This page shows blog posts from when the Baltimore Improv Group was created in the winter of 2004, up until the spring of 2008. For more up to date blog posts, we have a different page for you to check out:
Two Baltimore Improv Group troupes bring down the house at the 2008 Dirty South Improv Festival (Wednesday, March 12, 2008)
Two Baltimore Improv Group troupes (Ice Cream Social and Gus) headed down to Carrboro, NC, in late February to attend and perform at the 2008 Dirty South Improv Festival
. During that time they saw a lot of improv and took some workshops.
We wanted to share people's experiences and learnings, so here's some feedback from a few folks who went. (photos of Ice Cream Social and Gus' shows taken by Megan Wills)Megan Wills
I loved the festival, especially the workshops. I started on Friday with the Power Improv workshop with Mark Sutton of Bassprov. I liked the way he would take note of certain scenes and then bring up what was weak or strong about it later. It made it a lot less intimidating at the time. He really encouraged us to commit to characters and to play them through our own personalities. He encouraged us to not give 'too much information,' and would stop you if he felt you were telling something that you could just as well show. He taught us that we could deal with frustration by simply listening, and creating a game that others couldn't ignore. He definitely empasized "taking care of our own sh**", as Prescott says.
My first Performer Workshop teacher was Anthony LeBlanc of Second City. We did some interesting warmups, including a slightly different variation of the 'Samurai' game as well as one I hadn't seen before called 'Where have my fingers been?' Both of these have already been brought back to Freshmonkeys. He helped us concentrate on two person scenes by doing some throwaway scenes, then by performing duologues (my absolute favorite thing ever!). He liked to make us begin scenes in silence, which made us choose characters and relationships without talking. He would make us do three-line scenes where the first line was an offer, the second was a reaction to the offer, then the rest was silence until the third line, which ended the scene on a beat. He also emphasized big-time game play and heightening the scene.
My second Performer Workshop was taught by Will Luera of Improv Boston. He stood out because he took a bit of extra time to try and really get to know who each of us was. We did several warmup games with him, after which we each came forward and did monologues about 'my pet peeve' and 'something I really like,' in which we displayed strong emotions. We then did 'character development' exercises he had created.
In one, we began with two lines of people. Each end person on opposite ends would come forward and face diagonally. Will would stand between them and assign each a letter of the alphabet. Each would begin to make the sound of the letter (B= Buh buh bee bbbbb, etc.) until connecting with a specific sound. They would then experiment with making that sound until a character developed. You could either just continue to make the noise and create a physicality to go with it, or you could begin a monologue as the character. When Will felt like each had a strong character, he would direct them to move in towards each other, meet in the middle, then move to the end of the opposite line. Each person would get a different letter so characters would vary.
In the second variation of this game, performers would deal with the physical shape of the letter rather than the sound of it, trying to draw from this physicality to create their character (which could be very physically awkward and challenging). These were games which really forced you to think outside the box to create a character, and I think they will be very valuable to our troupe. We ended out the day by doing 'scenes about nothing,' (a tie for my absolute favorite thing ever!) in which no additional characters could appear and no outside events could affect the action. It reminded me of Bassprov a bit. The challenge was to have a simple con
versation, and develop characters and relationships without creating extreme events or spouting out a ton of dialogue.Prescott Gaylord
I was very moved by Dr. Fantastic. This blew my mind for their ability to throw out convention while simultaneously being in agreement with each other on what was going on. This was true group mind, and showed me at least one aspect of what I have been going for.
I also enjoyed Bassprov. They are kind of proof that any conversation can be a good scene if you believe in it.
I liked Jr. Varsity - just good solid improv. They also liked to explain everything - but organically - and later. So like 5 scenes later - they would answer a question that may have come up before. Awesome!
I did a couple of good things in my workshops -
One was (with Joe Bill) using the reality of yourself to play a scene. We had to have honest conversations, then we did the same thing with a strong emotion. They were great scenes.
The other workshop was all about listening. The main point was all problems come from not listening. I am on board with this philosophy, but I would tweak it to say that all problems come from not being on the same page or "group mind." Think about it, any time a scene sputters - there was always a time right beforehand with partners not picking up on each other and getting each other's back.Richard Ford
I learned some great warm up games. In addition, we did a great exercise of doing 60 sec 2 person scenes, 30 sec 2 person scenes, 15 sec 2 person scenes and 5 sec 2 person scenes. The 5 sec scenes were the strongest. This is because it forces the players to make bold emotional decisions immediately. The lesson learned is make the decision of how you feel about your partner immediately and then stick with it. Own the emotion, let the emotion create the character, but don't let it define the character.
The festival was amazing. It was great to see so many improv troupes from all levels of experience and quality. Beat box, Cajones, Bassprov, Midnight society, junior varsity high school reunion and Dr. Fantastic all blew me away.
