Neutrino Audition Schedule

Thanks to everyone that signed up for auditions and waited patiently for the schedule – we were able to give most everyone their first choice of times – please plan on arriving 15 minutes prior to your time and warming up with your group beforehand.

October 10th :  10am-11am

Group 1 :  Sophie Brossard, Sean Dillon, Lauren Schwein, Erin Sheppard

Group 2 : Jen Scott, Jane White, Joe Rapp, Amy Zajack, MJ Marsh

Group 3 : Nathan Rouse, Hannah Wydeven, Nick Decker, Cicely Laing

October 10th :  11am-Noon

Group 1 :  Mike Fotis, Will Roberts, Michael Larson, Mike Trost

Group 2 : Joe Blum, Beth Gibbs, Jake Scott, Colin Anderson, Katie Moen

October 10th :  1pm-2pm

Group 1 :  Alex Carlson, Kathryn Vannelli, Sid Oxborough, LJ Johnson

Group 2 : Mike Krefting, Daniel Jacquette, Jen Van Kaam, Eric Heiberg

October 10th :  2pm-3pm

Group 1 :  Carolyn Blomberg, Mark Jelinek, Rita Boersma, Katie Moen

October 10th :  3pm-4pm

Group 1 :  Liv Augusta, Molly Chase, Dave Christians, Seniz Lennes

October 10th :  4pm-5pm

Group 1 :  , Bryce Kalal, James Satter, David Lipkin, Phil Schramm, Christian Unser

October 15th :  7pm-8pm

Group 1 :  Cody Nelson, Jeff Gyllen, Phillip Simondet, Kristen Pichette

Group 2 : Breanna Cecile, Lizzie Gardner, Elliot Stevenson, Susannah Eckberg

Group 3 : Jessica Ostendorf, Anna Tobin,Denzel Belin, Spencer Retelle

October 15th :  8pm-9pm

Group 1 : John Gershberg, Kevin Albertson,  Deborah Dopp


If you have any problems, questions or concerns – please email butch at hugetheater dot com





Improvathon 2015 Announcement and FAQs

Improvisers at HUGE Improv Theater are taking the stage — and not giving it back for 28 hours — to raise money for the the non-profit artist-led improvisational theater. It’s a one-of-a-kind fundraising barnstorm that coincides with Give to the Max Day, November 12, an annual event when Minnesotans display their generosity by celebrating and donating to local nonprofits through

The Improvathon gets underway on Wednesday night, November 11, starting at 8PM, leading up to the official Give to the Max Day start at midnight on Thursday, November 12. A succession of more than 125 local improvisers will lead audiences through 28 hours of spontaneous, unrehearsed, improvised theater. The program will end at midnight Nov. 12.

The goal of HUGE’s 28-hour Improvathon is to raise funds for the LynLake-area theater and support improvisational theater in the Twin Cities. In addition to producing 500+ shows a year, HUGE teaches 400+ students annually, and supports the education and career development of performing artists.

Admission is pay-what-you-can, with a suggested minimum donation of $10. HUGE is located at 3037 Lyndale Ave. South near Lake and Lyndale in Minneapolis.


Anyone interested in performing and/or being an Iron Audience contender is encouraged to come to the Improvathon Kick-Off meeting on Sunday, October 11, at 4PM at HUGE Improv Theater.



What is Improvathon?
Improvathon is a 28-hour improv marathon fundraiser benefiting HUGE Improv Theater. It is timed to coincide with’s Give to the Max Day, an annual statewide day of giving, on Thursday, November 12, 2015.

What is the schedule?
Starts: Wednesday, November 11 at 8:00PM
Ends: Thursday, November 12 at 11:59PM

So that’s it? 28-hours of improv and fundraising?
Basically! But it ends up being much more. It is a chance for the larger community – students, performers and audience — to get together. In years past, the Improvathon has been the impetus for brand new groups to form. It is also an important opportunity for many students and performers to get on stage and show their friends and family – inside and outside the Twin Cities — why improv and HUGE are important to them.

Also, there are amazing people who sign up to be Iron Audience contenders and watch 24-hours of improv. These intrepid souls form the backbone of the audience, especially at 3:30 in the morning, and support performers.

