Blog

State of HUGE – February 2017

photo by Christian Unser

At the end of January we celebrated six years of our strange little theater – per tradition, we had brief updates, news and goals covering the past year and the year ahead and a lot of thanks.  Link to the video included at the end of this post. This is a more complete version of what’s been happening at HUGE and what you can expect to see in the months ahead.

EDUCATION:

Our classes are still going strong – 221 students enrolled in 14 classes in the current term – and we’ve continued to make changes big and small along the way:

We added a class for Women/Femme/Gender Non-Binary/Trans – special thanks to Hannah Wydeven – to help more people discover (or return to) improv in a safe space!

We launched our re-tooled 401 level class with a focus on helping students transition from the more individual learning process to creating/being part of an ensemble

We awarded some scholarships we’re particularly proud of, with an emphasis on women and people of color to help with our diversity program. To highlight one of them, we partnered with T2P2 to recognize a really wonderful student and talented person, Janae Henry, with a full scholarship to a 101 class.

We are expanding our summer intensive in 2017, since out-of-town and out-of-country visitors often look for ways to make a longer trip, so we’ll run from Tuesday to Sunday. This year’s focus is on Music and Mindfulness, if you’re ready to learn more there’s already info on hugetheater.com/classes so take a peek.

As always – thank you to our amazing teachers:  Tane Danger, Sean Dillon, Hannah Wydeven, Gubby Kubick, Erin Kennedy, Jill Bernard, Butch Roy, Michael Ritchie, John Gebretatose, MJ Marsh, Molly Chase, Adam Iverson, Liv Augusta Anderson, Lucas Vonasek

And our TA’s:   Kelly Sheehy, Jeff Gyllen, Will Roberts, Erik Nielsen, Liz Council, Katie Novak, Denzel Belin, Ashawnti Ford, Breanna Cecile, Jackson Collins

PRODUCTION

In 2016 we announced some changes to our production process – including auditions for all roles in all HUGE productions and an Assistant Director role on all HUGE productions – to help include more people in the ever-growing community in our shows.

Since HUGE actually produces a small number of shows on our stage over the course of a year, these changes will be more visible later in the year when KaBaam!! and Creature Feature return in July and September, respectively and continue to be more visible as we grow.

This is yet another part of our focus on improving the diversity of performers represented on our stage – in the past, shows have been very slow to change compared to the community at large when shows kept the same casts year after year – and we’re hoping that independent shows on our stage follow suit as well, which is why we always encourage auditions as part of our show proposal process and give free use of the space to hold auditions.

The Assistant Director role is another important addition that we hope to see more of as we grow – both to give newer producers insight on our process of directing shows and to get more input from more artists when creating our shows.

If you are interested in being an Assistant Director for a HUGE production – please email Nels (at hugetheater dot com) and Butch (at hugetheater dot com) with your availability, experience and interest. As mentioned before, the majority of shows on our stage are not HUGE productions, but we can also help pair interested new directors with groups looking for an outside eye on their shows as well.

Scheduling of shows in the 2017 pipeline continues and we are very excited to announce some new and returning shows in the coming months – we just closed a Throwback Night season that featured a lot of new faces, are opening Neutrino that is mostly new cast and are heading into Troika season – which always means a lot of new groups and performers trying new things together. Stay tuned!

DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION

Many of the changes we are making are focused on doing better at making HUGE a safe and welcoming place for more and more people – as the head of an organization dedicated to serving the Twin Cities improv community, I can think of no better service to it than to help bring more people to the table so we may all benefit from their experience and insight and creativity.

And no better person to help HUGE in that effort than John Gebretatose.

John officially took on role as our head of Diversity and Inclusion in 2016 – in addition to his work with Blackout Improv and the Black and Funny Improv Festival – and his work has already made such an impact, we are lucky to have him and cannot thank him enough.

The first major addition was the POC Jams – which are now happening on the final Sunday of each month from 4-7pm – to invite people of color to try improv in a setting that is not one in which they are the only POC in a classroom, connect with one another, share experiences and help us as a theater find the best way forward.

John is such an incredible addition to HUGE Theater and it is a priority for us to grow his role as much as his time and our infrastructure allow and support his hard work both inside and outside of his role at HUGE.

THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS

For the first time in years, we have expanded our Board of Directors!

We were very excited to announce over the closing months of 2016 that Robin Gilette and Adia Morris have both joined our Board of Directors and we are already benefiting from their insight and guidance as well as finding more ways to make them perform on stage with us – our Board has always been more fun than any other Board.

TWIN CITIES IMPROV FESTIVAL

We are nearing the end of the selection process for the eleventh annual Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF11), which is always one of the most difficult things we do all year.  The festival has always been produced by Five Man Job and an outside person in charge of the education division of the festival – Jill Bernard, Emily Schmidt and then Jill Bernard again – and this year we are announcing that we are opening the position of TCIF’s Education Director

The job description, details and more will be posted in a stand-alone blog on the HUGE site and TCIF site soon after selections are finished, confirmed and announced.

