by Kat Martineau
The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) had several troupes and members perform at the 19th Annual Del Close Marathon in New York City last weekend. They joined performers from around the world for three days of laughs with an inclusive community of performers. Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) theater hosted the marathon that took place at 10 theaters and featured over 700 performers.
BIG troupes and special projects Gus, Local Spot, and Minority Re’port played at various stages in Manhattan. Andy McIntyre, who has attended and performed in the Del Close Marathon for three years, said 'Every year, DCM is one of my favorite times as you get to see and meet improvisers from all over the world. I think it is something that should be on all improvisers' bucket lists.' This year, he performed with BIG special project The Local Spot and indie troupe Remote Possibilities.
Del Close is one of the originators of improvisational comedy who trained heavyweights Amy Sedaris, Horatio Sans, Stephen Colbert, Tina Fey, and more. When he passed in 1999, UCB started an improv comedy festival to celebrate his legacy. Nineteen years later, the festival continues to attract improvisers from as far as Australia.
Managing Director Terry Withers also attended the festival and performed in more than 10 shows around Manhattan over the weekend. That is a lot of running around! ‘Probably my favorite experience was running Short Form Is The Only Art Form. This wasn't a DCM show but it was inspired by DCM. Well attended in a terrible venue, this show featured Jason Herbert as a Judge. Also judging the proceedings was Beth Appel, a past Harold Night teammate of mine and the current Artistic Director of UCBLA. I thought that was neat to see Biggies and UCBers together in an indie show I created 5 years ago.’ Terry said.
Heather Moyer, one of the founding members of BIG, also attended the festival with her troupe Gus. 'DCM was a very fun time. I really enjoyed the wide variety of improv I saw and meeting lots of new people. My favorite troupes were UCB's The Stepfathers, Two Man Movie, UCB's Grandma's Ashes, and the Shahs of Improv.' said Heather.
The festival fun continues this summer with Baltimore Improv Group's festival from July 31st - August 6th. Get your laugh on, and join talented improvisers from New York City, Washington DC, Philadelphia, and more! Week long passes are $55 and can be purchased on the festival website in July.
by Chloe Scully
The host stands in the middle of the small stage, clutching a metal bucket. “Welcome everyone to ‘Impropourri!’ Show of hands, who has never done improv before?”
It’s my first time attending ‘Impropourri’ with Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) and it looks promising. The seats are filled, the air is filled with excited murmurs, and I can recognize about a third of the room’s inhabitants from previous BIG shows. Today’s show is going to be amazing, I know it.
For those who don’t know, ‘Impropourri’ is one of BIG’s improv shows in which anyone - yes, ANYONE - can participate for free. You can come with a group or join one, and then you spend the next two to three hours having fun, watching other people perform, and improvising yourself.
Circling back to the host’s (Pamela) original question, a few people raise their hands, showing that they are indeed new to the world of improv. As I hang back, I watch to see how these newbies would interact with the pros of improv and vice versa.
To my delight, I soon couldn’t tell the difference, not due to inherent skill (although these “newbies” were fantastic), but rather due to the amount of fun that everyone was having. Laughter is rife and smiles are abundant. Not one act exits the stage without thunderous applause.
Sixteen troupes go on, with exciting names such as “Existential Angst,” “Kosher Pizza,” and “IOU.” Some of the more memorable routines involve toilet selfies, Cheerio-obsessed accountants, and even a question and answer segment with a “child of three parents.” This last segment is one of my favorites, due to the fact that everyone, even those too shy to go onstage themselves, is able to participate in.
Overall, I would say that ‘Impropourri’ is a success - it is fun, engaging, and not stressful or anxiety-inducing at all. The people who participate, whether new or used to improv, quickly adjust and their inherent comedy blooms for all to see. And don’t worry - if you’re not the type to perform onstage, you can still participate from your seat.This show is free, but donations are appreciated. So come on out to ‘Impropourri’ - it’s on at Single Carrot Theater, every Thursday 7:30pm to 10:30pm. We’re waiting to see what you can bring to our little show.