I am hoping to attend as many improv festivals and applying to as many as I can. I was tremendously pleased with the weekend, I also enjoyed getting to know more of the members of BIG.
BIG fun this fall (Monday, September 10, 2007)
BIG just kicked off its '07 fall season with a fantastic show this past Saturday at the Creative Alliance. Special guest troupe "The Lodge
" from DC opened the show off, and then BIG's own Ice Cream Social and Gus rocked the socks off the audience.
We have a whole slew of shows this fall, so be sure to check our calendar frequently! All the shows will be amazing, especially the nights when we have more than one show - but we especially want to highlight our Saturday, October 13th, performance.
That's right - FREE! It's called "Get Loose and Laugh!" Join BIG and The Collective Dance studio for our joint performance on 10/13 at 8pm at the Baltimore Museum of Art
. It's part of the Free Fall Baltimore series. Both The Collective
and BIG will perform sets using audience suggestion - they do dance and we do the improv comedy. Should be an awesome evening.
Again, it's FREE, but reservations are very important. If you're interested, you can call (888-745-8393) or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org
) to reserve seats, or you can do the same through The Collective.Free Fall Baltimore is made possible by a grant from Mayor Sheila Dixon and the Baltimore Office of Promotion & The Arts. Special thanks to Free Fall Baltimore media sponsors: Maryland Public Television, WBAL-TV, 92Q-FM, Magic 95.9-FM and The Baltimore Sun. For more information, go to http://www.freefallbaltimore.org/
Beyond that, we've got shows on 9/17, 9/21 (in DC with WIT!), 10/5, 10/20, 11/2 and 12/8. Be there!
BIG times! (Tuesday, July 17, 2007)
The next three weeks are super busy for the Baltimore Improv Group, and we like it like that.
This Friday "Gus" is at the Mid-Atlantic Comedy Festival
out in Frederick, Md. Then Saturday night is our performance at ArtScape
! We're thrilled to be back for the third year in a row. I guess they like improv so much they wanted us back again, and
they made Saturday night "Improv Night" at ArtScape. So not only will you see two of BIG's troupes then (Ice Cream Social and Gus), but you'll also see fellow Baltimore troupe "The Mimehunters." Awesome.
Then on the 28th Ice Cream Social is out at the Mid-Atlantic Comedy Festival.
.....The Baltimore Improv Festival
! Hold onto your hats, it's going to be an awesome weekend of amazing improv performances and workshops. You can sign up for the workshops now and buy your tickets for the shows. Do it all at the festival website.
See you this summer!
BIG things in Baltimore! (Monday, May 07, 2007)
The Baltimore Improv Group is doing big things around this city. We've had a very successful spring, selling out multuple shows each month.
Our most recent show was May 4th and was actually a double show! Two shows in one night as part of the Hamilton Arts Crawl at the Hamilton Arts Collective. All four member troupes of BIG performed to full houses! A great night all in all and we were happy to have it for our first ever double show.
But so much else is going on for us, too! Our next regular monthly show is June 1st. Then on June 2nd we've got our BIG Toga Party Fundraiser! Then in late July we've got our first ever improv day camp for kids ages 10 to 17.
The improv summer camp comes as part of our two week residency at the Baltimore Theater Project! Which brings me to our greatest news:The First Baltimore Improv Festival - August 2nd to 5th, 2007!
That's right, we're organizing the first ever Baltimore Improv Festival. All shows will be at the Theater Project and we've got some amazing improv troupes coming to town to perform - including the Upright Citizens Brigade touring company, Neutrino, Rare Bird Show, Delaware Comedy Theater, DC Unscripted Players - and many more! The festival will of course include performances by the four BIG troupes as well as from other local troupes!
And that's not all! Workshops - lots and lots of improv workshops taught by these incoming troupes and by members of BIG. Phew!
Want more details?Baltimore Improv Festival Web siteBaltimore Improv Festival MySpace page
Are you interested in volunteering? Are you interested in being a corporate or media sponsor (and having your business' name publicized all over the place)? Email us!
The festival Executive Director is Catharine Robertson
The festival Artistic Director is Mike Subelsky
The festival publicity chair is Heather Moyer
A state about improv (Thursday, March 29, 2007)
BIG member Laura Wexler recently wrote up an excellent piece for us about what improv has meant to her since she started with the troupe last spring. Enjoy!
This I Believe
By Laura Wexler
My first night of improv class began with a simple warm-up exercise. “Get in a circle,” the instructor told us. “When it’s your turn, say your name and make a movement.”
One by one, my classmates yelled their names then twirled in circles or stamped their feet. When my turn came, I stood motionless and mute. Finally, after three terrifyingly long seconds, I mumbled my name and shrugged my shoulders. I’m lucky the instructor didn’t approach me after class to suggest maybe improv wasn’t my thing.