>> NEWS:  Selections have been delayed as we just found out that Jet & Holly – who had previously been announced to headline and teach this year – are no longer able to attend the Festival. This has obviously been a setback but we hope to have selection emails sent by this weekend and selections announced by March 8th, one week late <<

BEHIND THE CURTAINS

There are always so many things happening at HUGE – some of which may not be big news or be obvious from the outside – but we’re always trying to adopt/adapt/improve as we go.  Here are some things big and small:

Blue Sun Soda – If you’ve been through our lobby lately you may have noticed the addition of some strange brand names and new options, thanks to our friends at Blue Sun. We are very proud and happy to carry several of their products and support small and local business partners.

Two Bettys – if you’ve been through the theater or in the classrooms in the past year you have probably noticed that it is clean and tidy thanks to another small local business. Over the past year we were able to move from volunteer cleaning services to partial-trade to full service with Two Bettys (which makes a tremendous difference in a lot of our daily schedules) and they are taking great care of our home.

Paying artists – As part of our mission to support the Twin Cities improv community, we’ve also been able to engage several improvisers in a professional capacity as photographers and designers (yet another thing that make a massive difference in our day-to-day workload) and when we do so, we insist (we often have to insist because this community is so generous and people keep trying to volunteer) on paying for their services.

Over time, we’ve found that our side mission of “teach people the value and validity of this art – and why asking artists to work for free is corrosive and destructive” also means helping artists expect compensation by consistently being the place that pays for work in a landscape full of opportunities to get free “exposure”

New Equipment – this past year saw the almost-complete replacement of some sound equipment that was well beyond its last legs – AND – the anonymous donor that gave a substantial matching gift during Improvathon donated funds to purchase and install some cameras in our parking lots and outdoor spaces to improve safety and security and hopefully curb some of the vandalism at/around HUGE Theater as well!

We are working with our landlord this spring to get those installed and make other improvements to outdoor lighting as soon as we can – we hope that everyone is safe and they are never, ever needed. That would be the best unused piece of equipment EVER.

New ticketing system – the last change to announce is that HUGE has moved to a new online ticketing system beginning March 1st.

We have been trying to simplify and improve the online ticketing process for a long time and were able to move seamlessly over to Vendini – which is the parent company of our previous ticketing system – and their impressive suite of tools.

That means you’ll see some visible differences in your online shopping cart, some changes to online options (like adult/child pricing and being able to use gift cards to make online reservations!), an online “donation jar” in the checkout process for customers interested in giving, some more/different options coming soon for flexible ticket packages and possible “season ticket” options, as well as some smaller changes to the check-in experience when you arrive at the theater.  We are still rolling out some of the tools and changes as we wanted to make the switch as painless as possible.

We’ve also had to make a small proactive change to our pricing – moving all our $7 shows to $8 – in order to keep pace with our growth and expenses.

THANK YOU

As always, I end with thanks. 

For our tireless (so far) staff of House Managers, Techs, Bartenders that make sure audiences coming to this place have a great time.
For John, Breanna and Kevin who are constantly working hard and bringing new ideas to keep things running and improving every day.
For Bradley and Cicely who handle so many invisible tasks.
For all our volunteers who take care of this place like it was their own (because it is)
For all our amazing teachers, TA’s and performers who take all that nervous energy and stress of the outside world and turn it into laughter.  

For everyone that has supported this unlikely place – full of the most amazing people and indescribable moments – that I love so much.  It is such an honor that I get to come in every day and do my best to serve this community.  It means everything.

Thank you so much.

Butch Roy
Executive Director, Humble Servant, Biggest Fan

 

[ LINK TO ANNIVERSARY VIDEO – WITH THE NUMBERS ]

Answering Anonymous Question: Age in Improv

We received an anonymous message via our contact form:

“The local improv community has taken some amazing steps recently to address issues around gender and racial inequality. I recently noticed the TCIF form has demographic questions, and think this is a very good thing. I wonder if as a community we could yes and this momentum for another protected class often forgotten in improv – age. Thanks in part to the great work that has been done, I’d be willing to wager that that women and people of color would currently find the community more welcoming than those in their 40s, 50s, 60s, and 70s. Many groups are now excited to involve more women and people of color. Few are even considering the fifty-something-year-old.

Sexual orientation also seems be be currently not getting the heat, but I can’t speak to that from experience. How can we keep this momentum going to make this a better place for all and not just those currently holding the megaphone?”

Improv has been populated by those who have the easiest access – young, healthy people without other obligations tugging on their time and money, who are familiar with improv and for whom transportation and late nights performing, practicing and hanging out are no problem.

