“Okay, you’re at the grocery store and a zombie apocalypse is on the way, but you can only speak in questions and scene!” This is the type of direction audiences may witness improvisors play out on September 13 – 15, when 40 local and national improv comedy acts hit the stage at AS220 for the 15th annual Providence Improv Fest. The Fest, which sprouted from humble beginnings in 2004 with three local improv acts, has grown into a full weekend of performances and workshops.
Some of the greats in comedy came from the improv world, specifically, Chicago’s Second City. I’m talking Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert … before they made us laugh from our television sets, they were making us laugh from the improv comedy stage. But filling SNL’s cast and training future late night television hosts isn’t the only benefit of improvisational comedy. It requires quick thinking, a sense of humor and trust in your fellow improvisors. It builds a performer’s confidence and is fun for audiences and performers alike. I talked to Tim Thibideau, the festival’s organizer, about what draws people to the improv stage. “People get into improv for a number of reasons,” he said. “Some want to be better communicators, learn how to speak in public, meet friends or even have an outlet where they can let go of all their fears. A lot of people get into it because they like comedy, or were told they were funny and this is a way to create and be funny other than stand up comedy. The great thing about a majority of improv is it is a team collaboration.”
At an improv show, you get to experience brand new, never-before-seen (and never-again-seen) works! And at this improv show, you’ll see not only some of RI’s greatest troupes — like The Bit Players and Improv Jones, which holds the title of the only troupe to have performed the Fest every year — you’ll see fest sponsor Providence Improv Guild and their house team Rubber Legs, Jackpot, The Tim Alan Show, Whatever’s Cool, Three Different Savers, Almanac Drops and more. Another fest sponsor, Wage House, will feature sets by Them Fighting Nerds, Kate and Casey and Poolside. Keith Munslow will be there creating an improvised musical.
Affordability and family fun will not only take center stage, but will benefit a good cause. “Bring Your Own Improv will be doing what they do best and leading a family friendly improv show on Saturday of the fest, a pay-what-you-can event with all donations to be given to The Manton Avenue Project,” Thibodeau explained.
There will be workshops lead by various pros, such as Will Luera, artistic director of the Sarasota Improv Festival; Chris Moody; Rachel Rosenthal and Frédéric Barbusci and Mathieu Lepage of Les productions de L’Instable from the far reaches of Montreal.
And if you’re looking to catch the next big thing, you just might find it in Doug Moe and Ben Rameaka, known as Rameaka and Moe. This New England pair has collaborated for five years, and has performed for the Upright Citizens Brigade and appeared in “Rescue Me” “Inside Amy Schumer” “Adam Ruins Everything” and “At Home with Amy Sedaris.”