The Twin Cities Improv Festival: Comedy, unscripted

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A perfect storm of unscripted comedy is about to hit the Twin Cities—again. Local improv comedy artists and improv comedy groups from across the country (plus one from Canada) are set to descend upon the Brave New Workshop (BNW) theater space from Thursday, June 25th through Sunday, June 28th for the third annual Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF). I immersed myself in TCIF 2 last year and reported back for mnartists.org. This year promises more unpredictable comedy goodness, gathered together by producers Five Man Job, HUGE Theatre, The Onion, and the BNW.

Over four days, there will be multiple double bills, each with a local improv group and visiting group sharing the spotlight. (Check out www.twincitiesimprovfestival.com for the full schedule and to buy tickets.) The visiting improv artists are almost totally different than those in TCIF 2. “We want to introduce as many people from other parts of the country to the Twin Cities as possible,” said Butch Roy of Five Man Job. “So not only is it a balancing act between old favorites and new blood but also between showcasing as many performers as we can to the great audiences we have here, and a little bit of showing [out-of-town] performers how awesome the Twin Cities scene is.”

“The first year no one knew what to expect,” said Jill Bernard of HUGE Theatre and Drum Machine. “[The visiting performers] had such a great time that they ran back to their home cities and talked to their friends about it, so the performers who came the second year were even more psyched, and that’s multiplied for this year.”

Local acts for TCIF 3 include: Adorable, After the Party, The Brave New Workshop Comedy Theatre, ComedySportz Twin Cities, Drum Machine, Ferrari McSpeedy, Fingergun, Five Man Job, HUGE, Lounge-a-Saurus Rex, Muse, The Mustache Rangers, Rampleseed, Splendid Things, and Stevie Ray’s Improv Company.

The visiting improv artists this year are: BatteryMouth (Chicago), Bearded Men (Fargo, ND), Beatbox (Chicago/Carrboro, NC), Cosby Sweaters (Chicago), Darby Lane (Chicago/LA), Dirty Water (Chicago); Girls, Girls, Girls (Austin); ImprovAbilities (Kansas City, KS), Iron Cobra (Toronto), Jokyr & Jesster (Salt Lake City, UT), Snake & Bunny (New York City), and Tarantino (Chicago).

Saturday and Sunday during the day, multiple workshops are available. Bernard said, enthusiastically, “Michael Gellman is coming! Michael Gellman is coming! He’s absolutely one of my improv heroes, a Second City alum [and Twin Cities native] who’s made such an impact on the work.”

Butch Roy added, “We’ve also got workshops from Zach Ward of Beatbox and Dirty South Comedy Theater, Bill Arnett of iO Chicago, and Becky Johnson of Iron Cobra.”

“I love being able to bring the best teachers in the country here and set them loose on our improvisers,” said Bernard. “Everyone comes away with new ideas and enthusiasm. It’s an instant boost.”

“The driving philosophy [is] really going for the best festival we can have, every year,” said Roy, “as if we’re never going to get another chance to do it.”

“Everything’s all in one venue,” noted Bernard. “We’re all together so we get to enjoy each other and get to know each other. We’re so lucky that the Brave New Workshop is so supportive and lets us do that.”

“Every name on the schedule is there because we’re excited to see them take the stage,” Roy explained. “The TCIF has always been part of something larger – a belief that the local scene has the talent and energy to be something bigger than what it is.”

Bernard also noted, “We’re already planning TCIF 2010 if you can believe it. Most people would say ‘don’t get ahead of yourselves’—but we’re improvisors. That’s our job.”

Matthew A. Everett is a local playwright and three-time recipient of grant support from the Minnesota State Arts Board. Information on Matthew and his plays can be found at matthewaeverett.com.

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