Much credit must be given to the Brave New Workshop’s 55+ program, which has introduced so people to improv in their fifties, sixties, and seventies, and spawned great improv groups like Track Lighting, who are finishing a run of shows at HUGE Wednesdays. But there’s no reason that older improvisors need to be sequestered on to age-specific improv teams. We should all get to play together!

This project needs a hero, a version of Fair Play or the Tiny Funny Women Fest or Blackout or Lavender Panic; or John Gebretatose and Alsa Bruno who founded the Black and Funny Fest, to raise the topic and start the movement. When that hero arises, HUGE Theater will support them with all of our strength and resources. Thank you for putting out the call.  

Cast of Neutrino Video Project 2017 Announced!

It is our great pleasure to announce the cast of Neutrino Video Project 2017!

This group will begin working on being both cast and crew – most of our cast are new to the Neutrino Video Project – opening Saturday nights in March/April 2017!

Ashawnti Ford
Becky Hauser
Bobby Gardner
Bryce Kalal
Christian Unser
Colin Anderson
David Lipkin
Emily Lindholm
Erin Kennedy
Hannah Wydeven
Heather Meyer
Josh Kaplan
Katherine Curtis
Kevin Albertson
Lauren Chesnut
Michael Renner
Molly Chase
Philip Peterson
Philip Skretvedt
Sarah Maxwell
Sean Dillon
Spencer Retelle
Susannah Eckberg

Please join us in congratulating the new cast and a big thanks to everyone that came out over two days of fantastic auditions!

Neutrino Video Project Audition Schedule

Here is the current schedule for Neutrino Video Project auditions – we tried to give as many people their first choice of time – if you have any questions, concerns or changes please email butch (at) hugetheater.com.

If you cannot make your scheduled time, or decide not to audition, please let us know
Thank you

All auditions are held at HUGE Theater – 3037 Lyndale Ave S
Please arrive 15 minutes prior to your scheduled time.
No need to prepare anything, all instructions will be provided on site.

Tuesday – December 6th

6:00 PM
Josh Krauskopf
Gretchen Grunzke
Joe McGowan
Miranda Hoeferson
Mark Jelinek
Jacob Fate

6:30 PM
Eric Brown
Philip Peterson
Eric Heiberg
Molly Chase
Kate Zabinski

7:00 PM
Abe vanderBent
Katherine Curtis
Izaak Sunleaf
Craig Corsi
Nghiem Tran
Josh Kuehn

7:30 PM
Deborah Dopp
Amy Speckien
Sandra Capra
David Lipkin

8:00 PM
Emily Lindholm
Phil Schramm
Heather Meyer
Tommy Caravello
Ashawnti Ford
Michael Blomberg


Sunday – December 11th

12:00 PM
Sean Dillon
Neil CarlinSchauer
Seniz Lennes
Daniel Mauleon
Bradley Machov
Heather Baldwin
Frank Kohlasch

12:30 PM
Joseph Schifsky
Will Roberts
Colin anderson
Brett Bugielski
Christian Unser
Sophie Brossard
Eric Thompson

1:00 PM
Shea Roberts
Spencer Retelle
Susannah Eckberg
Mike Hentges
Sarah Maxwell
Erik Ostrom

1:30 PM
Liz Council
Michael Renner
Mike Deneen
Breanna Cecile
Becky Hauser

2:00 PM
John Bickford
Bryce Kalal
Ryan Jordan
Cicely Robin Laing
JoJo Ju

BREAK

3:00 PM
Kate Zabinski
Kyle Thornton
Erin Kennedy
Ally Rae
Edd Jones

3:30 PM
Jay Kistler
Emily Townswick
Philip Skretvedt
Dan Ruby
Philip Simonet

4:00 PM
Alec Johnson
Lauren Chesnut
Bibek Manandhar
Nathan Rouse
Hannah Wydeven

4:30 PM
Rachael Sear
Tyler conway
Leah Isaacson
Kevin Albertson
(Todd) Peter Pierce

 

Neutrino Video Project 2017 Auditions

Neutrino Video Project 2017 Auditions will be held at HUGE Theater on December 6th and 11th

The show will rehearse Thursday evenings from 8-10pm January – February
Rehearsals move to Sundays, 4-6pm in March once the show opens.

Shows are scheduled to run Saturdays at 8pm – opening Saturday, March 4th 2017!

To apply for an audition time, fill out the form below
If you do not see the form:  FILL IT OUT HERE 


Originally created at Upright Citizens Brigade in New York City in 2004 – is a fully-improvised live video experience. Three casts of improvisors perform, shoot and edit a fully-improvised movie based on audience suggestions – with no idea what the other casts are shooting – that is shot, run back to the theater on tape (remember tapes?), screened live as a continuous, interwoven film that is scored as you watch it.
Neutrino has been taught and performed all over the world and was last seen in the Twin Cities in 2007 before re-opening in 2016.

