Local and national acts converge for Twin Cities Improv Fest

Artists from all over are ready for the eighth Twin Cities Improv Fest this week.

Artists from all over are ready for the eighth Twin Cities Improv Fest this week.

Huge Improv Theater brings back the popular Twin Cities Improv Fest for an eighth year. Running from Wednesday to Sunday, the festival features dozens of local and national troupes.

Masterminds  Butch Roy, Nels Lennes and Lauren Anderson have built the latest iteration of festival, and Roy took a few moments to answer questions about the event.

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What's new for the festival this year?

Butch Roy: We probably have more groups new to the festival than ever before, which is such an exciting thing for us because we get to introduce people to the Twin Cities that have never been here before as well as bring new shows for our audiences. The festival is always a balance of bringing back our friends and groups that we love from past years, but the infusion of so many new groups brings a really exciting vibe to the whole fest.

I tell people everywhere I go how much I love the audiences in the Twin Cities. They're energetic, savvy, and they appreciate really great work, not just big laughs. It's really fun to talk to performers that have never been here before after they've met our crowds. More than once I've had people ask me about moving here.

Any special guests or events you would like to highlight?

BR: FrankenMatt, of course. I know Matt Craig from my time at the Brave New Workshop when he was in the cast and I was in the tech booth. I love any time we can get him to come back to Minnesota. They are returning for the first time since Huge opened, and the community has come such a long way since then. I'm very excited to have them coming back to teach as well as perform. 

Switch Committee and We're From Here are a couple of the shows I'm really excited for everyone to see. We're From Here have a few connections to Minneapolis improvisers from other festivals, including their own in Toronto, and I'm glad we can finally bring them here. Switch Committee made such a great impression with their submission video, and then I got to see them perform at the Phoenix Improv Festival and they were exactly what I was looking forward to and then some. 

What's the goal for the event for the participants -- for those who are local and those coming from out of town?

BR: I think one of the really unique things about the Twin Cities community is there often isn't another goal beyond just doing great shows, which is why we're able to be so open and collaborative in ways you can't when everyone is working on their own agenda. 

The festival's goal is, of course, to showcase the best of the best, of which there are too many to fit in one festival, so we have the hard job of showcasing what we think is a good cross-section of what makes Twin Cities improv so great. 

For visiting groups, festivals can be a great way to not only see a lot of new styles and groups, but also get your name out there to come back and teach workshops. That's really the only way traveling improvisers can make money, and the best way to represent what you teach can be to just come and do a great show.

What do the patrons of the different shows get?

BR: Each ticket gets you at least a double-bill of groups, there are a couple triple-bills as well. 

The pairings of shows are one of my favorite things about producing the festival since it allows us to not only invite really great shows to town, but pair them with another group to create a really unique show experience. You might get two groups that have very similar styles, or two groups that really take different approaches to performance that show a really broad spectrum of what improv can be.

What is the TC improv community like right now? Does it feel healthy?

BR: It feels fantastic and growing, maybe even growing up a little. When Huge opened, it felt like the presence of a theater changed how we had to think about performing and producing our own shows as performers, and I used to worry about having to operate in business mode might take some of the fun out of it. 

A lot of us didn't have a lot of experience thinking in terms of what kind of shows we wanted to be doing a year from now. If you had a great idea you'd put a group together and work it out and find a venue all in a much shorter span. The theater forced us all to get more deliberate about things like holding auditions, marketing, but now we have a generation of student graduates that have come up through classes with that being the normal process and they have better examples to follow in that regard. They have all the energy and excitement that comes with discovering improv and wanting just get out there with your friends and create something cool, so it feels like a really exciting time to be a part of an already very amazing community.


Twin Cities Improv Fest
Huge Improv Theater, 3037 Lyndale Ave S, Minneapolis.
$12 per performance
For schedule and tickets, call 612.412.4843 or visit online.