Alamo Drafthouse Cinema
$25 weekend pass, $15 per workshop, $10 individual tickets
If you have a conversation with Dann Sytsma, one thing becomes apparent very quickly: the guy loves improv. Like, a lot. So much so he became the sole proprietor of Crawlspace Theatre Productions, a Kalamazoo-based production company focused on the art of improv.
The production company began as a comedy team that performed periodically and was affiliated with Whole Art Theatre in Kalamazoo.
“Over time it became apparent that more people wanted to do improv, so we switched over to Crawlspace Theatre Productions, a production company that would produce some of these different teams that performed,” Sytsma said.
As a way to showcase their talent and that of other comedy teams, Sytsma started up the Kalamazoo Improv Festival. Now in its sixth year, the festival brings talent in not only from Kalamazoo, but also from Grand Rapids, Chicago and other nearby areas. This year's iteration will focus on mixing a small-city-sized festival with big-city laughs.
“We just keep it to a size that's manageable for the people involved and try to make it the best improv festival that we can by focusing on the quality of the acts,” Sytsma says. “We keep getting better and better teams through the years.”
Sytsma assures improv fans that the festival brings in nothing but the best, and the only real difference in its tried-and-true formula for funny is a venue change. In past years, the festival was held at the Epic Center and Farmer's Alley, but this year, Alamo Drafthouse theater hosts the fest.
“We approached Alamo just to try to get some more time onstage doing our stuff, and then we talked about doing the improv festival there in September,” Sytsma said. “It's a bit of a slow time for movies, and that's when we kick off our season, so it was really just a good match for opportunities.”
Alamo Drafthouse will have its full menu available for the event, including a 32-tap beer selection. In addition, short sketch videos will be played in between sets on the big screen to further showcase the talent of those performing.
And for fans who may want to try their own hand at improv, there will be two workshops held on Saturday, one at 1 p.m. and another at 4 p.m. Each workshop will be instructed by seasoned veterans in the field, and are open to anyone interested.
“It's a great way for people in the Kalamazoo community to get some good instruction, do a little improv and train from some of the best people,” Sytsma said. “They don't have to drive all the way to Chicago or anything to get world-class instruction.”