For more information on the Neutrino Video Project and other HUGE productions
Check out our new Productions page

 

 

 

GTMD16 Results And Thanks

iron-audience-2016

[ The Money In Your Pocket May Not Get You Through The Day] 

Beginning in the evening hours of November 16th and running until just after midnight the morning of Friday, November 18th – HUGE Theater held our annual 28 hour improv marathon (or Improvathon) to raise money on Give To The Max Day 2016.

This is not only a crucial day for the operations of HUGE Theater – it is a wonderful event that features weeks of people writing about what this place and this art form mean to them and how much difference it has made in their lives.   We owe everyone tremendous thanks for all the love and energy they bring to this place as well as the funds raised to keep it going.

The people you see in the photo above stayed awake and and watched 24 hours (or more) of the event – performed by more than 150 improvisers and run by dozens of volunteers – while helping tweet, post, email and text to help us on the single most important day of fundraising for our theater. 

In the end, it was more than a little like Fantasia.


We have sponsors to thank for keeping those magic brooms going!

Once again we thank Common Roots Catering and Steamship Coffee for all of the caffeinated liquid support they sent our way – as well as Black Eye Coffee and True Stone Coffee Roasters who donated cold brew coffee for to keep everyone wide awake and laughing.

commonrootscatering  website_header screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-08-31-pm    screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-04-30-pm

To our surprise, you cannot (?!?) improvise for 28 hours on coffee alone – and we didn’t have to – thanks to generous donations from Kerry’s Donut Bites in the morning and our local Toppers Pizza in the evening keeping everyone fed!

screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-04-54-pm  screen-shot-2016-11-25-at-4-04-44-pm

THE OFFICIAL RESULTS

If you aren’t familiar already, Give To the Max Day is THE fundraising day of the year for HUGE Theater as it is a focused day of charitible giving across Minnesota made possible by GiveMN. 

HUGE focuses all our energy and efforts on this day – which was especially hard this year falling so close after an election season and knowing how many people have been asked all year to give and give to campaigns and causes – but GTMD is our day.

We knew that we were aiming high by setting our fundraising goal at $50,000 this year and this community is second to none when we come to this generosity and support.

The number are in from our box office and our official GiveMN.org tally is $43,556.08  – which includes several donations that literally came in at the last second while we were on stage waiting to present the results, when added to the cash donations at the door we announced that at the stroke of midnight we hit

$50,002.60! 


Some Astonishing Stats: 

We received 838 gifts online from all over the world – for a total of 1048 donations.

[ CORRECTION TO PREVIOUS: We missed a zip code from Arkansas! Map corrected ]
Donations came in from Australia, Canada, The UK and from 46 US States!

screen-shot-2016-11-28-at-8-32-01-am

C’mon – Utah, Alabama, Mississippi and Delaware – get with the program!

 

We won a GTMD “Golden Ticket” for $1000 in the afternoon and won GiveMN’s “power hour” prize for 11pm – for another $1000 – meaning in that hour we received more donations than any other non-profit in the state of Minnesota taking part in GTMD. 

HUGE Improv Theater ranked 32nd overall in total money raised – and only 10th overall in number of donations – that’s against non-profits of every size and shows that we are swinging well above our weight class!  Everyone involved should be as extremely proud as we are endlessly grateful.


The Winners

We are also thrilled to announce that our top Iron Audience fundraiser was Shea Roberts!

Top fundraising performing groups:

1st place:  Super Good!

2nd place :  Tobes & Prindy

3rd place: Squash Banana

Honorable Mention: Drum Machine

 

It should be noted that Super Good included two very special Iron Audience members – Gubby and Erik – who were not only fundraising individually AND for their group but also dedicated their efforts to Samantha Periera, a dear friend and teacher we lost suddenly almost a year ago.
As groups came together this year and donations came in, we saw Samantha’s name in so many dedications and group fundraising pages – we miss her every day and being the kind of place that Samantha would’ve been proud of is important to us – She was passionate about sharing her love of improv with all the people around her, there is nothing more fitting than all of these people sharing it in her name.
Thank you, everyone, for such a loving gift. 

In closing, it is always impossible to find a closing for this post – what you have all done will be with HUGE Theater every day of the year and makes such a difference that there is no summary that can truly wrap it all up and no amount of thanks that can capture all the feelings.

There are so many people to thank for making this improbable thing happen and making it look inevitable – thank you to EVERY single person who participated in this achievement – box office staff, photographers, volunteer coordinators, social media ninjas, techs, donors, cleaning volunteers, runners of errands, and ALL the performers – Thank you.

 

I want to end by revisiting something from last year.

