With Love and Trust and Friends and Hammers

The trouble with trying to make the Anniversary Show an occasion to thank the people that we need to thank is that we wouldn’t have any time left for the show if we started telling you the names all the people we owe our thanks – HUGE is surrounded by so many amazing people that do so much to keep this place open and make it an amazing place to be a performer, teacher, student and Board member.

Being here all the time, I have seen people do the most amazing and humbling things – Let me try and give you an idea what I mean.  Buckle up, this is going to be a bumpy ride.

Our staff

“It’s one thing to start off with a positive jam and it’s another thing to see it on through – and we couldn’t have even done this if it wasn’t for you”

Not only did our incredible staff ALL volunteer at HUGE for the first 18 months we were open, they continue to give in a variety of ways.  In fact, when I was finally able to email our bartenders, technicians and house managers to say that we were able to offer them pay for their time – I started getting email after email back from members of our staff saying “No thank you, please allow me to keep volunteering”

Initially, almost 75% of our staff opted out of being paid – I can’t tell you what that feels like but I’ve struggled to talk a number of them into accepting pay for their time and I wanted to tell that story but I never wanted the staff we pay to feel guilty for taking a paycheck. Because they would – our staff is not only dedicated to this place, they are selfless beyond reason or good sense.

Another amazing example nobody would ever know – some of our staff, volunteers and Members put items from HUGE’s Amazon Wish List on their birthday and Xmas lists.  That should take a minute to sink because it has taken me months to really process and it still gets me.  The few days of the year their families asked them “What do you want for yourself?” and they responded by saying they wanted something for HUGE.

Bree, Carolyn, Matt, MJ, Joe, Josh, Joe, Lipkin, Meghan, Sid, Marissa, Casey, Christopher, Beth, Bradley, Joseph, Hannah, Katie V, Kehla and Miquie, Rosie, Heather, Ali, Becky, Dave, McCloud, Matthew, Lauren, Courtney, Tane, Samantha, Rita, Drew – and so many more.

We love you guys – You are constantly amazing and we are so lucky to have you with us.

Fundraisers

“Stand up and fight and I’ll stand up with you”

We mentioned this briefly on both counts at the show but two of our biggest fundraising days of the year were ideas brought to us by people outside of HUGE.  Tane Danger came up with the idea for the Improvathon, which has become the single biggest day of the year for our organization, and the Hangout Auction was invented and is run by two members of our audience that just wanted to do more cool stuff with the people they knew from HUGE.

Normally, fundraising would be one of the jobs that the Board would have to focus on and try to manage successfully without disrupting the fun too much so the audience and supporting Members don’t have to think about it much of the year. We are entirely the reverse – and it couldn’t be any more clear than the Improvathon.

For 28 solid hours, our Members and dedicated audience members not only watched more improv than any human being should – they mobilized on Facebook, Twitter and their personal blogs. They reached out to family. They contacted their employers. They stepped up and did exponentially more for this theater than we would ever be able to do on our own.

Our Members and Donors literally make this place possible – I hope they as proud to be part of HUGE as we are to have them.

Students

“Siempre estoy haciendo cosas que no puedo hacer, así es como logro hacerlas.”

We started with seven or eight in an empty retail space, and now our student body is 150 strong, from ages four to 68. Unending thanks to our incredible teachers for all of the passion and wisdom they’ve imparted, and so much gratitude to the students. In two years we’ve seen students walk in the door curious and flourish into fully-fledged performers in shows of their own and we couldn’t be prouder.

Artists

“Husker Du got huge, but they started in St Paul…”

The people and the art form you see on our stage are the reason we are here – why it all makes sense – which is something I have worked hard to make clear to people.  But when you are the voice of the business people mistake your words for marketing. I understand the confusion since every business says they have something amazing that you should put down your cash for.  Not this place.

I have said it a hundred times before and I will continue to say it.  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.

When I tell people they really need to see the shows, it’s because the shows are amazing and they will only happen once – and if you miss it, you miss out.