She would’ve been right. I am--or, I was--a classic Type A writer, scripting and shaping storylines, polishing words until they gleamed like armor. Improv wasn’t my thing--it was my worst nightmare.
But I kept going back. And just before class ended one night six weeks later, I walked onstage pushing an imaginary broom, declared I was a janitor on Mars, and said I was getting pretty tired of all this dust. Only when I was safely offstage a few seconds later did I realize what had happened. For the first time in my life, I’d forgotten to worry what other people thought. I’d forgotten to be fearful. And I had improvised.
In the year since, I’ve joined an improv troupe that performs in a tiny theater in Baltimore. I’ve been an alien, a sex toy shop owner, a repo man. I’ve been a reanimated corpse who teaches a mad scientist how to dance and a woman mourning the death of her psychic dog. I’ve lost and found myself onstage a hundred different times in a hundred different ways. More importantly, I’ve come to believe in living my life according to the philosophy and principles of improv.
I’m not talking about stand-up comedy, with its planned monologues and rehearsed punch lines. I’m talking about creating characters and stories out of thin air. To do that--and do it instantaneously--requires being willing to risk foolishness and failure; to welcome surprise and the unknown; and to act at every moment against the twin traps of fear and judgment.
It also means collaborating. One of the fundamental rules of improv is “make strong offers.” That means each person in a scene must walk onstage communicating a specific idea--a character, a setting, a situation. But another fundamental rule is “always accept,” which means each person must also be willing to mold his or her idea to the others’--or surrender it, if need be. Without the balance of offer and acceptance, the scene becomes an argument, not a conversation--a struggle, not a story. And it will die a slow, painful death, as happened the other night in practice, when I denied my scene partner so bluntly that the director described it as “kicking him in the nuts.” Ouch. Sorry ‘bout that. True collaboration--in improv and in life--is a constant challenge for me.
And so is managing my fear. Sometimes when I’m in a scene, I still fumble for the eject button that will remove me to the wings, where I can mumble and shrug, polish and script. But I don’t want to live there anymore. I can’t live there anymore. So it’s only a matter of time before I rush back onstage.
Shows and jams, shows and jams! (Monday, February 12, 2007)
We're chugging right along here in 2007. We've sold out our shows in January and February, and BIG's own "Gus" just returned from a great time down at the Dirty South Improv Festival in Carrboro, N.C.
Next up is a fun improv jam at Christ Lutheran Church (701 S. Charles Street), where anybody can come do some improv with us. Learn some new games and scene structures while also meeting new people! Only $5!
Then we've got a couple shows in March, and all of our upcoming spring shows have some fantastic special guests. Hope to see you at some of them!
Oh, and we're continuing our onslaught of web inclusion. If you're done checking us out on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/bigimprov
) and on MySpace (http://www.myspace.com/bigimprov
) - then come look at our beautiful photos on Flickr- http://www.flickr.com/photos/bigimprov
Add us as a contact!
A busy start to 2007! (Thursday, January 04, 2007)
Welcome to aught 7, folks! It's the New Year and the Baltimore Improv Group is starting it off by doing so much in three months that your head will spin.
First up is our first show of 2007 - Join BIG's "Plan B" on Saturday, January 13th at 8pm at the Creative Alliance
for a hilarious night of improv. Our wonderful friends from up I-95 will be joining us again! It's The Rare Bird Show from Philly
! We love these guys and they will crack you up during their guest performance on the 13th.
Be there! 8pm on 1/13/07! $12, $10 members of the Creative Alliance.
And if you've seen us perform before and wish you could try it for yourself, then sign up for our next Intro to Improv class starting on 1/16 and going to March. The class meets for seven Tuesdays from 7-9:30pm at the Creative Alliance. Check out the CA's web site
for more details and to see a nice photo of Plan B's Jody. Sign up now!
Or maybe you've done some improv and just want to keep up on your skills. We've got something for you, then. Join BIG for an open IMPROV JAM on Saturday, January 20th from 11am - 1pm at the Hamilton Arts Collective
! $5 - cheap!
Still not enough? Are your improv skills ready for the stage? Then why not audition to be a member of BIG? We have auditions on Saturday, January 27th at 3pm at the Fells Point Corner Theater
. Be there!
I'm almost out of breath here from all this, which is odd because I'm just typing. It's not like I'm behind you right now shouting all this into your ear. Give me a sec.
Okay - that's it for our jam-packed January. We hope to see you fine folks out at one or more of these events! Also, don't forget to be our friend on MySpace
. You should just add us because our layout is one of the least annoying ones out there. No spinning graphics or emo out of focus goth pics of us.
Excuse our blog absence (Wednesday, December 06, 2006)
We've been busy this fall with consistent sell out shows at the Hamilton Arts Collective and the Creative Alliance!