Nobody ever says they love HUGE or that HUGE is important because of the stage, the seats, the lights or the other parts of the building – they love this place and it is important because of the people you will find here.  Some of the most generous, dedicated, wonderful, funny and talented people I have ever met in my life and it is my profound privilege to know. 
Add to it that I know this was not easy, what you just did.  I know it well.
I know that it was difficult to turn to your friends and family and colleagues all over the world, not two weeks after an election, and make the case that this silly place that makes people laugh and teaches adults how to pretend is the important cause to focus on right this minute. 

We can be a place of joy and love and laughter and it may not change the world outside our front door, but it can make such a difference for the people that come inside. We can be a place where people can connect and find community, a place where people can just be at ease and laugh and a place where people learn to use their voices.  That’s no small thing. 

 

I’m so proud to be part of a place like that and I am so grateful you are all part of it.
We get to keep being that place because of – and for – all of you.
That means everything.  
Thank you.

Butch Roy

Executive Director of HUGE Theater and Humble Servant

A Message from HUGE Theater’s Artistic Director

Tonight at 8pm HUGE Theater begins our annual IMPROVATHON! 28 hours of continuous improv, all for the sake of fundraising for HUGE. HUGE Theater is a non-profit improv theater in Minneapolis that I co-founded with several of Earth’s finest people, and it is now filled with more remarkable people than I could have ever guessed possible.

HUGE is not just a part of my life, but part of who I am.

I was lucky enough to begin performing improv professionally with Comedy Olympix (a short lived, somewhat legal offshoot of Comedysportz) when I was 17. It was a unique situation, and very much trial by fire. What I lacked in training and experience, I made up for in the fascination and love for this daring and impressive art form. Right away I began daydreaming of opening my own improv theater.

Comedy Olympix closed down some time in late 1996. In 1997 I transitioned to Off the Top Improv, a collection of Comedy Olympix expatriates that performed exclusively remotes (on site corporate improv).

In 1998, some more of those expatriates and I started dabbling in this different kind of improv called “long form”. It was the improv I knew and loved, but there were no rules! Anything was possible, and I felt the deep potential of an artform unbound. We called ourselves “The Drunk Baby Collective” (buy me a drink, and I’ll tell the story of THAT name) and began rehearsing as much as we could. We rented out the supply closet of a shady coffee house for rehearsal space. We often had to contend with a homeless man named “Iceman” who was allowed to sleep in that supply room from time to time. That didn’t matter though, because we were doing what we loved. We were doing what we couldn’t NOT do. We loved improv that much.

For the next few years, the DBC (as we sometimes were known) performed shows around town at various theaters. The Acadia, The Phoenix (not the current one but a place on Nicollet), The Bryant Lake Bowl, and on and on.

Compared to today, there was almost no long form improv being performed in Minneapolis in the late 90’s. Given the lack of community at the time, we branched out and began performing at every improv festival we could find. We traveled to New York, Chicago, Orlando, and even a casino in Tunica, Mississippi. By this time it was about 2002, and the Improv a Go Go began.

At this point, it became clear to me that love of the art form was a great place to start, but the development of a community was the only way it could really flourish. Improv festivals were proof that people wanted more improv. IAGG was proof that we had the talent right at home for such a community.

in 2005, HUGE was born as Butch, Jill, Mike, Joe, and myself sat down and outlined our ideas for a theater company. We began producing shows where we could (The Old Arizona Theater, Comedysportz, Brave New Workshop, Intermedia Arts).

In 2006 I moved to New York City, and studied with The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. I had ten years of improv under my belt, and I still loved it enough to study it further. I moved home in 2008, and began discussing with Butch and Jill the possibility of opening a long form improv theater space.

We worked and worked, and in December of 2010, HUGE Theater officially opened it’s doors. My dream as a 17 year old had finally come true.

Since HUGE has been open, I have met and performed with like minded people. People who love improv so much, that giving it up is not an option. I have seen what improv gives to people, and what people give to the art form of improv.

Improv is not just an art form, but a form of self discovery. HUGE community member Bree Dalager once said “If you can’t find ten people who credit improv with literally saving their lives, I will give you my house.” Improv has influenced everything about who I am, and 20 years later, I can see that I’m not the only one. HUGE is a home for improv, and the people who love it. Please consider donating to HUGE Theater during Give to the Max Day.

Thank you.

Donate to HUGE Theater

Nels Lennes
Artistic Director
HUGE Theater

Happy Hour Questions and Answers

These questions were submitted online in advance of the public meeting of the Board – we had the answers displayed on screen throughout the event. 

Do you have plans to continue expanding the space(s)?
Nope! We can barely afford rent on the space we have. In fact, we just struck a really beautiful deal with the landlord where he’ll let us pay 1/12 of the August rent in each of the other 11 months so August doesn’t break us.  We continue to improve the spaces we have as best we can rather than continue to sprawl into greater and greater expenses.