Why does HUGE schedule this to coincide with’s Give to the Max Day?
Give to the Max Day (GTMD) is an important arts and nonprofit awareness tool that makes a big impact statewide. By participating in GTMD, we are part of a much larger event, and are supporting fellow Minnesota nonprofits.

In addition, HUGE will be eligible to win $1,000 – $10,000 extra dollars based on incentives from GiveMN.

What are some easy ways I can participate?

Come watch some shows – Bonus points if you make a donation to HUGE via at home and then bring a printout to HUGE.

Be an Iron Audience Contender – If you are comfortable with staying up for 24-hours (midnight to midnight), this could be a great option. If not, just come out and watch some shows! A lot of us will be there, and it will be fun. (See Iron Audience FAQ below for more details.)

Volunteer – We’ll need 30 hours of box officers, tech booth operators, help with food, general tidying, massage therapists (?), you name it! A volunteer sign-up sheet will be posted soon.

Encourage people to contribute before they come to the theater – Our goal is to get donors to donate online and bring a printout w/ them to HUGE. It’s faster/easier for them and for the box office.

Offer or find a Matching Grant – GiveMN has piles of research that says projects with Matching Grants receive more donations. A Matching Grant can be as small as $100 to be effective. Contact molly at hugetheater dot com if you’re interested.

Donate! – Back one or more teams of your choosing, don’t be shy.

Spread the word– Word of mouth is incredibly important to HUGE, not only for the Improvathon, but for all our shows. If you haven’t reviewed HUGE on Yelp or Google, consider doing that. Sincere, great reviews are among the most valuable gifts you can give.


How many performance slots are there, and how do I sign up?
There are approximately 42 timeslots available, about the same as last year.  The link to the form to request at performance time is COMING SOON.

Can I be in more than one group that performs?
Of course! We just ask that you consider how thin you are spreading yourself in terms of time and energy, but also your ability to contribute to each groups’ fundraising goals. Also know that there are a lot of improvisers who want to participate, and so try to leave room for others.

Is there a prize?
Yes. The performer/group that raises the most funds will receive a custom coaching session from a special guest, either in March or during Twin Cities Improv Festival in June. In addition, the group will receive their name on the wall, bragging rights, and a free membership to the HUGE Annex for rehearsal time for a year.

Pro Tip: Finding matching grants for your group are a great strategy if you want to win the top fundraising prize, but also is a great thing for people that want to give before Give to the Max Day. It is a great way to get the word out and start fundraising right away. At present, we don’t have a matching donor set up. You could get one for your own group. Or ask your work if they donate to 501c3 nonprofits like HUGE.

I’m uncomfortable with fundraising, but I want to perform. Can I just sign up for a performance time?
Not really. Improvathon is HUGE’s biggest annual fundraiser. We are asking each performance time to try to raise at least $350. In years past we haven’t specifically asked groups to fundraise as part of this event, but it is very important to sustaining the theater. Part of our hope and vision that Improvathon could raise $45,000 for HUGE this year. (It sounds like a lot, but that’s just over one month’s operating expenses.)

We will do our best to make fundraising easy for you – and there are a lot of tools to do that, through’s online donation site and through tips and samples we will provide. Keep in mind, this isn’t about cold calling strangers. You’ll be asking family and friends who know you, and are asking them to support a nonprofit cause that’s personally important to you.

If you are truly uncomfortable asking friends and family to donate, please choose another way to perform at HUGE. Everyone is welcome to Space Jam each week, or to enter the Improv A Go Go lottery, or to take a class and perform in the showcase, or to submit a show idea, or all of the above. And those are just the opportunities at HUGE, there are many more in the Twin Cities. All to say, this is not just a performance slot, it is a chance to financially support a nonprofit theater with a mission to support the improv community.


Every year, around 11-25 people sign up to be Iron Audience contenders, which means they plan to stay awake to watch 24-hours of improv (midnight to midnight).

Does having an Iron Audience really help?
Performers are grateful for the Iron Audience, and the tremendous boost their presence gives. In return, performers work hard to create the best show possible for the audience, even at — or maybe especially at —  3AM. Beyond that, Iron Audience helps HUGE by posting on social media and, of course, and by raising funds.

What does an Iron Audience contender get?

Those who watch 24 hours of improv (midnight to midnight) get their name on HUGE’s wall and a badge, plus an Improvathon T-shirt. Beyond that, HUGE does what it can to make Iron Audience contenders welcome and comfortable.