To read our last blog post, go to BIG Improv Blog. To go to Impropourri, please look at Impropourri - Eventbrite. To look at Baltimore Improv Group in general, click Baltimore Improv Group. To check out other improv jams in nearby cities, try Washington Improv Theater.
By Kim Lee
When I tell people that I’m a stage manager for a full-length improvised play, they usually react with the same set of questions. Mostly involving the word “how?” This is fair, especially for anyone who has ever seen a play, or has an inkling of the amount of effort involved in such productions. How do you stage manage a play when you haven’t worked out the blocking beforehand, when you don’t know when scene changes will happen or where these scenes even are? When you learn who the characters are, and what the plot is, at the same time the audience does? Do you even rehearse? What exactly do you do in rehearsal?
We don’t run through lines or blocking in rehearsal (our actors are all off book, because there is no book). What we do is run through a gauntlet of exercises, designed to drill elements such as the basics of play structure, character relationships, staging and environments – with the net result that these become reflexive to our cast of actors. Armed with these tools, the possible worlds our actors can create on stage are limitless.
If you’ve ever had the misfortune of seeing an under-rehearsed play, where it’s painfully obvious that the actors don’t quite know their lines, and the scene changes are sloppy – do not worry about coming to this show. Trust me when I tell you that those of us in Unscripted will take good care of each other on stage, and you, our audience members and guests to our world. We may not know exactly what we are doing yet, but we know how to do it.
Alternately (and now I am speaking for myself as an avid theatre-lover) I have witnessed performances wherein the actors seem too rehearsed. Yes, they’ve 100% nailed their lines, moved where they were supposed to move, and made appropriate shapes with their faces conveying the proper emotions. Yet sometimes – and I have even seen this with those whom I consider to be great actors – there can be some element of staleness in the delivery of words. A lack of some essential spark, or perhaps a sense that the words themselves are props borrowed from someone else.
I can’t tell you what you’ll see on the night you choose to see Unscripted . There are ten nights of shows, and subsequently, ten different plays. You might see a play about vampires who fall in love with Ostrich Kings, or a time travel adventure featuring complicated machinations involving potatoes. What I can promise is that every word, and indeed every idea, is freshly formed on stage right then and there – created especially for you (and with your input). You’ve never seen anything quite like this play, and you’ll never see it again.
Kim Le, stage manager for Unscripted – a production by the Baltimore Improv Group.
Unscripted runs Thursdays through Saturdays from 4/27 – 5/13 at 8:00 (with a special Sunday matinee on 5/7 at 2:00), at Single Carrot Theatre. Tickets and more info at http://www.bigimprov.org/unscripted.
By Terry Withers, BIG Managing Director
(Inspired by a recent professional development workshop BIG designed and provided for a corporate client’s sales department.)
One of my favorite improv exercises is really just a stupid little children’s game. You get a small group of folks together, maybe 8 to 16 people or so and you have them stand in a circle. You tell one of them that they have a clap. If they turn to their right and look whoever is standing there in their eyes, then both people are supposed to clap at the same time. Now the person on the right has got a clap. And they can turn to their right and pass it too. After people do that for a bit they can start to pass it back to the person who just gave it to them. Soon people can pass it to anyone in the circle. The best part is when everyone breaks out of the circle and walks around the room in no particular pattern while passing a clap between themselves.
I can watch that exercise for a real long time and be very entertained. I think of it as the smallest piece of pure improv. Just like an atom of any element is the smallest piece of that element, this exercise contains all of the key properties of good improv. You can’t succeed or fail by yourself. (If you clap together with a fellow participant then you succeeded together. If only one of you claps, then you’ve failed together.) You have to pay very close attention to what is happening around you. And it’s pretty stupid with a high chance of giving you the giggles.