And now we're at a busy December. We kick off our busy month with our second annual BIG Huge Holiday Improv Spectacular on Saturday, Dec. 9th, at 8pm at the Hamilton Arts Collective. Which - by the way - was just picked at a City Paper Critic's Pick Event Highlight of the weekend.Click here to see the mention!
And then we have a fun show on Friday, Dec. 29th, at Spotlighters Cabaret at 8pm. Come see us perform, along with some fun singers from Spotlighters.
Plus, we've been asked back for a second year at the Fells Point Corner Theater New Year's Eve Party! We're very excited about that and know we'll fill the place again.
Phew - what a busy time. We hope to see lots of our fans at the shows, and we wish you all a lovely holiday season!
Get ready for fall! (Monday, August 28, 2006)
Oh boy, here it comes - a busy, busy fall season! We've added more shows, we're teaching two classes, we're doing some fundraisers and private shows.....Phew!
Have you signed up for our Intermediate Improv class at the Creative Alliance yet? Do it now! Or maybe you're waiting for the Advanced Improv class later in October. That's cool, man. We're down with that.
What I can tell you about our classes is that they're pretty sweet. They are taught by our experienced, salty troupe members and they love improv. Not only do you get one main teacher who guides your class, but you also get other troupe members who come in each class as assistants. So you get a variety of help and a chance to meet many of the talented members of BIG. Some of the classes even offer a showcase at the end so that your friends and family can see what you've been learning.
Anyway, what you should do right now is put all of our fall shows into the calendar on your Palm Pilot, Treo, PocketPC, old-fashioned "paper" calendar, hand, or whatever it is you people use today to make everyone else feel old and antiquated. Don't make us change, we're fiercely holding onto our Apple IIe, thankyouverymuch.
Where was I? This fall has an amazing line-up of shows. We're even bringing in other troupes from around the city and region to do guest spots!
We want to see you this fall. Whether it's at our shows or in our classes or both (the ideal!), we love you. It's been a month since our last show, so we miss you.
Don't be a stranger, Baltimore!
See you this fall!
BIG Summer Fun (Monday, July 24, 2006)
Wow, what a tiring but fun summer so far! BIG is coming off three solid performances. Gus
rocked the 6/24 Creative Alliance
show (see our name on the marquee as taken by my [Heather] crappy cell phone camera), Plan B and Six Figures
made the audience laugh their butts off at the 7/7 Mobtown Theater
show - and then this past Saturday a morph of Plan B and Gus performed an amazing set at Artscape.
We continued to be amazed by the turnouts we're getting at our shows. Every show we've had since January has sold out!
At Saturday's Artscape show, the Theatre Project gave out all the free tickets within 20 minutes of releasing them some two hours before showtime. We are thrilled by how supportive our audiences are - there's nothing like performing in front of happy audiences who want to see us succeed. So if you've come to one or more of our shows since January - thank you so much.
We also loved having our booth along the main drag at this year's Artscape. We met and chatted with all kinds of great people, sold some t-shirts, weathered some horrible rain and just had a fantastic time hanging out. Thanks for stopping by! I'm obsessed with taking photos of our name on important signs, so there's a picture of our name on the Artscape performance sign - complete with my amazing silhouette.
What's next? Auditions! This Saturday, July 29th, 3pm at the Hamilton Arts Collective
. If you think you've got what it takes, be there!
From there, we're taking August off from shows so we can relax and practice. We'll be ready to start it all up again in style at our Sept. 23rd show - the first of the new improv season.
We'll also be teaching some more classes this fall, so keep checking back for the dates and times. Have a great summer, folks!
The Summer of BIG! (Friday, June 23, 2006)
Wow, what busy times for the Baltimore Improv Group! This summer looks to remain busy for us, too!
This Saturday is our awesome debut at the Creative Alliance
. We even got the Critic's Pick from the Baltimore City Paper for this show, which is thrilling. Check out our press page to see that!
You may also notice that we have some new photos up on the site from our most recent photo shoot. They're a bit wacky, which is what happens when you put a gaggle of improvisers up on a rooftop together in front of a photographer.
July is busy for us, too! We have a show at Mobtown Theater
on July 7th, then ArtScape on July 22nd. We also have a booth at ArtScape along the main drag all weekend, so stop out and see us and go check out our FREE show there on the 22nd.
Then in late July we have AUDITIONS! On July 29th at the Hamilton Arts Collective
, we'll be looking for a few good improvisers. Improv experience is a plus, but not necessarily required. We're looking for people who aren't afraid to take risks, like to have fun, work well with others and are ready to be part of our amazing ensemble. You game? Saturday, July 29th, 3pm at the Hamilton Arts Collective.
And that's all for now - hope to see lots of you fine folks at our upcoming shows!
Oh, and if you're into it - don't forget about our MySpace page: http://www.myspace.com/bigimprov
Won't you add us as a friend? We promise we're not creepy stalkers. Also, we believe in writing with letters - not numbers.
See you folks around!