This year, the Iron Audience contender who raises the most funds will receive a Golden Ticket to HUGE, good for a year of free shows, and a hoodie with a special badge. All Iron Audience contenders that complete the 24-hours will get their names on HUGE’s wall, plus a T-shirt and badge.

What are the Iron Audience rules?
The rules are based in the honor system — the idea is to be in the theater watching performances, and no performances can be skipped. Sleeping through shows and/or being absent from the theater are outside of the spirit of the event. That said, people need to take breaks for bathroom and snacks, and may want to step outside under the awning to get some fresh air. It is also possible a person might doze off here and there. All of these things are acceptable.

The Iron Audience portion of the event runs for 24-hours and begins promptly at 12:00 a.m. on Thursday, November 12. There is a kick-off reception and four hours of improv prior to that (starting at 7 p.m. on Wednesday night) that you are of course welcome to attend. But it’s not part of Iron Audience.

What if I change my mind, or get sick, or get called into work?
This is a low-pressure, low-stakes event where your health and peace of mind are top priority. If at any point you’re feeling sick and/or just need to take a break or go home, you should! We will never stop being grateful for all you do.

I’m uncomfortable with fundraising, but I want to be an Iron Audience contender. Can I just show up and stay?
Not exactly. You are certainly free to come to HUGE and watch as much improv as you’d like! To participate as an Iron Audience contender, though, is to participate in an important part of the fundraiser. This portion of the event is arguably the most “a-thon” part of the whole Improvathon. We are asking each Iron Audience contender to sign up by November 5 and to commit to raising at least $100 for HUGE as part of the event. (Registration link coming soon.)

We will do our best to make fundraising easy for you – and there are a lot of tools to do that, through’s online donation site and through tips and samples we will provide. Keep in mind, this isn’t about cold calling strangers. You’ll be asking family and friends who know you, and are asking them to support a nonprofit cause that’s personally important to you.

I don’t see the answer to my question here – who can I contact?
Feel free to send questions to molly at hugetheater dot com.






All levels welcome and encouraged!

This workshop will focus on refreshing musical improv basics and song structure. AND AN EXTRA BONUS: We are super lucky to have the incomparable Peter Guertin​ (Brave New Workshop Musical Director) on the keys!!

WHEN: Saturday, September 26th from 10:00-12:30
REGISTRATION: $40 cash/check at door;

Email for your sign up slot!

Photo credit: AmiPhotography​

Happy Hour with the Board 2015

Photo by Adam Iverson

Photo by Adam Iverson

August 13, 2015 – About 40 people attended this year’s Open House and Meeting, where Butch Roy, Jill Bernard, Molly Chase, and Nels Lennes presented. (Everyone enjoyed reminding each other that Butch had recently returned from being at sea.)

Adam Iverson took photos and Kevin Albertson presented tips for promoting your shows, events or groups via social media .

First up – an update on the Strategic Plan!

HUGE’s first years were guided by a three-year strategic plan, 2011-2013, and we’ve been guided by an updated plan covering 2015-2017. We held and documented a strategic meeting that bridged the year between, and laid out our plans for 2014.

The money

It costs about $40K per month to run HUGE Theater – even though we’re not yet paying people anywhere near what we would like. (More on that below.)

Income and Expenses so far in 2015 are much greater than they’ve been in previous years. Charts follow.

Notably, we currently have $30K in reserve funds, which is particularly significant coming out of summer, our slowest season by far.

This is how we’ve been spending in 2015

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Our major expense areas are rent and payroll. We expect payroll to grow while occupancy costs stay roughly the same over the coming years. Our rent has remained the same over the years but property taxes have increased steadily and we took on the Annex space, currently $11,264.93 for the 3037 building space and $3,500 per month for the Annex space.

We have big growth needs in payroll – we’re working hard to make sure we’re growing in a balanced way that serves the health and stability of the theater while still providing for artists as well. What we’ve known for a long time was affirmed by a funder, which is essentially: “If HUGE couldn’t hire replacements for salaried staff tomorrow if you were hit by a truck, at the same rate you’re being paid, then the future of your organization is at risk.”

