Once again I have been trying to put this together for way too long but kept waiting so I could include something that was coming up, once again that means posting the State of HUGE in the springtime. Call it an annual thing.
There is always something big coming up that I can’t post about yet and springtime, when the weather finally gets warm and everyone wants to be outside, is when things feel like they slow down a little bit so we can have a recap and a look ahead.
This includes a lot of things across the different areas of HUGE but not everything – there are always more schemes being schemed.
McKnight Foundation grant
The biggest news of 2015 (so far) is that HUGE received a grant from the McKnight Foundation of General Operating funds totaling $60,000 over the next two years – I wrote a post about that a little while back but it would be really impossible to overstate how excited we are about it, how much HUGE Theater really needs and appreciates it and how hard Molly Chase worked on pushing that boulder the rest of the way up that very steep hill.
This grant allows us to start moving on some things – both much-needed investments in the space as well as repairs and upgrades we’ve known that we needed for quite some time – as well as gives us an extra boost going into the summer months that we have never had before.
Investments and Improvements
There are numerous smaller repairs and improvements being made around the theater – as there always have been ever since we opened, the space has continued to evolve and improve to suit the work, the shows, the classes and the audiences as best we can – here are a few of the bigger projects that may be more noticeable coming up:
Piano : Jack Barrett was actually assembling his own Kickstarter campaign to get a real, working piano for the theater when we found out about the grant and we were able to let him know in time to stop it and fund the purchase ourselves – it’s important to us that we don’t ask our donors to do things for us that we can do ourselves and when we do ask our donors they know the needs and reasons are real.
The new piano sounds amazing and the music Jack is able to create with it is always such an important addition to our shows.
Awning : This is something we’ve known we needed to do for a couple years but couldn’t make room in the budget until now – We’ve started work to replace our aging awning over our front door and windows, the existing unit should be taken down and the replacement should be installed in the next couple weeks.
Exit Door / Bike parking : We’ve been making smaller changes and improvements to the space over the last few months to better serve anyone with special needs and while talking with our landlord about our side door, he proposed a really great improvement.
The side door to our lobby has always been our “extra” exit but the gravel outside makes it hard to shovel and maintain and the uneven ground makes it a more difficult proposition for anyone with special needs – When I spoke to Julius about it he not only volunteered to have a sidewalk put in from the door to the blacktop to make it a fully accessible exit, he proposed the addition of a bike parking area!
A 10 foot bike rack has been ordered and once it arrives, the work will begin to create the new bike parking area between the building and the blacktop, in addition to the sidewalk racks and the parking meter racks that HUGE sponsored.
Roof Offices : Ask Molly Chase.
On the heels of the McKnight Grant we had our annual Hangout Auction, which is not only one of the most fun parts of our fundraising calendar, it has also grown every time – both in number of fun auction ideas and funds raised. The full list of items and winners is posted and the winners have already started hanging out with their favorite improvisers.
Thank you to Bree, Joshua, Bradley and Jane for creating and nurturing this weird thing over the years. Seriously.
Our education program continues to grow and evolve and the biggest change to it was the creation of our 401 “pods” in place of the existing 401 curriculum – which focuses on forms and structures and typically would mean spending 2-3 weeks on each structure – by grouping each structure in 3 week pods and allowing students to enroll to learn the forms they are most interested in.
As a teacher that has focused a lot on 401 classes, I’m really excited for this change – not only because it allows students to get right to the form that most interests them, but also because it brings together students over a common interest and I’m hoping we’ll see the formation of groups with a shared desire to perform Harold, Deconstruction and more.
Our Annex is a big part of growing the education program (as well as being able to offer rehearsal space during shows to improvisers) and our Annex Member program has expanded steadily – we are looking closely at the future of that space and will be rolling out some improvements to make it more comfortable as well as some ambitious changes over the next year.
Throwgram Series : The second year of our Throwgram series is underway – starting with Throwback Night in January and February and continuing with each cast creating a brand new show. The March/April (The Reconstruction) and May/June (Zoom) shows have launched and work has started on the final installment to run July/August (Title TBA)
Monday Series : Monday nights have featured Show X since we opened – this January, Jill Bernard did a short run of her solo show Drum Machine on Monday nights at 7pm and that began a conversation around shorter runs of shows that are made up of the cast of Show X.
It is a way to take some pressure off our weekend show proposals as well as a way to make those shows more possible for groups like Ferrari McSpeedy and Drum Machine that might take all year to schedule for a weekend show. They are a limited run of one month and happen no more than every-other-month.
Happy Hour Show : Nimblicity is the other new time slot that has launched and I am so excited for it – they proposed a show centered around an office with a cast of improvisers that could represent your office….if your office was staffed with funny, talented people.
I have wanted to have a Happy Hour show at our theater since we opened and when I came back asking if they were willing to take on a new time slot they attacked the project. A new show in a new time is no small endeavor and often means putting in a lot of work and to do great shows in front of small crowds while the new time grows (or sometimes doesn’t) and I am so grateful they are doing it.
Ongoing shows: One major change we made this year was to break up ongoing shows (shows without a set closing date) to make more room in our calendar for shows and to give groups like The Mess and Bearded Men some well-deserved time off during the year – people often ask about how their show can propose an ongoing run and the answer is “Are you ready to take on a 3rd job or run a small business?” because that is the level of effort and commitment that goes into one.