Also, just like in an improv comedy show, teamwork counts for more than speed when playing the clapping game. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen groups get really good at this game and start passing a clap so fast it almost sounds like a machine gun is firing. Behind the back passes, over each other’s heads, bouncing claps off of walls to others who aren’t even looking at the passer but clap with them nonetheless. And that’s all great. But at the end of the day, clapping in unison is still more satisfying then any of that fancier stuff done in discord. So it’s no wonder this game serves as a common improv warm up exercise when the same dynamics are evident in improv: teamwork is better than speed or other showboat-y accomplishments. Two improvisers cooperating to build a simple scene with a simple comedic premise is better than a scene with two improvisers trying to top each other with spectacular moves that are not supported, created or received with cooperation.
Here’s the thing, sales people should be warming up with this exercise too, not just improvisers. Sales teams that want to improve their performance should come into the office every morning, drop their stuff off at their desk, have a cup of coffee and then meet up in the large conference room for a quick round of the clapping game. Think of the instincts it would reinforce. The clapping game would remind you:
1) To pay very close attention to what your clients are saying, not just out loud but also nonverbally.
2) That you can’t close a sale without a client agreeing to it. You either close the sale or lose the sale in concert with your client. Rushing your client won’t help.
3) That your day will probably go better if you don’t take anything too seriously and infuse your work with a sense of fun.
I remember when I worked in Ad Sales I had a VP who used to wander around the sales floor and ask reps who their hottest prospects were. After listening to a rep run through the particulars surrounding a given prospect this VP’s advice was invariably the same, “Why don’t you ask for their business by faxing over a contract?” The idea was that assumptive confidence would close sales. I think it ruined relationships, you ask me. Just like clapping at someone before they’re ready to clap with you feels aggressive and disconnected.
Great clappers, like great sales people are marvels to watch. I remember there was a guy in one of my intro to improv classes who couldn’t clap in a predictable rhythm. He’d keep his hands apart way too long, even as his eyes grew wide in terror as he watched someone else passing a clap to him. Slowly the person passing to him would close the distance between their hands, hoping he’d match their speed. And then with no warning his hands would slam shut while the person who initiated the clap would stare at him, stunned and slack-jawed by the unbelievable suddenness of his decision! He was impossible to clap with! At first his other classmates would roll their eyes and scowl when “he” messed up. But this class was a very supportive group and somewhere along the line they stopped blaming the guy who couldn’t clap in an easily anticipatable way and started trying to succeed with him. And seemingly against all odds they figured it out.
I remember one student in particular figuring it out first. She clapped at him real fast but then right before her hands met she pulled them apart again. This would trigger the “bad” clapper to realize he was going to miss the clap and so he would begin to clap himself and as he did that she would finish her clap, real quick this time for real. It had the same rhythm as a basketball pump fake and it worked like a charm. Soon everyone in the class was using the same trick. They had met this “bad clapper” where he was. They had figured out how to succeed together with him.
How many times have you heard a sales rep tell a story about a big sale they almost had, if only their client weren’t an absolute idiot? Whenever I hear a story like that I know who the real idiot is. A salesperson trying to change a client’s beliefs, behavior or list of priorities will never be as successful as a salesperson who seeks to understand their clients and then use that understanding to build strong, successful relationships by working to harmoniously succeed in concert with them. What point is there in selling a client a product they don’t want or pressuring a client to make a purchase before they feel organically ready to? It might help your numbers one month, but in the long term that’s a great way to lose clients.
No, if you want to be a great salesperson then you need to act like a great clapper. Pay careful attention to your client’s idiosyncrasies so you know whether you should close a sale real fast, real slow or with a pump fake.
Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) has teamed with The Arlington Drafthouse and Drafthouse Comedy in DC for a unique, improvised take on a holiday tradition, A Christmas Carol.
