Twin Cities Improv Festival kicks off at Huge Theater
|Nels Lennes, Jill Bernard, and Butch Roy|
That made Butch Roy angry.
Sitting in Huge's sparse, colorful lobby on Lyndale Avenue, Roy is joined by the theater's fellow founders Nels Lennes and Jill Bernard. "That person was going out of their way to make a publicly disparaging statement about what we do," says Roy. "It's like the people who can't enjoy magic, because they're looking for how they've been taken so much that they miss the fun."
To set the record straight: Huge is the only theater in Minneapolis dedicated to longform improvisation, a.k.a. creating whole scenes spontaneously and not from memory.
Six years ago Roy, Lennes, and Lauren Anderson (the third member of their improv group, Five Man Job) co-produced the first Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF). Each year, the trio receive video submissions in the fall and winter, selecting the best groups to perform. This weekend, TCIF will host over 30 performances by local and visiting talent in addition to offering eight workshops led by out-of-town celebrity improvisers.
|Twin Cities Improv Festival performers Bearded Men|
Prior to the first TCIF, Five Man Job toured often. While they built a solid reputation nationally, Roy says that they didn't have much of a local presence. "People knew Five Man Job in Chicago and Atlanta and Miami, but not in the Twin Cities. So [the first festival] was as much to raise awareness here as it was to bring all these people here to see the dozens of groups that just as good or better," he says.
Organizers have heightened Minneapolis's allure as an improv-rich city by touring and spending longer periods in New York and Chicago. As a result, they've been able to secure some pretty impressive guest teachers and performers in the past. This year, TCIF invited four top improvisers to teach and to share bills with the best of local and visiting groups: NBC producer and Second City faculty Jeff Griggs, Christina Gausas (who starred in an improv duet with 30 Rock's Scott Adsit), Chicago Improv Festival's 2012 Improviser of the Year Susan Messing, and Joe Bill, who co-founded the Annoyance Theater in Chicago, where Lennes trained.
|Twin Cities Improv Festival performers Splendid Things|
Once a person steps onto that path, they are almost always changed by it. "Improv teaches you not to be afraid to share what you're thinking, or worry about what people are going to think all the time," Roys says. "Because of that, you connect to people and things start happening. All these really cool positive things happen in your life because you stopped being afraid all the time."
Lennes perks up. "On a base level too there's the endorphins," he says excitedly. "That feeling -- you chase that feeling. That's a real..."
"--surge of dopamine," Roy finishes the though. "Right. And like all of a sudden I can do something really awesome--"
"Like that. Like superhero shit," Lennes snaps his fingers. "Out of thin air something I thought was fully impossible. And then all of a sudden you can do it."
Lennes's father-in-law, by the way, is one of those non-believers, someone who thinks that it's impossible that these people aren't reciting. But he keeps coming back for the magic.
IF YOU GO:
Twin Cities Improv Festival
Thursday, June 21-24
3037 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis
Tickets are $5-$10 per performance; multi-show passes are $40-$99
For a complete schedule of showtimes visit twincitiesimprovfestival.wordpress.com