Even though we know that we’re not yet hitting the market rate (as defined by the Minnesota Council of Nonprofit’s Salary and Benefits Survey), we have also continuously fought one another to NOT take pay increases in order to secure the stability of the theater. That said, we are going to have to make market payment a priority over the next few years, and will continue to make sure we’re doing so in as balanced a way as possible.

Currently the two full-time management staff (Jill and Butch) make $2,000 per month, Molly and Nels make $400 per month – exclusively for work performed as staff.  No one now or in the future is compensated for work as a director of the board of HUGE Theater.

*there is currently not a budget for Roofices

**Roofices are a running joke about installing offices on the roof of the building.

***or ARE they a joke?!?


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So far in 2015 we’ve earned $82, 507 in ticket sales. Tickets sales make up half our earned income. The chart shows ticket sales year over year from 2011 – present. The good news is that the peaks and valleys have been consistent enough that we’ve been able to learn over time where we need to push harder, which allows us to make decisions like the annual run of a Groupon to offset seasonal declining ticket sales in the warming months


Screen Shot 2015-08-19 at 1.47.52 PM


This is where our donations come from. Individual donations are not only important for keeping the theater open and giving us more stability, but also demonstrate that many people are invested in HUGE. This is meaningful to funders, humbling for us, and just a very powerful message.

Going back to the point about our reserve funds. In 2014 coming out of summer we had $7,000 in the bank, which is not even the building rent, and had to regain a lot of ground with ticket sales and the fall term of classes. The big leap back onto solid ground was absolutely accelerated by the Improvathon and allowed us to end the year in the black.

We will never forget how our donors gave $44,965 in one day! We’d hoped to raise $25k, but everyone’s dedication and generosity blew that estimate out of the water. It was amazing.

Oh, and we’re totally going to ask everyone to do something like this again this November. Stay tuned.

The big news for 2015 in contributed income is, of course,  the fact that we received two grants for General Operating support – from the McKnight Foundation and the MN State Arts Board.

The McKnight Foundation has been engaged in a long conversation since HUGE Theater began and has offered guidance along the way to help us know that we’re growing in the right direction as an arts organization. The recognition of the McKnight Foundation is something that means a great deal to us at HUGE Theater – it says to us and the rest of the world that we are a serious organization supporting serious artists at a serious art form. That is something that not only feels like the validation of a lot of hard work, it sends a clear signal of improv’s place among the arts in Minnesota.

The Minnesota State Arts Board funding is a 4-year commitment that recognizes HUGE as a highly capable nonprofit dedicated to supporting the arts for all Minnesotans. It is a big deal, and we could not be more excited.

This is where we thank Molly Chase for all her hard work (I can’t say “tireless” because we know how exhausting the process was – both writing the grants and managing us at HUGE) because we would not be where we are without what she has achieved. It’s amazing. She’s amazing. 


This is where we get into paying performers

Part of our current pay model has to take into account clearing certain levels of operating costs so we’re not jeopardizing the theater’s stability because we have a great month of ticket sales.

We are always considering ways to adjust the formula to favor higher payment for performers, and have this in mind when forecasting and budgeting. We feel performer payments are part of our responsibility in keeping the promise of our mission to support artists.

This is where we get to the future of The Board

The current overlap of our Board of Directors and staff members is more akin to a startup than to a traditional nonprofit. While we’ve found this structure has been very helpful for our first years of rapid growth, we fully understand the need to adopt a more traditional model.

This is an important part of our strategic plan for 2015-2017, and is going to be a shift away from the shorthand of “the board” to represent the general management of the theater. As we add more people to the board, it will mean there will be people on the board that improvisers might not know or have direct contact with.

We have already started work on expansion by forming an advisory board from which we’ll recruit board members. We have also recently attended a board recruitment event for people of color organized by Board Repair, which was a great event.

The main thing to know is that HUGE’s board will be made up of members from diverse backgrounds and perspectives who are passionate about HUGE’s mission and who have specific skills that will help us grow.

The Education Update!

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This is a graph of our class enrollment over time, which represents both growth in interest in our program but also the growth of the program itself. We have expanded our capacity over time as we’ve been able and those classes have seen growth in enrollment as well.


We don’t run a summer term for our 10-week classes because of the natural fall off in enrollment in the summer time.