For seven nights in December the audience can “choose their own Scrooge” as four improvisers from BIG perform an almost entirely improvised take on Dickens’ tale. While major plot points of the original remain the same, most of this retelling will be made up on the spot based on audience suggestions. Throughout the show audience interactions will help shape the direction and details of the story– with some audience members getting the chance to play a few key roles.
Each night’s audience will get a daring and hilarious reimagining of A Christmas Carol unlike any they’ve seen before.
Thirteen performances are scheduled at two locations in Washington, DC and Arlington, VA. Tickets are $20 each and can be bought here for the DC show or here for an Arlington performance.
WHERE AND WHEN:
Drafthouse Comedy in DC
1100 13 th St NW
Washington, DC 20005
Performances 8 p.m. on 12/8; 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. on 12/9 and 12/16; 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. on 12/10 and 12/17
Arlington Drafthouse in Arlington, VA
2903 Columbia Pike
Arlington, VA 22204
Performances at 7:30 and 10 p.m. on 12/22 and 12/23
New classes are posted for BIG University for January! Now is the time to bite that bullet and give improv a try! All 7 week classes are available for a $20 discount when signing up for classes on cyber Monday, NOVEMBER 28! Use the promotional code ‘bigmonday’ when you sign up. Now is the perfect time to buy an improv class as a gift for the holidays! Questions? Email BIG’s Education Director, Michael Hartwell at firstname.lastname@example.org. Sign up for classes here: http://www.bigimprov.org/big-university/
BIG wants to give a huge thanks to everyone who stepped up to the stage at our latest auditions! We were blown away by the wonderful and growing talent in the Baltimore improv community and, with a record turn-out, decision making was harder than ever.
BIG is pleased as punch to introduce you to the newest members of the Baltimore Improv Group. Look for them on a stage near you (our stage, at Single Carrot Theatre):
RUDY TWO SHOES
And, joining some long-time BIG performers to form a whole NEW TROUPE:
Education Director Position Now Open! Are you passionate about improv? Do you have experience in improv or theater education that you want to apply to BIG’s mission of advancing the art and appreciation of improvisational theatre in greater-Baltimore? Want to help BIG thrive and grow? The nonprofit Baltimore Improv Group is seeking a part time Education Director to lead the organization’s school into our next decade. Submission deadline is 10/28/2016. Click below for the full position description and information on how to apply.
Wild times for the Baltimore Improv Group with a new Managing Director, a new home theater, new shows and more.
As we embark upon our 13th year bringing the best improvised comedy to Baltimore, we want to reach out to Baltimore’s performing artists. Over the years, we have done collaborative shows with Body Painters, Beatboxers, Dance Companies, Musicians, Burlesque artists, Cartoonists and more. So, for the first time, BIG is reaching out to all of Baltimore, looking for collaborators.
Have an idea for a show that combines improv and other art forms? Have a vague notion and want to talk it out with BIG’s artistic staff? Just want to keep Baltimore funky? Then click the button below, and let’s start collaborating!
Pitch a Show!
October 30 at Single Carrot Theater (2600 N. Howard St.)
5pm start time. Callbacks to immediately follow the first round of auditions.
Baltimore Improv Group is looking for YOU!
On October 30 we are auditioning for new members of our performing troupes, and we hope to see you there. Auditions begin at 5pm at our performing space at Single Carrot Theater. Callbacks to follow immediately after the first round of auditions. Typically the first round of auditions runs in 4-5 groups and takes about 90 minutes. After deliberations, we will post a callback list, most likely around 7pm. Callbacks will follow shortly after the list is posted.
To register for the audition, please fill out the form linked here:
To answer the most frequently asked question: Should I audition? While there are no prerequisites to auditioning for BIG, we can assure you that without a combination of having taken several classes and/or having extensive improv performing experience, your chances of auditioning successfully are very, very slim.
If you have other questions about the audition, please contact BIG’s Artistic Director, Mike Harris at email@example.com
Various BIG members and friends contribute to the blog. Enjoy!