Welcome to the Twin Cities Improv Community
Are you an improviser new to Minneapolis or St. Paul? Wondering about the local improv scene? You’re in luck – you’ve arrived at a place filled with opportunity and creativity. We’re glad you’re here.
How can I get involved in the Twin Cities improv community?
Sign up for a class, drop-in, or workshop - There are several wonderful improv theaters/schools in the Twin Cities area. Check out the full list of theaters below. Some schools require students to start with at 101, others don’t. Also, workshops are offered fairly frequently around town, and there’s a drop-in class every Wednesday from 5-7 PM. The drop-in classes are taught at HUGE Theater by a different local improviser each week; $10 suggested donation.
If you have an improv topic on which you’d like to teach a drop-in class or workshop, email Jill Bernard at HUGE.
Get connected – Join the Twin Cities Comedy Network group on Facebook. This is the online hub for the Twin Cities improv community, and a great place to find out about classes, auditions, and performances, as well as discuss improv and get to know your fellow players. You may also be interested in the Facebook groups for Tiny Funny Women Fest, Twin Cities Theater People, and the pages for the various local theaters. Also, subscribe to the Twin Cities Improv Google Group. It’s less used than the Facebook group, but its posts often have much more to do with auditions and other performance opportunities.
Audition – There are auditions for various shows throughout the year. Most are announced via Facebook (see Facebook recommended pages, above) and/or via the Google group. Auditions also often attract other new-to-town improvisers, so a double bonus for meeting people who are also navigating their way through the scene.
Volunteer or intern at a theater as box office or an usher. Contact individual theaters for details.
Go to shows – This probably sounds really obvious. But most people we talk to found that was one of the best ways they got to know people and started to feel like part of the community. Students at HUGE Theater and the Brave New Workshop Student Union get into most shows at their respective theaters for free during their weeks of class, and other theaters may have similar offers.
It might be helpful to know that local improvisers are typically glad to chat during intermission and/or after the show. In Minnesota, people tend to gravitate to people they know, and assume if you’re by yourself you want to be left alone. People want you to feel welcome – it’s just a fact of Minnesota life that you’ll probably have to make the first offer at conversation, and then of course be conscientious about not dominating anyone’s time. That said, people commonly hang out after shows and are very excited to welcome new improvisers.
Space Jam at HUGE Theater - Your chance to jam on the HUGE stage everyThursday night. Sign-up starts at 8PM, show starts at 9PM. Space Jam features a special guest and an open, supportive environment. There are literally no requirements for getting on stage (other than being one of the first 28 to sign-up) – everyone is welcome regardless of experience level. It’s free to play, but costs $5 if you just watch the show.
Troika - Troika is an annual tournament featuring improvisors drawn at random and split into trios of improvisors who have never performed together before. Knowing less people increases your odds! Follow the Troika Mpls Facebook page to stay up to date.
Friday Night Stage Match – Open to students and alumni of the Brave New Workshop Student Union’s Performance Track classes, with a cast chosen by lottery. At every show (Friday nights at 8PM, $5), the cast is divided up into different teams, performing together for the first time. It is a wonderful way to meet and play with lots of improvisers, including many long-time Twin Cities performers. There is a coaching fee paid by all performers in Stage Match, to cover costs.
Lunchprov - A lunch-time jam held weekly either in Downtown Minneapolis or at HUGE Theater in Uptown. Follow the Lunchprov Facebook page for details.
Listen to Podcasts – “Next at Bat” is a podcast dedicated to the Twin Cities improv scene. There are a number of other podcasts by local improvisers, sketch writers, and storytellers.
Play Mojo Kickball - The unofficial sport of the Twin Cities improv community. Invented by local improviser Eric Heiberg, it is a mix of kickball, dodgeball, and tag. It is the perfect sport for people who hate sports, and newcomers are always welcome. Not actually improv, but a great way to meet some fellow improvisers. In the spring and summer months, check the Mojokickball Minneapolis Facebook page for upcoming games. http://mojokickball.com
I’ve formed an improv group (or am a solo improviser or moved here with my group). What do I do to find a place to perform?
Talk to producers of independently produced shows, such as Monsters of Improv, a monthly show at Honey. To figure out who to talk to and what’s going on, try the Twin Cities Comedy Network Facebook page.
Produce and market your own show. Bryant Lake Bowl and Honey in Minneapolis are popular venues, as is Bedlam Theatre in St. Paul. Improvisers have also had luck branching out to theaters, bars and cafes around the cities.
Enter the Improv A Go Go lottery. Improv A Go Go is a show that features 4 groups every Sunday. The groups are selected by random lottery and receive a three-week/three-show run at HUGE. Drawings are quarterly. To enter, go to this page and scroll waaay down: http://www.hugetheater.com/shows/improv-a-go-go.
