Over a year ago, I went to my very first improv festival – the 12th annual Phoenix Improv Festival, to be exact. I had been doing short form for a little while and knew someone within the Torch Theatre community, which produces the festival. I was anxious to expand my horizons and watch some performances. I don’t have enough time to encapsulate my experience – it changed my life and I spent the next year in the Torch watching shows, training, volunteering and performing.
One night while sitting in the box office during my volunteer shift, Bill Binder was at the computer and suddenly said, “Hey, you should submit to festivals.” Hah. That’s rich. Me. Wait, he’s not joking.
So many questions filled my head, “What? Really? Are you sure? Huh? Me? Now? … Really, really?” None of them particularly enlightened, but also none of which unsure of how to go about submitting. You see, I also sat in the meeting during PIF13 that was launching a social network for improvisers – the National Improv Network. I had all the necessary means to successfully submit to a variety of festivals across the country, so really the only question in my head should have been, “Why not?” (This is also what Bill said to me.)
Cut to my troupe mate Rachel Cepeda and me sitting at a Starbucks madly investigating all the festivals with open submissions that were somewhat nearby. There’s one in Roseville! I have no idea where that is, let’s go there! Hey, this is where Nick Armstrong grew up! (2nd name drop, you’re welcome.)
And we were accepted.
And we drove for 13 hours up to Roseville, CA.
It was awesome.
We made it in late Saturday evening and went straight to the theatre to catch the last block of shows. The Tower Theatre is a beautiful venue with this awesome stage that has seating on three sides of it like a peninsula in a sea of audience members. And the audience was so excited and supportive; watching such a different array of improvisers was incredible.
Rachel and I visited a wine tasting Sunday afternoon where we both ended up teaching the people there some improv. For some reason, my explanation of ‘yes and’ was translated to repeating everything I said in a question (i.e.: “You were late to work today.” “I was late to work today? Oh.”) – my instructing needs work, I get it.
I (and I know Rachel, too) was filled with so many emotions throughout the weekend – anticipation, trepidation, adrenaline, nerves, giddiness, excitement, more nerves – that continued even to right before we got onstage to do our set.The performance was nothing like I’ve ever done before. It didn’t even feel like a show – it felt like a rehearsal people were watching. They trusted us so implicitly and followed us on our journey. It was without a doubt the best show we have ever performed. It isn’t even comparable to performing in a regular theatre schedule because festival shows have this pure energy that cannot be reproduced in any other environment; you can’t manufacture the thrill an improv community unleashes in getting the rare opportunity to showcase its love to the masses.
The National Improv Network isn’t going to change the way improv is done – it is changing the way it’s done. I may not fully comprehend but am in no way oblivious to the fact that I would have never performed in the California Improv Festival without NIN. Rachel and I (They No Girls) are the only non-house team at our theatre that has performed in a festival. That is really because people don’t submit. You may still find yourself hindered by agonizing doubt, but you are no longer hindered by lack of resources.
So if you’re reading this and you’ve never experienced what I’ve experienced, all I have to say to you is this:
Hey, you should submit to festivals.
I began my long form improvisation training in the summer of 2013 at The Torch Theatre. I perform now with the newest Torch house team along with other various troupes.
You can watch Alisha and Rachel’s performance at the California Improv Festival Here