ve been really fortunate to have so many great troupes come visit. They’ve really allowed us to build a loyal audience for the festival. Every festival has to figure out what makes it unique, and for us, it has been the enthusiasm of the Baltimore audience. We’ve chosen to keep our festival at one venue to keep the audience concentrated. Which is great for giving performers a chance to get in front of large audiences, but also means we have less slots to offer and have to turn down some really good troupes. That’s probably the biggest challenge right now, saying no to folks we want to invite.

What do you look for in a submission?

Subjective though it may be, we do put funny first. Always like to see troupes that are having fun playing with each other, and showing solid grounding in improv fundamentals. Nothing wrong with breaking the rules as long as it comes from a deliberate choice to do so. Beyond that, we look for troupes that have uniquely marketable formats and increase the diversity of the festival lineup. Any chance we get to offer something Baltimore hasn’t seen before, we’ll take it.

What are some fun things to do in Baltimore?

Best thing about Baltimore is that you won’t mistake it for being anywhere else. We’re a funky, friendly city-sized small town. Baltimore is made up of a borderline absurd numbers of small neighborhoods. Great thing about that is that each one has its own flavor. So in a matter of blocks you can come across entirely different food, music, shops. So, I’d say hit Fells Point, Little Italy, Canton or Mount Vernon and just walk around and see what grabs your interest. And the Inner Harbor is fine. A little touristy and the one place that probably seems least like Baltimore, but tons to do.

With the riots that are happening in Baltimore. What can you say to an improvisor who is hesitant to submit to your festival.

Baltimore has a reputation that predates the recent demonstrations, and we, like a lot of American cities, have deeply rooted, systemic issues and injustices. The problems that came to a head these past few weeks will still be here for the 9th Baltimore Improv Festival and, sadly, probably the 99th Baltimore Improv Festival. That said, the amount of violence was greatly overstated. The overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were completely peaceful. The vast majority of the city is safe, and that includes the area where the Festival will be held.

Will there be workshops at the festival?

Absolutely. We will have two sessions of workshops on Saturday and two on Sunday. Hopefully we will be able to offer around 10-12 workshops over the course of the weekend, and we absolutely encourage members of accepted troupes to propose workshops they would like to teach.

To submit to the Baltimore Improv Festival click HERE.


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.

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