On the up and up! (Friday, May 12, 2006)
Life is good for the Baltimore Improv Group! Since our last blog post, we did two awesome shows. One was our Baltimore FlowerMart performance on Saturday, May 6, and the other was our fantastic monthly show on Saturday, April 29.
Both were very well and had big audiences - and we're pleased our performances continue to be improving!
In other news, our Level 2 Intermediate Improv class is will begin next Tuesday at the Creative Alliance. It filled up quickly, so we're excited to do some teaching. We have another Level 1 Introduction to Improv class coming up this summer, so check out our classes page for more information on that.
Plus, look at us being trendy web people - BIG has its own MySpace page:http://www.myspace.com/bigimprov
Check us out - and if you're already on MySpace, add us as your friend! We've got a video on there, plus some fun photos.
And the other major news for us was our acceptance into Baltimores ArtScape Festival 2006! This will be our second year there and we're so excited to have been invited back. We'll have a fun booth during the festival, and then we'll be performing on Saturday, July 22, at 8pm at the Theater Project
. Be there! It's free!
If you need your BIG improv fix soon, though - come check us out at the Baltimore Museum of Art
on Thursday, June 1st. We'll be doing a show as part of their Free First Thursday events. We'll be having some fun with their exhibition of Matisse's "Jazz" collage and cut-out pieces. Come watch us have some fun with art!
(Friday, April 07, 2006)
DC Comedy Fest!
The troupe performed a fun short set at the DC Comedy Festival
Thursday night. The show was very fun, and everyone had a great time meeting other performers from around the DC area and beyond. Our favorites from last night - the Screaming Puppets
out of northern Virginia and the Well Sung Players
out of the DC area.
The festival continues all weekend with many shows and classes, so check out the festival website to get the full schedule.
Enjoy the photo of us mugging with our festival "PERFORMER" badges.
Selling out shows! (Tuesday, April 04, 2006)
We're on quite a run right now - and it's awesome. We've sold out our last two shows - one at the Top Floor Theater in early March, and then one just this past weekend at Mobtown Theater.
The early March show at the Top Floor Theater (now calling themselves the Hamilton Arts Collective)
was a great dual show. We had the Johns Hopkins troupe "Buttered Niblets" start off the show with their high-energy and hilarious short-form set. The audience loved them, and we were happy they wanted to come perform with us. After that, BIG peformed a long-form set with two formats that went very well. We're excited to be expanding our long-form skills.
If you're wanting more of a description or definition of the difference between short-form improv and long-form, I invite you to check out these links for some more info:Long-form descriptionShort-form description
Moving on, BIG did a great short-form set at Mobtown Theater this past Friday as part of the Baltimore Comedy Festival
. All the proceeds went to benefit autism awarenes, and we thank Mobtown Theater
and the Early Monday Morning Show
for inviting us to participate in such an awesome festival for such an important cause.
The show went very well and included a very funny opening stand-up comic named Michael Aronin
Next up, another fun show at the Top Floor Theater/Hamilton Arts Collective on Saturday, April 29th, at 7:30pm. We'll be performing a set of short-form comedy sure to make your sides split from laughter. Come see us!
Standing Room Only at Mobtown (Sunday, February 05, 2006)
On Friday, 2/3/06, Few Bricks Shy
performed for a standing-room only crowd at the Mobtown Theater
The highlight of the show was audience member Rich's participation in Sound Effects
. He provided all of the sound effects for a trip through a South American rain forest, and it was brilliant, like he was natural-born Foley artist
After the show our Artistic Director, Heather Moyer, gave us good feedback and notes.
Later, a bunch of us headed out to Holy Frijoles
for a post-show repast.
We apologize to everyone who could not make it into the show. We were not expecting such a huge response and hope you understand!
BIG turns two! (Thursday, January 26, 2006)
Hard to believe that only two years ago, Mike bicycled around Baltimore putting up fliers to pull together some improvisers. Soon, a small corps of people started practicing together in various homes around the city....and then our first show was for friends and family that June.
And look at us now! We're thrilled with the success we've been having, and are eternally grateful to all the wonderful people who have helped us get where we are today. The list is too long to include, but if you in any way, shape or form helped us out - thank you!
We've spent the month of January reconnecting with everyone after the busy holiday season. We've had some fantastic practices and are ready to go for our February 3rd show at Mobtown Theater
. Thanks to Mobtown and the Early Monday Morning Show
for letting us come play on their turf.
In other news, our Introduction to Improv course at the Creative Alliance
is also going very well. We have 14 students learning improv, and all are fun to work with. No news yet on when our next round of classes will be held, but stay tuned for the annoucement. The best way to stay informed is to sign up on our mailing list
- which you can do on the main page of our website.
