If you live in the Phoenix area and have the chance this weekend, I highly recommend checking out the Phoenix Improv Festival. In my mind there are two types of people– those who have seen really good improv and have fallen helplessly in love with it, and those who have not seen good improv. For me it started, like many, by catching the popular TV show Whose Line Is It Anyways? back in the day. From there Steve and I, along with a group of very talented friends, started our own improv troupe. Oh, and we didn’t have a venue to perform at so we created that too. For a couple years we cut our teeth on this new highly creative and collaborative medium. It was a lot of hard work, but it felt great to entertain people and working in a group environment where you are forced to listen to each other and respond with a “yes, and…” does great things for creating comradery in a small group. Our grand experiment ended but many of us in that troupe still work together today on 12a projects.
Since then I have had the great opportunity to work with and watch some great improvisers, both here locally in Phoenix and across the country. If you are ever in the Chicago or LA area, I highly recommend checking out iO, some really phenomenal improv takes place in those facilities. But what is that you say? Not in those areas very often? Then go see the Phoenix Improv Festival. They bring in those troupes along with other great acts from Austin (Coldtowne is fantastic), NY and other hidden gems from across the country. And not only do you see these great acts, but you have the opportunity to introduce yourself to some fantastic local troupes here in Arizona. Great troupes like Galapagos, Mail Order Bride, Apollo 12 and EXiT 185 have been performing for years at the Torch Theater and other venues.
I’m telling you, there is something truly magical about improv. Movies, Video Games and even a lot of live shows are often the result of a lot of creativity that has largely happened elsewhere and has been brought to you at your convenience. I call improv the purest form of creativity because you aren’t just experiencing a refined form of it, you experience it raw, live and in the moment. I recall seeing an improvised musical at iO West in LA. The experience was so magical and captivating that I wished I could have brought home a recording of it, but I changed my mind. That was a special moment for all of us, the performers and the audience a like to share. It wasn’t meant to be clung to like a lonely parent who will not allow their aging child to leave for college. In today’s age it is sad how many people go to a live concert and spend the whole time watching it on their cellphone so they can record it to remember it later. Screw remembering it later, enjoy this great moment now!
For those of you not in the Phoenix area, go hunt down yourself some good improv and experience the beauty of fleeting moments where you can experience creativity at its very conception. And for those of you in the Phoenix area – GO TO THE PHOENIX IMPROV FESTIVAL! I don’t know how to say it any clearer than that. I promise, you will thank me for making you go.