This year, we’re taking a new approach to the month of August. In the past we held one weekend intensive, with a focus on advanced skills. This year, we’re adding a second advanced skill weekend intensive as well as a brand new Summer Slam for beginners. The weekend Summer Slam is for beginners to come learn fundamentals in a short amount of time if they can’t commit to a 10 week process or have been unsure about signing up for a longer class session to get started. We’re happy to report that enrollment has had strong numbers for all three intensives. (With people traveling here from as far as Sweden!)

Class jams!

Students frequently tell us they wish they had more time for scenes, and also, having a single showcase at the end of class is too much pressure. In response, we’re trying out a weekly jam where classes will just have extra time to try out things they’re learning in class in an open laboratory environment with students from other levels.
Butch Roy
Daniel Jaquette
Drew Kersten
Hannah Wydeven
Jill Bernard
Joe Rapp
Mary Mangan
Michael Ritchie
MJ Marsh
Molly Chase
Nels Lennes
Rita Boersma
Samantha Pereira
Sean Dillon
Tane Danger
Adam Iverson
Beth Gibbs
Bradley Machov
Carolyn Blomberg
Casey Haeg
Ellen Jaquette
Erin Kennedy
Gubby Kubik
John Gebretatose
Kristen Anne Pichette
Lucas Vonasek
Michael Dallavalle
Sidney Oxborough
Sophie Brossard
Will Roberts
Dane Stauffer
Darwin Smith
James Detmar
James Rone
Phil Lusardi
Rita Boersma

Plus Drop In Class, of course, managed by Mike Dallavalle with Samantha Pereira.


This is an experimental evolution to our advanced curriculum to hopefully better address the needs of more experienced improvisers – who are already spending their improv time and energy in lots of others ways – to allow them to find and focus on topics they are interested in.

Corporate Workshop training!

Jill is going to train our teachers and TAs to lead a very simple low-cost one-hour workshop that organizations can hire. This will get HUGE out into the cities and give our teachers and TAs valuable experience.


Seniz organized a super teen summer camp in July with 25 students from all around the metro area. They practiced basics of improv and participated in specialty workshops with professional improvisers in the community. The 10-week fall session is now enrolling! Starts September 6th. For more info and registration, visit hugetheater/teens

Production Updates

Show Submission process clarification:  we have moved ALL submission conversations, ideas, etc that are to be considered for the HUGE stage to the Show Proposal Form. We’re happy to discuss ideas with anyone and love talking about cool new concepts, but it will not be considered unless it arrives through the Show Proposal Form.

Returning shows!

Creature Feature, Survivors of the Undead Plague and Star Trek: The Next Improvisation are all returning – with Star Trek being directed this year by Joe Bozic. Also this fall: The Bearded Men‘s improvised Dungeons & Dragons show returns, as does The Mess beginning in November. Family Dinner will run during in the holiday months (November and December) on Fridays and Saturdays at 8PM.

New shows!

In September and October, Interplanetary Appeal is opening their show Now What?!, where the audience gets to guide the characters’ decisions along the way.

Wonderful Wonderful will be doing It’s a Wonderful Wonderful Life on Fridays at 9:30PM in the holiday months as well for another holiday genre show.

Special Shows!

Rob Belushi and Jon Barinholtz are bringing their workshop and improvised duo show Sheldon to HUGE the first weekend in November — workshop registration will be posted soon!

Auditions and 2016

Throwback Night will be returning, along with the complete Throwgram series that follows, in January 2016. Auditions will be posted for Throwback this fall.

Special thanks to Zoa Green for all of her help as Nels’ assistant in the Throwgram process, helping keep things organized, scheduled and running smoothly!

The Neutrino Video Project is finally in motion. Auditions are being held October 10 and 15.  Applications for auditions are currently being accepted HERE.

The New Website!

The last bit of news we announced was the new HUGE site, which has obviously launched since then, but Brian Smallbeck put together our new calendar-centric website and is still in the process of hunting down all the bugs and completing our performer-facing pages where improvisers can find all the “official” answers to questions they might have about being a performer at HUGE.

Fringe 2015 and Happy Hour with the Board


Fringe dates to know:

July 25th-29th – HUGE is CLOSED for Fringe tech week

July 30th – August 9th – Fringe Shows. CLICK HERE for schedule and tickets

August 10-13th – Annual cleaning, repair, maintenance, TLC for HUGE Theater.This is one of the only times we get to give the place a good top-to-bottom checkup.