Consider submitting your show to HUGE, via this form: http://www.hugetheater.com/propose-a-show
Do a 5-minute performance at BALLS Cabaret. Every Saturday at midnight, there’s a sign up/open show that offers 5-minute slots to artists of all kinds. There’s really nothing quite like this as an experience. There are some requirements before you get stage time, such as you need to attend the show the week before you sign up. There are a variety of acts. At the Southern Theater in Minneapolis (1420 S Washington Ave, Minneapolis, MN 55454) https://www.facebook.com/ballscabaret
What are the theaters in town? Where can I see shows and take classes?
In the Twin Cities, there’s generally a cooperative and mutually supportive environment where people aren’t particularly territorial about who studies or performs where. Improvisers tend to perform and/or study at multiple theaters.
In alphabetical order, here’s list of local improv theaters:
Brave New Workshop Comedy Theater (Downtown Minneapolis)
& BNW Student Union (Uptown Minneapolis)
Performance: Original social and political satire, sketch and improvisation
Classes: Sketch Writing, Improvisation (Every Day and Performance Tracks), Youth/Teen Improvisation and Sketch, Musical Improvisation, Intensives, Teacher Training, Community and Outreach Programs
Auditions: Every few months for Performance Track classes, August for Teen Program and by invitation for main stage paid positions
House Teams: Yes. House Teams for BNW Student Union by audition and invitation. Teams perform primarily at BNW Student Union.
About this theater: The Brave New Workshop is a national institution. It is the longest running satirical sketch comedy theatre in the U.S. established more than 55 years ago by Dudley Riggs. The Student Union and the Theatre have different locations, so double check your directions!
- The Brave New Workshop (BNW) Comedy Theatre is located in a beautiful building downtown. There they run a world-class sketch show every week of the year. The sketch shows are followed by improv performed by the cast.
- BNW Student Union (BNW SU) is in the former main stage location. The building is historic and charming and probably haunted maybe. Weekend and weekday shows include a mix of sketch and improv.
ComedySportz Twin Cities
Performance: Short-form competitive improv
Offers classes: Adult classes in improv and also classes for business people. For teens, there is a High School League.
Auditions: Once a year. Usually winter. Auditions consist of an initial audition, a callback, and then a stint in the “minor league” which is essentially a free short-form intensive followed by a showcase performance, after which some performers are selected to join the mainstage cast.
Cast: There is a mainstage cast of about 30 people, as well as a rec league where people sign up to play for fun. Contact email@example.com for information.
About this theater: ComedySportz Twin Cities is part of the ComedySportz network of theaters around the country. It has been open for more than 20 years and holds two national championship titles.
HUGE Improv Theater
Performance: Scenic/long-form improv
Offers classes in: Scenic/long-form improv. Classes are primarily for adults and are structured by topic — Basics, Characters, Scenework, Forms, Advanced Forms, Diagnostics, etc. Students are invited to self-determine which class(es) they should take and in what order. Teen classes for ages 13-17 are also offered. Payment plans are available.
House Teams: None.
Auditions: HUGE casts for shows that are produced in-house. Of note is Throwback Night, which auditions annually — usually in the fall. Three teams work on a form from the long-form improv canon, e.g. Harold, Close Quarters, Deconstruction, and later work with the artistic director to create their own form.
About this theater: HUGE is a nonprofit dedicated to supporting the improv community. The theater has shows 6 nights a week, and presents about 550-600 shows a year. HUGE hosts the Twin Cities Improv Festival annually (end of June).
Performance: Short-form improv. Specializes in fast-paced, funny shows. Founded in 1989 by Stevie Ray, an comedian, author, public speaker, beekeeper, and black belt.
Offers classes in: Adult and youth improv classes. Check the site for scholarship info.
Auditions: Stevie says, “The best way to get involved with us is to take classes. Everything starts there. We do hold auditions, and those are open to everyone in the world, but our troupe has been so stable we haven’t held an audition in a while.”
House Teams: Rather, a mainstage cast.
About this theater: Stevie Ray’s has been an important part of the improv community for over twenty years. Performances are in Chanhassen, MN but many of their classes are at 901 W Lake Street in the Lyn-Lake neighborhood.
Improv companies/groups that don’t have a physical building but hire improvisers, perform regularly, and have great reputations:
Jesters – Short form improv comedy show performed every Saturday night at Ol’ Mexico Restaurante and Cantina. Jesters players have typically taken classes and/or performed at ComedySportz or Stevie Ray’s. Jesters has auditions about once a year. If you’re interested, Jesters director Larry Bieza suggests coming to a show to see if it might be the right fit for you. Or show up early, and Larry would be happy to talk to you about Jesters.