Also, several members of BIG spent two weeks last summer acting in a comedic mockumentary written and directed by Michael Finazzo. The film, "The Life and Times of Andrew Quinn," now has its own website
where you can keep up with it during its post-production. Finazzo came to us because the film's style called for lots of improv, so those of us who were in it got to improvise most of our scenes. You can watch two clips of the movie on that website as well, but please be aware that the second of the two clips has some non-PG-13 language in it. Keep that in mind if you're easily offended or have some kids nearby that might hear it.
Anyway, we're excited that the movie could be out as early as this spring in some local film festivals, so stay tuned for that as well.
BIG's third year will be very fun, so join us for the ride!
New Year's Eve at Fells Point Corner Theater (Monday, January 02, 2006)
BIG kicked off 2006 with a fun show at Fells Point Corner Theater
. The audience was treated to staged readings of two ten-minute comedies by Mark Sharf and Rich Espey
. Then our Few Bricks Shy
troupe performed a 90-minute set of short-form games and scenes.
At the end of the show we played Day In the Life
, portraying a day in the life of an audience member who was an engineer, MARC commuter, and fan of the soap opera "Passions"
After the show we all mingled throughout the theater and watched fireworks go off at midnight while drinking champagne and singing Auld Lang Syne. 2006 here we come!
2005 Holiday Long Form Show (Friday, December 09, 2005)
This month we asked one of BIG's newer performers, Jessica Myles-Henkin, to write about her debut at our 12/3/05 long form holiday show. We performed three different kinds of long form improv, where we had recurring characters and plots. This type of improv is more challenging for both the performers and for the audience, but it turned out great. Here's what Jessica had to say:
The 12/3 BIG Harold/Holiday show was one of the funnest improv experiences of my life. I mean that in all honesty. I started out feeling really nervous, mainly because I hadn't performed in a few years and a little bit because I knew the troupe was a bit nervous about doing long-form for an audience that was used to/expected short-form. As soon as I stepped out the do the first scene in the La Ronde, all of my fears were instantly alleviated. Chris started out with very specific and excellent object work and setting the declaration "get your pizza" while making gestures that indicated dough was being made. From that point on, the show gained a positive energy and momentum that was not to be interrupted! Everyone seemed to be having fun.
So much great object work, listening, yes-anding, and specifics were to be had. The was never a lull, never a feeling like "uh oh, where do we go now?!" It just flowed so organically. I honestly cannot wait to do the next show, just do see how we can heighten such great work. Maybe we could design our own opening? Maybe more workshops? Who knows? All I know is that Saturday's show was the beginning of a beautiful friendship between BIG and long-form, and I was so happy to be along for the ride!
BIG featured on WYPR's The Signal! (Friday, December 02, 2005)
|Heather and I were interviewed for The Signal, an arts and culture radio show on WYPR. We got to talk about our improv philosophy and experiences. It was awesome! Check out the 11-minute segment. Thanks to The Signal for covering us!|
BIG's CENTERSTAGE Debut (Saturday, November 12, 2005)
On Thursday, November 10th BIG performed a set during Centerstage's
pre-show happy hour before The Baltimore Sun LIVE! production of Hay Fever by Noel Coward. We had a great time interacting with the crowd and mingling with movers and shakers! Thanks Centerstage!
Thank you for your generosity! (Tuesday, September 20, 2005)
At our 9/17 benefit show, BIG fans donated $713 for Hurricane Katrina relief! We will donate the proceeds to the Red Cross and Lutheran Disaster Relief
. Thank you very much!
BIG listed by the Open Directory Project (Thursday, September 15, 2005)
We just accomplished a major web promotion goal: to have our site listed in the Open Directory Project
(ODP). Why does this matter? Because it vastly increases the prominence of our website in search engines, since a human editor evaluated our site and decided to add us to the category; search engines put a high premium on human evaluations of websites. Here
is a list of search engines that use ODP data.
Philadelphia Fringe Festival and Auditions (Monday, September 05, 2005)
Over the Labor Day weekend, we performed at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival
as guests of Rare Bird Show
. Before the show we ate at the Eulogy Belgian Tavern
, where they have a "coffin room" with (presumably) fake skeletons in each table-coffin:
Before the show, we warmed up in a nearby stairwell dungeon:
Our Few Bricks Shy
troupe did a short-form improv set, then Rare Bird Show performed an awesome Harold that was very inspiring to us as we pursue our own longform efforts. Then we all went to a bar to celebrate (sorry, can't remember the name of the place but it was nice):
We also stopped by Independence Hall, where the Declaration of Independence was adopted, among other historical events
Also, in August we had auditions! We brought four new performers in the group and it has been a blast working with them. We can't wait for them to debut in the next several shows.
ArtScape! (Sunday, July 24, 2005)
We had a blast at ArtScape 2005!