Happy Hour with the Board of Directors

August 13th at 5pm – Annual Happy Hour with the Board of Directors.  Come have a beer (there will be drink specials) and we will riff on our agenda.

This is one of my favorite traditions and a very important way for us to hear from the people we serve as well as report to them how we are doing – We need to hear from you!


If you have questions, suggestions, stuff you wish HUGE would do better, complaints, ideas, send them!  We will address anything that is sent –  either at the meeting or online – but we cannot answer questions that aren’t asked or improve on things we don’t hear about.  You can send your thoughts anonymously or leave us your name an email if you’d like someone to follow-up with you directly.

– Open House from 5-6pm – come see the space!

– Meeting from 6-7:30pm – You can come for all of it or just drop in when you can!

August 13th at 8pm – a very special Positive TERI reunion show!!

August 14th – HUGE shows resume as normal. Like it never happened.

Dime for a dozen if it's what you're after

BIG NEWS: HUGE Improv Theater just received a Minnesota State Arts Board grant! For $34,706! It’s the first year of a 4-year commitment. It’s for general operating. It’s incredible.

So many people contributed to the work necessary to apply for the grant. That’s in addition to all of those who contribute to the programming, administration, artistic quality and overall strength of community we serve. It all was part of persuading the grant panel. Thank you!

HUGE is one of 167 organizations of all sizes in Minnesota that were approved to receive grants. See the Arts Board’s Web site for the full list:

This is all made possible by the voters of Minnesota, thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund. So thanks to voters for passing the Legacy Amendment, and thanks to our legislators for making sure those funds get to arts organizations of all sizes via MSAB and the regional arts councils.


Me and my friends are like the drums on Lust For Life

TCIF 9 : In progress

Every year I swear I am going to post some kind of recap for each night, every year I get started and then remember that just repeating “IT WAS SO AMAZING AND FUN, YOU JUST HAD TO BE THERE” isn’t really very good reading.

Waiting until the end of the festival to post a recap has also yielded poor results, as my brain has stopped working by then and the blurry recollections of someone that just overdosed on their favorite fun thing isn’t very good reading either.

If there’s one thing that never changes, it is how I feel about TCIF and what TCIF means.

I started working on a Twin Cities Improv Festival more than ten years ago (the first year started production 19 months in advance) because I love the Twin Cities improv scene, I am the biggest fan of the unscripted work I see all around me and I thought it was a shame how few people I talked to (both in Minnesota and at festivals around the country) knew about it.  I want everyone, both locally and nationally, to see it AND get a chance to see all the incredible groups we could bring here.

It is so powerfully fun that I want to share it with everyone, all the time – That’s it. It’s that simple and it always has been – That is the foundation of the festival and of HUGE theater.

We don’t want you to see more improv because we opened a theater – we opened a theater because we want you to see more improv. 

That is the one thing that makes sense of all the hard work and stress and scary times and financial risk over ten years and tens of thousands of hours. The answer to all of those things was and still is the question “HAVE YOU SEEN HOW AMAZING THESE PEOPLE ARE?!?”

And not nearly enough people have – so we created a festival to give people that don’t live here a chance to come see it and built a theater to give the people that live here a place to find it and the performers around us a place to do it – and getting to stand in the back of the theater and watch it every year makes it all worth it.  That’s how amazing these people are.

You just have to be here.



Anonymous Feedback Reply from the Board – the size of things

We received an anonymous message via our contact form:

“Is there a chance that TCIF [Twin Cities Improv Festival] would ever expand to multiple venues? I feel like that could be a good way to support an inclusive improv community outside of just HUGE, and a way to give more groups the opportunity to participate, but I could understand other theaters not necessarily liking the idea of putting their schedules on hold for the festival.”

This is Jill Bernard writing. Although I am not a member of Five Man Job, the improv team that produces TCIF, an annual improv festival now in its ninth year, I can answer in my capacity as a member of the HUGE staff, as TCIF’s former Director of Education, as an independent improvisor who has attended dozens of improv festivals around the country and the world, and as someone who has had a show or two not make it into TCIF over the years.

Thank you for your question. Let’s set aside the economics and pretend an angel investor made it possible to buy out several theaters around town, guaranteeing the rent, salaries, insurance, and marketing costs. Let’s pretend also that somehow we have the human resources to multiply the workload. We still would not add an additional venue or venues to TCIF. Here’s why.