Each ongoing was asked to schedule out 2 blocks of 2 months each – making room for 4 additional shows on our stage this year.
2015 : We have been working constantly on booking shows to try and keep up with the numerous proposals that come to us – always trying to balance between scheduling too far out and working to give upcoming shows as much time to prepare and produce as they need – and I’m happy to announce that our weekend shows are almost completely booked for the rest of the year!
The upcoming weekend schedule includes Drew & Matt, Think Fast, Horsetown, more Off Book, Bearded Men and The Mess, a “Triple Double” of Kiss Kiss Slap/Liv&Bradley/Polar Bear Centric, The Painters, the traditional shows like Creature Feature, Survivors of the Undead Plague, Star Trek, Interplanetary Appeal’s “Choose Your Own Adventure” as well as the return of Family Dinner and Poivre – and more!
We are still scheduling Wednesday shows, which have become the best testing/proving ground for shows, as well as the ongoing Improv A Go Go on Sundays.
Neutrino : One title that is purposely missing from the list above is the Neutrino Video Project - it is an improvised movie that is performed outside the theater, shot and projected while the audience watches it happen. HUGE was granted permission to produce the show but it is something we’ve had to delay due to a number of factors, not least of which was the need for new/upgraded equipment to make the show possible – which meant holding while we awaited word on things that have a large impact on our budget, like General Operating support – and then we had to look ahead at not only scheduling enough of a rehearsal process to launch the show, but also timing it so we weren’t launching a show that shot outdoors in the dead of winter.
When everything came together, the timing was wrong and we are going to do this right rather than rushed so we made the call to wait – which is as difficult for me as anyone – but I can announce that we are going to hold auditions for Neutrino this September.
Dates and specifics of Neutrino auditions and shows will be announced and posted on August 13th – the day of our annual Happy Hour with The Board after the Fringe Festival.
IAGG Anniversary – May 17th
This May we celebrate THIRTEEN YEARS of the Improv A Go-Go with performances by Ferrari McSpeedy, Five Man Job, Horseface and Local Music Scene!
As always, our thanks go out to John Sweeney, Jenni Lilledahl and the Brave New Workshop for giving the IAGG a home on their stage and a place to grow. So many wonderful things have resulted from their amazingly generous gift.
Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF) – June 24-28th
The ninth annual Twin Cities Improv Festival is almost upon us – the final round of local selections is underway and will be posted this week! The workshops were posted and began filling up in record time, there are still spaces left in two of the workshops but those will not last so do yourself a favor and register NOW
We are happy to announce that the TCIF drink specials, after parties and events are once again sponsored by the Minnesota Fringe Festival!
TCIF tickets will be on sale starting June 1st
Fringe Festival – July 30th-August 9th
(HUGE closes and tech begins July 25th)
We are once again a venue for the MN Fringe Festival and love partnering with the Fringe – they take over the building on July 25th and we shut down for some much-needed rest until mid-August!
Our own Brian Smallbeck – who designed and built the existing website as well – has been working on a new website for HUGE that can better adapt our content to mobile devices, rid us of our nagging problems that affect our search results (yes, we know about it), help people write reviews of shows, put our calendar front and center and add a search function.
Things should hopefully be launching soon. Brian is busy custom-making the calendar functionality, which we’ve found to be the central thing that our customers use to purchase tickets, but allowed me to grab some screen shots of the new design (there will be show images and information as well – this is very much work in progress)
About us page
One last area – and it’s a weird one to try and sum up clearly – one I tried to talk about very briefly at our Anniversary Show in January as well. We are growing up as a theater and as an organization. This is not meant to say we’re getting boring or less fun but instead that just like the space has continued to grow and shape up to suit what we want to do, so has the company.
When we had our last strategic planning session, that was the phrase that kept coming back – we’d like to have a “grown up” plan for touring shows instead of scrambling every time, we would like our staff to have a “grown up” system for scheduling instead of a collection of haphazard, overlapping patches and fixes. That kind of stuff.
It is harder to see and doesn’t always get a reaction, since it doesn’t add a bike rack or anything to the building, but it’s the kind of things that our staff and volunteers and teachers and students and performers and donors deserve from us – and should demand from us.
We recently hired Adia Morris to help in a part-time administrative capacity – she is already going through our systems and manuals and creating some clearer training documents and helping with the multitude of things that would otherwise add up to “we wanted to do that but couldn’t” far too many times – all so we can do this better.
I know there’s fun in being the scrappy, irreverent upstart company that is too busy doing the impossible to answer the phone – there’s also plenty of time and energy lost along the way being far too busy to do even one thing more that we could be spending on doing the impossible even better.
If we are going to ask people to give time and talent and money to this place (and we are, in November – oh yes we are) then they should know that they are giving to a company that can be organized, use what people give to us wisely and respectfully, have a vision for the future, make ambitious plans, have the facilities and equipment to make it happen and give people the support and tools they need while they are doing it.
We can do that AND we can have more fun than anyone else at the same time – That’s what I love so much about this place and all the people here.
WHEW. That’s it…for now.
Thank you for reading this far – again, this isn’t everything, but it’s certainly more than enough to expect anyone to read through. If you have any questions or concerns or comments, always feel free to email me at butch (at) hugetheater (dot) com.
Thank you all, for everything.
Executive Director, HUGE Theater
Humble servant, Twin Cities improv community