We performed to a sold-out crowd at the Baltimore Theater Project
. The crowd was wonderful, and the Theater Project staff made us feel extremely welcome. Thanks to everyone who helped out! For example, the lovely Kate rocked out with our sign in order to drum up interest in the show:
Photograph by George Hagegeorge
Besides the show, we also staffed a booth at Pearlstone Park. We had many people stop by to sign up on our mailing list
and play improv games with us. We can't wait for next year's ArtScape!!
Summer in the City (Wednesday, July 20, 2005)
July marks the one-year anniversary of BIG's first performance, which was a private show for friends and family. In June our mainstage troupe
performed a class long-form improv format called The Harold
which was new to us and our audience, but it went very well. We plan to continue integrating long-form components into our show as we build a larger audience.
We've done two private shows, one a fundraiser and the other at a business convention on change management. These were both challenges for us as these were our first experiences performing for an audience that did not self-select for improv. Fortunately everyone was very open and fun and ready to laugh.
July's anniversary show featured the return of Few Bricks Shy
. We were very proud to also host a talented group of improvisers from Philadelphia, Rare Bird Show
. They performed a hilarious Harold set that was a tough act to follow.
We've also had a lot of fun with our Introduction to Improv class, taught by the inestimable
Heather. The students are full of life and very talented, bringing a breath of fresh air to our organization. See our classes page
for more details.
On the organizational front, our Board of Directors voted to expand the number of trustees to seven. We will be inviting members of the community to join our Board and help guide BIG's next phase of growth.
OH! And, we ran a design contest for our logo. The winner was Penny Lane Graphics
. Here is our new logo!
Stay tuned to see it festooned across our website!
This week we have been busy preparing for ArtScape
. We'll be running a booth in Pearlstone Park with improv fun "for the whole family"! See you there!
Moving right along (Wednesday, June 01, 2005)
Life in the Baltimore Improv Group is coming along nicely! We've been busy these past few months, so here's an update.
After our excellent April show, we started gearing up for both the May show and a private show. Yes, you can hire the Baltimore Improv Group for private shows -- whether it's a birthday party, fancy dinner, or a fundraiser, we're available.
Some more good news for us: We found out in late April that our application to peform in the ArtScape Festival was accepted, and we will be performing sometime between 8-10pm on Saturday, July 23. ArtScape will be our first big-time festival performance in Baltimore, and we're all very excited!
The May show was another of our short form performances by Few Bricks Shy. And despite competing for audience against an Orioles game and
The Preakness, we still had a great audience come by to see us.
Another project we've been working on is our upcoming "Introduction to Improv" class, which starts Thursday, June 9th. Kate and I (Heather) will be co-teaching it, and already the class is filling up quickly. If you're interested, check out the "class" section of our website.
So, as you can see, we've been very busy in the past month -- and things don't look to be slowing down for another couple of months!
And stay tuned, we've got more exciting things happening in these next few months as well.
Outreach, Performance, Publicity (Sunday, April 17, 2005)
March and April have been great months for us. We are now steadily drawing between 60 and 70 people per show and many people are coming "off the street" from flyers and publicity (so we don't just rely on friends and family any more).
In March we had a great Few Bricks Shy performance, and we got a lot of exposure from our appearance in Urbanite magazine. We were featured in the "Have You Heard"
Several troupe members went to teach an improv workshop at Severna Park High School and had a great time working with the students there, building on the great experience we had at St. Francis Academy. We hope to continue our outreach program with more schools in the future.
In April, we had a full night of long-form improv. The opening act was a new performance of It's Not Me, It's You
directed by Kate with a new cast, followed by the debut of a new format invented by Heather called Pleasantly Invasive, where we satirized PBS pledge shows.
The group is coming together more and more every month as more people take on responsibility for achieving the three goals of our strategic plan: Build Audience, Build Credibility, and Build Group Integrity.
February Show (Sunday, February 27, 2005)
Last night we had our first show since December, because our January show was unfortunately snowed-out. For the first time we put on a two-act show: in the first act, we debuted a new long-form two-person improv format invented by Kate and Jody called It's Not Me, It's You. Kate and Jody invented two characters in an on-again, off-again relationship based on audience suggestions.
The second act featured the return of Few Bricks Shyand the triumphant debut of new members Matt and Barbara. We played a few guessing games (Five Things, Interrogation, and Debate) and several scene-based games (like Cocktail Party and Movie Review). The theme for all of the show music was "80's television" which seemed to work well (A-Team, Macgyver, Diff'rent Strokes, Facts of Life, Knight Rider, Fat Albert, etc.)
Our promotion efforts seem to be really paying off. The audience was bigger than ever and many people said they had heard about us from flyers or our Internet listings. So the effort is definitely worth it! We also filmed the show and plan to make a "demo DVD" that we can use when applying for gigs at festivals and other venues.
Organizationally we are doing well; we have four other troupe members who will be debuting over the next couple of months, and it has been very invigorating to rehearse with new people who have different ideas and perspectives. They really keep us from falling into a rut. Heather is also leading us in developing a new long-form show so we are excited about that.