A single-venue festival and a multi-venue festival are two very different beasts. What we love about TCIF is that everyone is all together all the time. I have been to improv festivals in other cities where no one really seems to notice or care that I have travelled hundreds of miles to be there. I see my friends’ Facebook photos of the same event and it looks like we were at two different improv festivals. Often adding more venues doesn’t mean increasing your audience numbers, it means giving some groups the shaft. I have travelled to a festival on the coast on my own dime to perform for eight people. It did not make me feel valued. There is a concept called “Dunbar’s Number” that Wikipedia describes as “a suggested cognitive limit to the number of people with whom one can maintain stable social relationships. These are relationships in which an individual knows who each person is and how each person relates to every other person.” That number is about 150 people (that’s one of the reasons why HUGE has 100 seats). We want everyone involved with TCIF to have a shared experience and forge an amazing connection to each other. We aren’t out to be the biggest improv festival in the world.

A misconception you have is that the festival supports only HUGE. The festival was created five years before there was a HUGE Theater and has always been an open application. Of the 25 local groups performing at this year’s festival, only HUGE is produced by us. Nine are groups that have proposed a show and produced it at HUGE1, 13 are independent teams2, and the other two are the Brave New Workshop and ComedySportz, which have their own theaters. The festival has always welcomed and taken applications from all local improvisors, and communicated application dates through all possible means.

The festival has about twice as many submissions as there are spaces in the Festival, and Five Man Job reviews them each several times based on their own merit, not in comparison to any other submissions. At the end of the review, they always have more groups that have unanimous “yes” votes than there are spaces, which means culling groups that would be fine additions to the festival. It has to happen, and Five Man Job does not take these decisions lightly or apply anything but the highest scrutiny. Butch Roy, the executive producer, writes: “In the end, making that final decision and finally clicking ‘publish’ feels like slamming the door in a lot of faces and it is a day that I dread intensely. But it’s one bad day that marks the beginning of putting on the most amazing weekend that I look forward to all year long, and that one job I hate seems like a small price for all that awesome.”

When Five Man Job started the festival, there were very few other opportunities for improv groups to perform regularly. You had to be scrappy and find a back room at a restaurant or a bar, or put your name into the Improv A Go Go lottery and hope for the best. Currently in the Twin Cities there are ample opportunities for groups to perform. There has never been a better time to be a rehearsing, performing group in Minneapolis. In a lot of ways running TCIF was our practice for opening HUGE Theater. When the theater opened I said, out loud, “Oh my god, it’s like having an improv festival every day.” That’s what we have now. Not being in the improv festival doesn’t mean you’re locked out of the improv scene, it just means you have to pursue a different opportunity and put together a really killer submission package for next year’s festival.

TCIF is the bait that gets audiences interested in local improv. It is the gateway. It is not intended to be a grocery store, it is just the sample lady at the end of each aisle sending audiences in the direction of the teams and shows they will fall in love with during the other 51 weeks of the year.

If you have questions, concerns, complaints or feedback of any kind for the Board of HUGE please know that you can always talk to us or contact us directly, but if you prefer, you can always use the anonymous form.  Click HERE to go THERE.



1 Bearded Men Improv, Clue, Horseface, Interplanetary Appeal, KINGS, Ladyfriend, Mayhem, The Away Team, The Mess

2 Drew & Matt, Feel Good About Yourself Orchestra, Ferrari McSpeedy, Foterson, Gay/Straight Alliance, Kiss Kiss Slap, License To Krill, Liv & Bradley, MN Snow Job, Polar Bear Centric, The Houlihans, The Painters, Where I Am Now

Solo Improv Advice from Jill Bernard

Jill Bernard here!  People often ask me how to do solo improv, which is one of those questions you have to answer yourself because solo improv is uniquely you, it doesn’t have to work like group improv. You have no obligation to do anything but weave together a piece that highlights everything you love about improv and life, everything you’re curious about, everything that makes you happy.  All your weaknesses become your strengths, all your strengths become your superpower. You have every permission in the world to build something just for you.  Take some time and 1) Write down three pieces of art or music or television shows or movies or books that you love and *why*.  2) Write down what you are a nerd about, and what your special and unspecial skills are. 3) Write down what your favorite thing to do in improv is.  4) Think about whether you want the audience involved and how. 5) Think about whether you want one long story or lots of little stories or maybe just a lecture.   6) Put the answers to 1-5 in your head and swish them around, start to think of images and templates and possibilities until something curious occurs to you that would be terrifying but incredible to try.

