Thursday, 05 October 2017 10:43

Prepare to Be Surprised: Grand Rapids Improv Festival provides laughs, community and the unexpected

Written by  Kayla Tucker
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From Los Angeles to Chicago and Madison, Wis., the Grand Rapids Improv Festival is bringing in performers from all across the country.

Throughout the week-long festival, nearly 40 troupes will travel in and out of Dog Story Theater in Grand Rapids for a wide variety of performances. 

“There are going to be shows all throughout that week,” said Kristin Hirsch, a member of the festival’s planning committee. “It’s a Monday to Monday. A lot of the out-of-town troupes perform on the weekends, just because that’s when they can come into town.”

The weekday shows will cost $7 and the weekend shows will cost $10 per ticket. Most shows are set to take place at Dog Story Theater.

Every night, audience members can expect to see something completely different than the night before, varying from Musical Improv Night to Ladies Night, Improv Chaos and more. On Saturday, Nov. 4, there will be three different improv workshops offered, available to beginners and experienced performers alike. 

“The great thing about improv is that there’s really something for everybody,” Hirsch said. “I think a lot of times, improv mirrors real life. Even if it’s a crazy scene, something that is wacky and off the wall, I think you can always draw something from it.”

Joshua Heller, another member of the planning committee, said there’s an intensity in improv that you don’t see in movies or TV.

“You know that the handful of people on stage have no idea what will happen that night,” Heller said. “They’re feeding off of what the audience shouts at them, what’s in the news and what’s going on in town. When it’s magic, you’re part of it.”

Another exciting new event this year is Improv Hop, in which attendees essentially go on a bar crawl in downtown Grand Rapids, at each stop enjoying a show and drink specials. Not surprisingly, many shows are 18-and-up. 

“We don’t really put a restriction on our performers,” Hirsch said. “They can perform how they are used to doing so. … I think we wouldn’t turn a kid away, but it would be at the parent’s discretion.”

In addition to the Dog Story shows, a variety of troupes will be performing Nov. 1 at The Pyramid Scheme for a showcase night. On top of that, this year’s festival will offer craft beer and mixed drinks for the first time ever during all Friday and Saturday shows, as well as on Halloween.

Heller is participating for a second time this year and will be with two troupes: Plant Parenthood and Sofa. He said the audience is guaranteed to see some of the best talent in West Michigan at the festival. 

“Going to my first GRIF, I was blown away by how much comedic talent there was right in the city,” Heller said. “The festival creates an opportunity for people who might not normally seek out improv in a theater to know that if they show up any day that week, they’ll get an evening packed with smart, current comedy.”

Hirsh said she is excited to see the improv community grow year after year. 

“That’s one of the reasons No Outlet Improv Troupe started this, because we just wanted to continue to grow the improv community in Grand Rapids,” Hirsch said. “A few years ago, there weren’t a lot of improv troupes, and just over the past few years with Comedy Outlet Mondays at Dog Story Theater, that’s sort of been a nursery for new improv troupes. 

“It’s been fun to watch all of the different collaborations between people who might not have been in a troupe together otherwise.”


Grand Rapids Improv Festival

Dog Story Theatre, 7 Jefferson Ave. SE, Grand Rapids

Oct. 30–Nov. 6

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