What are your dreams for HUGE?  What are the plans for HUGE over the next 5 years?
I dream of a day when HUGE is fully staffed with people paid at market rate (budget of $800K-1.25M, up from about $525K now) and is able to further paid performance opportunities for artists.
As the education director, I dream of drawing in students who would never have traditionally taken an improv class. I also want to train up the next generation of great improv teachers by making our TA program even stronger and more educational.
PLANS: 1) Retain the Twin Cities’ top talent: Increase the viability of professional development locally, including financial support for artists 2) Develop new, local talent and attract performers to the Twin Cities: offer an open stage for excellence 3) Elevate the discipline of improv education: teach the students and the teachers 4) Build the human and financial capital needed: sustain the long-term health of the theater.

What are the challenges operating a theater with a specific focus (long form improv), as opposed to a more traditional performance space?

JILL:   A funny thing happens because improv is so relatively new as an artform: often if someone sees an improv show they don’t like, they decide improv is bad. Almost no one leaves a movie and says, “That movie was bad, I don’t like movies.” So if we lose someone, we lose them entirely, we can’t lure them back with a different kind of offering. Keith Johnstone gives the advice that if your seats aren’t full, keep changing things until they are. We’re less able to keep drastically altering what we do to fill seats.

BUTCH:  I tried to address this as clearly and concisely as possible at the meeting but here goes…one of the biggest challenges to being specific to long form improv is how the casts/groups/shows are so deeply interconnected, sometimes inseparably.  Audiences may not know or understand the distinction, but it can be especially challenging when it comes to trying to improve the diversity of our theater.

Simply put: The Gay/Straight Alliance are those two guys. Ferrari McSpeedy are those two guys. Ladyfriend is those three women – so we don’t have all the options that a theater producing and casting scripted works might when it comes to making changes. Where the Jungle could decide to deliberately cast more people of color in the same show the next season, we cannot force changes on the groups in the community we serve and the identity of the groups themselves are changed by the addition/subtraction of people.  So we can move toward putting more diverse groups on our stage but until more groups in the community opt to change their casts, we are facing incremental progress with limited options to speed it up.

If someone wants to apply to HUGE to work as either a House Manager or Bartender, what is the process?One of the updates we’re making is to make our hiring process more formal. Going forward, we’ll be posting positions as they come available.

Has HUGE explored ways to make it more accessible for more diverse audiences to experience watching improv?

By helping diversify the people performing it on our stage and being aware of programming that can be overwhelmingly, extraordinarily white.  We hope our diversity efforts, headed up by John Gebretatose, while aimed at students, will spill over into audience as well.

As an arts nonprofit, does HUGE have a responsibility to engage in social justice matters?

In fact, we don’t. There are several different categories of non-profits. HUGE is an Arts & Culture organization rather than a Social Justice organization. It was very difficult to obtain our non-profit status, and as a result we’re very protective of it. Public charities are not permitted to intervene in political campaigns or legislative activities, and we steer very clear to stay in squeaky-clean compliance.

We have also found that because our resources are limited, if we don’t stay laser-focused on our mission, we do the improv community a great disservice.

We prefer to instead give support and resources to our partners, like T2P2, FairPlay, Blackout, Tiny Funny Women Fest, and the Black & Funny Improv Festival, to allow them to do critically important social justice work

What is HUGE’s policy on using deal-sites (GroupOn, LivingSocial, etc) to sell tickets?

We have worked with Groupon over the years and worked out some kinks to create a nice relationship. Our general principles are to make it 1) infrequent so it’s special, and 2) timed so that it expires as we hit the slow months (since they are most-often redeemed right after purchase and right before expiration)
And 3 ) we make sure that we let them do the legwork with marketing – we purposely don’t post about Groupons so we’re letting Groupon reach new people for us, not giving away tickets to people we already reach.

What about offering improv directing and producing workshops?

Great idea! We’ll put that in the Pods hopper!

How come you guys don’t return business phone calls?. Not only me, you have a bad rep for this, and have lost business gains….not good…

JILL: Most of the “business phone calls” we receive are from telemarkers. We do return customer phone calls daily, I sincerely apologize that we missed yours. Phone is honestly not the best way to reach us because we do not have enough money to hire an answering service or to have someone in the office at all times. All of our information is at hugetheater.com – most customers are able to access it by smart phone or home, office or public computer.

BUTCH: In my experience, the people that absolutely insist that business must be done over the phone are sales people that are counting on their personality to make the sale – if there is real benefit to your product, it should be easy to put in an email and that is often the test I use to see which I am dealing with.