Please do not do anything in your solo show out of obligation.  Also, there may be things that feel like “cheating” or “crutches” for example, knowing there will always be a song in the middle or “only” playing one character.  None of that is cheating. Take super-good care of yourself and respond to any fussy little baby sounds from your psyche with compassion.

Q:  Isn’t it arrogant to do solo improv?  A: Oh hells yes. You are saying to the world I don’t need these other jerks. Own that little piece of naughtiness, it’s okay. You can be totally humble off-stage for marketing purposes but know in your heart that all human beings are interesting enough to be alone onstage, and you are compelling. It’s all right.

Find someplace to test your piece – a cabaret, a friendly open mic, in between some group improv pieces. Once you’ve done a small test, the piece will tell you what it wants to grow up to be. You have to just try it and see.

Other advice: *most* but not *all* solo improv pieces involve switching characters. There are unlimited ways to switch characters, but three easy ones are the CHARACTER SLIDE, the CHARACTER POP and the CHARACTER ABSENT. Whether you prefer the Character Slide or the Character Pop will depend on whether you’re more interested in preserving time or space – one of which has to be suspended for you to play more than one character.

· In the character slide, I play the character of Janey, then go neutral and walk over to another spot on the stage and play Ralph. Time is suspended – normally dialogue would continue without the dead space. The audience accepts the travel time as neutral and ignores it, if you can make it truly neutral – the expression in your face or body should not be Janey or Ralph.

· In the character pop, I play the character of Janey and then shift positions while staying in the same space. It works on a pivot. If we pretend I’m standing on a clock on the floor, when Janey’s talking I look at 11 o’clock, and when Ralph is talking I look at 1 o’clock. For some reason, we as viewers accept that the two are standing straight across from each other as you would be in an actual conversation, even though you’re portraying them at a 45 degree angle away from each other. A variation is the totem pole: I shift characters by changing my physicality and voice, but I stay looking in the same direction. The totem pole is nice for creating crowd scenes.

· In the character absent, I talk to the empty space where another character would be. If I choose, I can do a “fill” where eventually I run over there to fill in as that second character, often as a punchline. Leave space in your dialogue where that character would “answer” you.

All of these can be used in combination with each other, and there might be a fourth way that’s unique to you. Like anything in solo improv, you’re the expert.

Things you may want to watch for in playing multiple characters:

· Use realistic eye lines. If I’m playing a little kid talking to an adult, I should look up when I’m the kid and down when I’m the adult. This is especially tricky when using a chair, the temptation is to talk to the chair back, but a human’s eyes are about a foot and a half higher.

· Make your characters distinct in voice, physicality, tempo and emotion or you’ll lose track of who’s who. Especially when shifting characters, make sure the change is complete from head to toe. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve switched characters and looked down to see I still have the other character’s feet. Or god forbid their wine glass.

· Audiences get boners for when you make physical contact with invisible characters. Fights, dances, even a simple shoulder touch are so pleasing because they define the imaginary.

There are some solo improv warm-ups I can teach you even though it makes me giggle. The first is a variation on WHAT ARE YOU DOING? Find two initials in the room you are, like L.B. Then just make little verb/object or adjective/verb combos out loud, i.e. Lighting Bridges, Losing Brian, Listening Boringly, Limiting Barry, Lightly Baking, Listlessly Burying, etc. The second is a one-word story where you blink to separate the thoughts for yourself. [Eyes open] “once” [eyes closed] “there” [eyes open] “was” [eyes closed] “a” [eyes open] “grandmother” [eyes closed] “who” etc. This is hard to sustain for long because your brain catches up and starts unifying your thoughts into one thinker. The third is to do four little mini character monologues with the same first line of dialogue, spreading out around the room and taking different physicalities – that one comes from Andy Eninger, the golden god of solo improv. The fourth is to put on your headphones and dance around to your favorite song completely unleashed and free of inhibition. The fifth is to think of a way to adapt your favorite group warm up. There are other great suggestions in the book “Improvise” by Mick Napier.

1-2-3 go do it!!