Since we’re not like a normal theater that has just one show running on a seasonal schedule, it’s hard to mark the occasions when shows open and close at HUGE – we change shows every two months, all on different nights and it would take us a week of opening night celebrations to properly welcome them all, then another week of closing night toasts to begin to properly thank them – and everything moves so fast here that a year of mind blowing shows passes before I know it.

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t thank them for the killer shows they bring to our stage, without them our theater is just a room with a bunch of chairs in it.

The Minneapples, The Bennets, Process, Star Trek, Splendid Things, The Bearded Men, Noise Picnic, The Mustache Rangers, T2P2, Survivors of the Undead Plague and Creature Feature, Friend Request, Off Book, Killer B’s, Family Dinner, Throwback Night, Her Name is Armando, M4W, Grasshoppah, Poivre, The Free Association, RomCom, SPORTS, Tim Troy & Damian, Brain Game, Gay/Straight Alliance, Class of ’94, Last Action Movie, Titanic Players, OMG, GONE, The Submarine Adventure Show, Sean & The Ladies and Drum Machine

You will never find a more impressive array of talent or a list of more dedicated artist – I dare you to try. It cannot be done.

This is HUGE – We had to follow this dream.

“Most kids give me credit for being down with it when it was ‘back in the day’ and things were way different – when the Youth of Today and the early 7 Seconds taught me some of life’s most valuable lessons”

Lastly, I wanted to recap what I said on stage at the Anniversary Show about what this is all for.  Why it is important.

When we talk about making this place a home for improv in the Twin Cities, often the conversation can turn to “why improv?” and I’m always glad to answer that question because I love what we do, but the less-asked question is “why does it need a home?” and that is one that I think we’ve only begun to answer.

Ironically, the only people that ever asked that question were people I was trying to get loans from to fund this big crazy place – and they really couldn’t care less about the answer because the answer wasn’t about money.  Sure, there has been improv in the Twin Cities for a long time. And a lot of it has been amazing. Groups can break out and produce their own shows and always have – Why does it need a home, then?

Consider this as an answer:

This was the Twin Cities I started improvising in – trying to put up our own shows and get the word out to audiences so we could grow, but there is only so much you can do in your free hours after (and sometimes during) work, only so much traction you can get when you can only appear once a month, only so much you can do even though you’re spending 10 times as many hours on marketing and hustle as you are on stage so you’re really sharpening the wrong skills.  There is only so much you can do on your own.

Then John and Jenni gave us a home on their stage when we came to them with the idea for the Improv A Go Go as a show for improvisers – all of them – and the results were impossible to argue with.

Suddenly improvisers could spend their time on improv instead of booking, forming new groups instead of finding a new venue. And we saw the number of groups explode. And audiences were showing up to see what was next because there was always something new and exciting just about to happen.

The improv festival grew out of that home – groups from Minneapolis started appearing in more festivals outside Minnesota because so many more of them had the chops from being able to perform more often, tape more shows. The quality we had going on here started to get noticed by people in other cities so we invited them here to see it.

Even with all that growth and progress – when the IAGG went dark after 8 and a half years to get ready for the move to HUGE, there were only 56 opportunities to perform in the Twin Cities if you had an improv group.

56 independent shows in a YEAR.

This past year – thanks to the hard work, dedication, time, talent, energy, perseverance and love that I wrote about above – there were 591 improv shows at HUGE Theater alone.

That is what it means to be a home for improv, and that is why it is important for improv to have a home.  That is why John and Jenni will always have my thanks for the path they put me on. That is why it’s easy to come in every day and hang lights or pick up trash and mop the floors, why I am so proud and inspired and humbled to be a part of this community.

Some days can be stressful, trying to be sure we’re headed the right direction and doing the work that would make these people proud – but my biggest job is trying to live up to the trust people have in us to give them the home they deserve.

That is our one and only goal and it is my greatest privilege that I get to work toward it every day.

When I say that my words feel so small, this is why.

When I say “thank you” – this is what I mean.

 

Thank you so very, very much.

 

Butch

Executive Director, Improviser, Humble Servant