How do you balance Huge’s emphasis on making it a safe and welcoming space for women, transgender, queer people AND keep an eye on political correctness/overreactions which may come from people being raw and and hurt by past crappy treatment? I’m a woman and I want to play and perform in a safe space AND I think sometimes comedy can go to dark/absurd/uncomfortable places which may inadvertently rub wounds made by others…

We have had several success stories working with groups that had content specific audience members found offensive. In some cases the groups choose to alter their behavior and avoid certain topics, in other cases groups choose to alter their marketing efforts and curtain speech to make sure audience members know what they’re in for.

I’m always pleasantly shocked by the amount of people that come into HUGE on a given night. This might be a trite question (or one that can be phrased better) but how do you encourage and successfully get people to come to HUGE (or better yet, how can we?) Like what works, what’s the marketing like? Where do you even start / Best tips and tricks that you have seen for marketing shows? Anything you’d wish to see producers and marketing people do?

JILL and MOLLY:   Think about the people who would love your show: what are they doing with their evening instead? Go to that place to find them. For example, the perfect HUGE customer is already in Uptown doing something interactive like playing trivia. So, we reached out to Trivia Mafia and donate free passes to give to winners.

When you mention HUGE to people they might ask where it is and then you might hear, “Oh, I drive past that place all the time. I’ve been meaning to go.” That’s a great moment to mention your favorite show. Best to describe just one rather than overwhelm with many options.

For personal marketing (such as posts on Social Media) I recommend keeping it simple and personal — a sincere post that includes a photo or video can go a long way. I’ve noticed a lot of performers consolidate their shows into a single post, which can be a great way to not overwhelm your audience. Personally reaching out to people and inviting them to your show can be very effective. As always, though, use your judgement / don’t wear out your welcome..

For more general marketing/show description, don’t forget to include who specifically is in the show. Tag cast members in the post and make it public. Make sure your cast is on board with helping to promote the show.

Notice the innovative marketing techniques you like and find a way to do something that gets at the same idea.

One of my favorite techniques is what Leah at Brewprov does — she takes a picture of the audience from the stage, with everyone smiling and toasting the camera. Smart.

What is the best way for out-of-towners to stay engaged with Huge in a meaningful way? Donating to Improvathon/Hangout Auction/Membership are clear choices – also sharing the word about Huge can make a huge impact on national awareness of our awesome scene. But beyond word of mouth and financial assistance, how can those not living in Minnesota send our hearts, thoughts and actions back to this community?

DON’T GO, WE LOVE YOU! j/k, it’s good to go out and see the world.

To help, keep talking about HUGE everywhere you go. So many people who travel to Minneapolis stop by a show or Space Jam or the Wednesday Drop In Class, or even sign up for the Summer Intensive because a friend back home told them about us.

Another small way is to set up your smile.amazon.com account to give back to HUGE everytime you buy something on Amazon.

A third way is DON’T GO! j/k. j/k.

Happy Hour and State of HUGE – Fall 2016

This has taken an abnormally long time to pull together and the longer it’s taken, the more things we have to include in it – and there’s always something else we can include if we just wait a couple more days around this place. Things happen at a pretty crazy pace around here, it can be difficult to take an afternoon to type them all out.

What follows is the Summer/Fall 2016 State of HUGE – primarily information from the Happy Hour with the Board this August.  There was enough variety of content that I have split the summary into different sections and posted them independently.

There were also questions submitted online before the meeting, the answers to those will be posted in another entry [ POSTED HERE ] as well as a performer-specific post addressing changes and issues more focused on the performing community at HUGE than the general public, [ POSTED HERE ]

NEW BOARD MEMBER : Robin Gillette
One of the most exciting things we had to announce is the addition of the first new Board member in a very long while – Robin Gillette has agreed to join us in steering HUGE Theater and helping us make the transition to a more grown up organization!
We have known and worked with Robin for many years (as have many people in the Twin Cities theater community) and we are all very excited to have her on board.

NEW DIVERSITY OFFICER : John Gebretatose
John has been hard at work inside and outside of HUGE Theater dealing with issues of diversity and inclusion in the Twin Cities and we are incredibly excited to make it an official position – we are still working hard as a theater to figure out the best, most sensible, ways to grow our staff and John’s focus on outreach and diversity is something we value highly and we look forward to expanding his role as a part of HUGE’s future to make our stage a more inclusive, welcoming, representative place for everyone in the Twin Cities.  John recently co-produced the Our Cities on Our Stages symposium to begin a larger community conversation around the issues facing us all and we could not be prouder.

FINANCIALS : Past and Present
As always, we presented a snapshot of our financials, which show some important changes from last year – such as higher monthly expenses, additional investments in staffing and spatial improvements – and plenty of work still to do.

[ CLICK ON ANY IMAGE TO SEE LARGER SLIDE ] 

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INVESTMENTS : This past year, we were able to invest funds in our spaces, equipment and staffing in ways we haven’t been able to in the past – the creation of the additional classrooms (and continuing work to improve them) and video equipment to make the Neutrino Video Project possible – and more recently, the replacement/upgrade of our sound system as the components we’d been using since we opened (which were already very old when we got them) began to fail.

