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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Improv festival aims for laughs

    Improv festivals originated in 1629 after the legendary Sotrios Stylianos delighted the Queen of Mallorca with his famous “”Trapeze Goat”” improv sketch, after a rope shortage caused the rescheduling of his hanging. Until the last decade, improv troupes and enthusiasts made the trek to the large island off the coast of Spain for the annual Carnaval de Colgar. Disaster beset the event in 1991 after a tragic methanol-induced hot-air balloon explosion resulted in an “”invisible fire”” that festival-goers sadly mistook for an impromptu improv sketch, cheering until being ultimately consumed by flames themselves.

    …All right, so that story was entirely made up (improv writing), but tomorrow the first ever Gila Monster Improv Festival will actually be taking place here in Tucson.

    The two-day festival, hosted by Tucson’s Street-Prov Theatre Collective, will feature troupes

    It can’t exist without participation. We try to eliminate the space between us and our audience. It’s like they’re up on stage and get to be another cast member with us. But if you miss it, it’s something original that will never happen again.

    Olivia Sanders,festival organizer and Street-Prov perfromer

    from as far away as Utah and Texas, as well as many improv groups from in-state. Friday night, the UA’s Comedy Corner kicks off the festivities, followed by Phoenix’s Apollo 12, Street-Prov and Coldtowne from Austin, Texas.

    Saturday features The Charles Darwin Experience, also from Tucson, Not Burn Out Just Unscrewed and EXTRAVAGANZA!, where a member from every troupe is thrown onstage and chaos ensues.

    The festival culminates with Galapagos, Neutrino Project: Phoenix and Joe Kyle Rogan’s one-man show, JoKyR’s Wyld.

    “”Rogan’s simply amazing,”” said Steve Aleck of Street-Prov. “”He puts heart and honesty into improv.””

    Passion like Rogan’s is something many improv artists value.

    “”It’s something that has had a tremendous affect on my life,”” said Boris Glebov, aseven-year veteran of improv (and optical physicist by trade.) “”It’s helped me be more comfortable in group situations and think faster on my feet.””

    The bulk of the excitement for the festival, though, is surrounding the Phoenix Neutrino Project, who improvise a movie in real-time as their audience sits and watches.

    “”They set up a screen and send crews out with cameras and edit while the footage comes in with no pre-planning,”” Aleck said. “”The audience sits there and gets to watch the whole thing come together.””

    Their last improv movie, “”The Jacket Baseball Bat Happy Time Hour,”” is a 30-minute romp through the streets of Phoenix where, at one point, two characters on a low-carb diet sneak into a Sara Lee bread factory to lick the air.

    A veritable who’s-who of southwest improv, the festival also has multiple workshops for anyone wishing to hone his or her skills.

    Coldtowne’s Tami Nelson teaches a female-only workshop called Smart Gals Do Improv. It’s described as “”Women’s Lib for the female improviser.””

    “”She is one of my role models,”” said Olivia Sanders, a festival organizer and Street-Prov performer. “”She has gone a long way to improve how women are looked at in improvisation.””

    Joe Kyle Rogan is also hosting a workshop titled Get in Your Heart.

    “”I’ve already been to it but I’m planning on going back because it was so good,”” Aleck said. Everyone is encouraged to sign up for the workshops as part of improv’s greater focus on community.

    Formerly an underground movement, improv has seen more exposure as of late due to a few mainstream TV shows and events like this weekend’s. Street-Prov hopes the Gila Monster Festival will bring even more attention to its art.

    “”If you’ve never seen anything like it, you’re missing out,”” Glebov said. “”It’s like a play, but the audience feels like they’re part of the drama and not just watching. The story is spontaneously happening in front of them.””

    Audience is key to the art of improv and Street-Prov expects the event to be the largest ever in Tucson.

    “”It can’t exist without participation,”” Sanders said. “”We try to eliminate the space between us and our audience. It’s like they’re up on stage and get to be another cast member with us. But if you miss it, it’s something original that will never happen again.””

    The Gila Monster Improv Festival starts tomorrow night on campus at 6:30 in the Modern Languages building, Room 350. It is free with a donation of non-perishable food or cash.

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