See you next month, March 19th!
Boston Road Trip (Monday, February 07, 2005)
Kate, Michelle, Jody, Beth, Carol, and I (Heather) just returned from our first big road trip performances in Boston. We had a fantastic time and did two great shows!
Our first show was with The Tribe
in Cambridge on Thursday night. Because the show brings together four different troupes to perform in one night, we only had about 20-25 minutes to do our set. No problem, though, as we did very well. The crowd was great, and so were all the other performers. I always enjoy how supportive the improv comedy community is as a whole.
Later that night we decided to bring down the house at the karaoke bar near our hotel. While I don't think any of us will be hearing from record labels anytime soon, you have to give us high marks for effort and commitment. Not just anyone
can sing "I Touch Myself," "Foxy Lady," "Susperstition," "I Got You Babe," or "Oops, I Did It Again."
Friday night was our big performance with the troupe I used to be in, Kitsch In Sync
. We did the first 40 minutes, then them, and then the final part of the show was a competition between the troupes. It came down to our Kate vs. their Ken, and Ken came away victorious. The crowd was really fun, and so was the whole night in general. I believe Mike will put up some photos of our Boston hijinks later on, too, so wait for those.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and the chance to perform with other troupes in another city. Plus, Air Tran will think twice before letting a bunch of improv comedians all fly together on one flight again....
Our First Big Break (Monday, January 03, 2005)
On January 20th, the Baltimore Sun wrote a great profile
of us. One thing I feel bad about is that the article makes it sound like we are the only ones doing improv in Baltimore. In fact there are many troupes that have been here for much longer than us, such as The Early Monday Morning Show
and Johns Hopkins' Buttered Niblets
BIG is a nonprofit group with the mission of promoting improv theater in Baltimore, not just for us but for everyone. So please check those troupes out and support this art form and this city.
September through December 2004 (Sunday, December 12, 2004)
A lot has happened since my last update:
- We performed on 9/17 at St. John's Church
- We held a new round of auditions and brought in several new group members
- The IRS designated us as a 501(3)(c) tax-exempt public charity
- We performed on 12/11 at Christ Lutheran Church
- Kate and Jody created a new two-person troupe, It's Not Me, It's You. They performed a set at the Red Bank, NJ ImprovJam and are scheduled to perform again during our January 22nd show.
- We revamped the website and created our own reservation system complete with a database to track reservations at the box office.
- We joined the Baltimore Theater Alliance (BTA), which has proven UNBELIEVABLY important. Through BTA we have made many important contacts with creative people throughout Baltimore. The next two items happened as a result of people we met through BTA:
- We had a Christmas feast:
- We taught two improv classes to new performers that lasted several months.
- We put several ads in the Baltimore City Paper to advertise our shows, but these were not effective. The problem is we can't afford a large enough ad to jump out on the page, so our ads tended to blend in. Sorry City Paper, but don't worry: we'll be back with a hefty advertising budget when we are bigger and can really make a splash.
It has been one year since the first meeting of the Baltimore Improv Group where we conceived this organization. We've gone through some growing pains as we figured out the best way to accomplish things with an all-volunteer group, but we have steadily improved as an ensemble, and are now doing some really great shows.
If anyone reading this is considering starting an improv troupe, my advice would be that the most important thing to practice and to establish is a strong dynamic of teamwork and selflessness in the group. Once our troupe got that going (it really gelled at our October show) we started really making rapid progress. Now we are creating other troupes. Our next show in January will have two acts. In the first act, Jody and Kate will perform It's Not Me, It's You, followed by a Few Bricks Shy performance. I'm really excited that on our one year anniversary of creation, we'll have multiple troupes on stage.
We have two mutually-reinforcing goals for 2005: build audience and build credentials. We want to grow into a more mature organization; the Board of Directors is meeting next week, and I'm looking forward to us all sitting down to create a strategy for achieving these goals.
Happy New Year!
Our first show! (Friday, August 20, 2004)
The show on August 6th went well; all of our rehearsals and hard work paid off. We had already done a private show for friends and family in July, and that was a big help for getting the kinks out of performing together. We also learned a lot about how to promote the show, and are looking forward to the September 17th show.
We did bid two of our founding members farewell in August: Steve and Alex went off to college, so we are now a company of six. We recently auditioned several performers to replenish the ranks of the short-form troupe Few Bricks Shy, and Kate is leading a training class to bring them up to speed. It's been great to have the chance to improvise with some new folks who bring different experiences to the table.
Meanwhile we have made progress on the business side of things. We are now officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation in Maryland (Baltimore Improv Group, Inc.) and will soon have our first official board of directors meeting. Once that is done, we can send in our IRS paperwork to get a 501(3)(c) tax exemption. I am not looking forward to filling out that form, it's huge!
Anyway that's all the news for now!