We continue to invest in improvements to the space – having received a donation to help with purchase of exterior security cameras for our parking lot(s), we’re working with our landlord to make that happen as quickly as possible.

One of the most substantial – and invisible – investments this year was working with the Nerdery to create a class registration system that works for HUGE Theater.  Every system we had been trying and using was always a patchwork of different solutions, none of which completely covered some specific needs of an education program like ours – and each caused different problems and issues in the management of registration and classes. Hopefully students enrolling in classes won’t even notice it, but we’re very happy to have a tool that is purpose-built and is making things easier internally for Jill and Adia!

GRANTS AND FUNDING:  HUGE is proud to be supported by McKnight Foundation, MN State Arts Board and MRAC grants – as well as (once again) receiving a grant from the Murray Foundation which is helping our outreach and diversity efforts as well as staffing costs.

Our staffing has been another new area of investment for HUGE – grants have allowed us to contract administrative support for both the education program and general admin support – which has made a profound difference in our ability to focus our collective efforts where they are most needed.

EDUCATION: Our education program continues to grow and evolve with the addition of new class levels as well as an added backbone of a Student’s Bill of Rights to help build in guidelines for a safe creative and learning environment from the very first day of 101 classes and a clear set of expectations for everyone going forward.

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HUGE added class levels to both ends of the experience spectrum – a new level 101 WTF class taught by Hannah Wydeven as well as a new 401 Ensemble Building level – to introduce WTF artists to improv in an inclusive and safe environment and help give ensembles tools to take their work even further in a thoughtful, collaborative and intentional way.

IMPROVATHON 2016 is coming :  Our most important fundraising day of the year is Give To The Max Day, which falls on Nov 17th, 2016, and we will once again present a 28 hour improv marathon to raise funds to keep HUGE Theater going strong.

ALL IMPROVATHON INFO AND FAQ POSTED HERE

FINALLY – Thank you.

HUGE Theater would not be where or what it is without the support, input, patience, time, talent, investment and care that this community brings to it.  It is such an honor to be stewards of a place that serves a community like this one.

 

 

Improvathon 2016 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 17, an annual event when Minnesotans display their generosity by celebrating and donating to local nonprofits through GiveMN.org.

REGISTRATION
Improv Performance Request: https://hugetheater.formstack.com/forms/iat16
Iron Audience Contender: http://tinyurl.com/iat2016IRON

SCHEDULE
The Improvathon gets underway on Wednesday night, November 16, starting at 8PM, leading up to the official Give to the Max Day start at midnight on Thursday, November 17. 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. 17.

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.

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GENERAL FAQ

What is Improvathon?
Improvathon is a 28-hour improv marathon fundraiser benefiting HUGE Improv Theater. It is timed to coincide with GiveMN.org’s Give to the Max Day, an annual statewide day of giving, on Thursday, November 17, 2015.

What is the schedule?
Starts: Wednesday, November 16 at 8:00PM
Ends: Thursday, November 17 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 GiveMN.org’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 GiveMN.org 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 in October.

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.

FAQ FOR IMPROV PERFORMERS

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 a performance time is: https://hugetheater.formstack.com/forms/iat16.

**registration does not guarantee a spot as an Iron Audience or in the schedule as a Performer – though we will do our best to accommodate requests**

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 HUGE hoodies (within reason).

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 $50,000 or more for HUGE this year. (It sounds like a lot, but that’s about 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 GiveMN.org’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.

Cool, I will renew my Membership that day for part of my fundraising goal!
Oh, gosh, you guys. Members and Memberships are ALWAYS very much appreciated but administering this has grown too complex to sustain. New this year is a rule that memberships — while enormously appreciated — will not count toward Improvathon team goals nor will it count toward the final tally of what is raised during Improvathon.

FAQ for IRON AUDIENCE

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 HUGE Theater hoodie. 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 17. 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. For that reason, we reserve the right to discontinue any person’s participation in Iron Audience, including in concern for health, safety or comfort. 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 is here: http://tinyurl.com/iat2016IRON.)

We will do our best to make fundraising easy for you – and there are a lot of tools to do that, through GiveMN.org’s online donation site and through tips and samples we will provide. Keep in mind, this isn’t about 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.

Cool, I will renew my Membership that day for part of my fundraising goal!
Oh, gosh, you guys. Members and Memberships are ALWAYS very much appreciated but administering this has grown too complex to sustain. New this year is a rule that memberships — while enormously appreciated — will not count toward Iron Audience goals nor will it count toward the final tally of what is raised during Improvathon.

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.

What were those registration links again?
Improv Performance Request: https://hugetheater.formstack.com/forms/iat16
Iron Audience Contender: http://tinyurl.com/iat2016IRON