T2P2/Theater of Public Policy – Combines improv with public policy discussion/interviews, performs at a variety of locations in the Twin Cities and travels around the state as well. If you’re interested in T2P2, go see a show and stick around to talk to the show’s creators Tane Danger and Brandon Boat of Danger Boat Productions.
Venues improvisers sometimes book:
Bryant Lake Bowl
I’m a teen. Anything else I should know about improv opportunities in Twin Cities?
You’ve come to a great place. There are teen classes at most theaters, and some have teen house teams, such as High School League at ComedySportz. See below for more information, listed in alphabetical order.
Brave New Workshop Student Union(http://studentunion.bravenewworkshop.com/YouthImprov.aspx) )
For teens new to improv, BNW SU offers Pizza Jams every other month during the school year. Auditions for experienced teen improvisers take place in the fall. Teams rehearse weekly and perform monthly on the Student Union stage throughout the school year. BNW SU also offers summer camps that focus on improv and sketch writing along with youth programming outside of the theater in collaboration with schools and other organizations around Minnesota.
Harbor Theatre Group (http://harbortheatregroup.com/) is a free collaborative theater group in Minneapolis. Performers are between the ages of 15 and 19, and are challenged to grow as performing artists. Harbor members learn improv both as an end in itself and as a means of creating amazing scripted and semi-scripted theater. Harbor has performed at Intermedia Arts, HUGE, and many other locations in the Twin Cities. Harbor auditions and welcome folks year-round, although they generally add Company Members at the beginning of the school year. Visit Harbor’s facebook page, site, and blog (written by teens) to get more information.
The Wunder Kidz – A group of teens from all over the city who auditioned to be part of Wunder Kidz. They have had runs at BNW SU, HUGE, and Bryant Lake Bowl, as well as performed at the Chicago Improv Festival and the Twin Cities Improv Festival. See their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/TheWunderKidz) to learn more about what they are up to now, and about any upcoming auditions.
Twin Cities Youth Improv Festival (http://twincitiesyouthimprovfestival.com/) is an annual summer festival that brings together teens for performances, jams and workshops. TCYIF takes place in October during MEA weekend, which is in mid-October.
Beyond improv at BNW SU, ComedySportz, HUGE, and other theaters, there are a lot of general theater opportunities in the Twin Cities for youth, including SteppingStone Theater For Youth Development (http://www.steppingstonetheatre.org) and Youth Performance Company (http://youthperformanceco.org). MNPlaylist (http://mnplaylist.com) is a great resource to find audition notices and other information.
What else should I know about the arts in Minnesota?
You can find theater auditions and more information at: MN Playlist
The annual MN Fringe Festival creates a lot of opportunities: MN Fringe Festival
You can find services for artists, info on Minnesota arts and art-related jobs at: Springboard for the Arts
NOTE: Springboard for the Arts offers all kinds of support for artists — yes, improvisers are artists — including health care vouchers, one-on-one consultations, fiscal sponsorship, workshops, free and sliding scale fee consultations with lawyers, resource centers/computer lab, and more.
Any other thoughts about what the improv community and the arts are like in Minnesota?
You might be interested to know that Minneapolis and St. Paul are theater towns. The Twin Cities sells more tickets per capita than Chicago or Seattle, and performing artists make up a 30% larger share of the workforce in the Twin Cities than they do nationally. It is hard to overstate how central the arts are in Minnesota — not just in terms of funding, but how Minnesotans commonly seek out the arts and festivals as their primary activity. That enthusiasm and willingness to buy tickets to live performance fuels the arts, and is part of a greater ecosystem that includes local private funders, generous government funding (as voted for by Minnesotans), and arts services organizations.
Of course a rich environment for the arts is not the same as a great environment for landing roles in TV or film. That’s what makes cities like NY, LA and Chicago great. A lot of talented performers bank stage time and experience here that they take with them to one of those cities; and a lot of people come to the Twin Cities to continue a great career they started in another city. The upshot is that Twin Cities improv is generally not a path to TV or film. It’s improv for improv sake.
We think improv for improv sake is an incredible opportunity. Here we have everything we need to take advantage of creative freedom — including exceptional teachers and coaches, access to stage time, and a supportive community.
This is an exciting time to be exploring the emerging art form of improv. We think the Twin Cities is a pretty great place to do that.
- The Away Team
p.s. Many thanks to the Twin Cities improv community for clarifications and contributions to this post. And many thanks for welcoming us to the Twin Cities!