Year in Review!

(This is excerpted from our HUGEletter, sent out every other month. Subscribe here )
Happy Holidays friends! 

So. This has been a year, huh? Hope you’re holding up okay, all things considered. Before we launch into a hopefully better 2021, HUGE leadership wanted to take a moment to share… to look back and look ahead.

HUGE in winter. Not THIS winter… a past, more innocent winter.
We had a great Jan-Feb of 2020, with sold-out houses for Throwback Night and Off Book, and robust audiences overall. 
THE SHOW MUST GO ON(LINE)!Even though our physical stage has been closed since March, we’ve seen some wonderful innovation from a lot of different groups. HUGE has been proud to present online performance runs from: The Mess, Show X, Foul Play, OMG!, Toaster, Blackout Founders, Grown! (Hannah Wydeven), Adorable, Lounge-asaurus Rex, Creature Feature, The Mustache Rangers, and Family Dinner.  
BAFIF/TCIFWe normally celebrate Winter turning to Spring with two great improv festivals. The 2020 Black and Funny Improv Festival was originally scheduled for mid-March, and had to be scrapped for safety. The Twin Cities Improv Festival was scheduled to go up (online) in June. In the wake of George Floyd’s murder, we felt strongly that we couldn’t go on with business-as-usual. In the end, we came to a solution we were proud of: a combined BAFIF/TCIF, featuring online performances by some all-star local groups and an amazing international collective of Black talent and joy, with groups originally scheduled to perform in BAFIF in March. The event was capped with a headlining performance by Colin Mochrie of Whose Line Is It Anyway. 
IMPROVATHONWe were delighted to present 28 continuous hours of online improv from a whole slew of Twin Cities improvisers (and some international guests!) during our 2020 Improvathon, featuring a headlining performance with Colin Mochrie and Colton Dunn. (More on Improvathon below.) 
YOUTUBEIf you missed them, the performances from all of these events are available for viewing free of charge at HUGE’s Youtube page. Give them a watch! 
COMING UPIn the new year, we’ve got upcoming performance runs from The Mess, Show X, and others. So keep an eye on our website, Instagram, or Facebook!
We started the year with a bang — some of the highest enrollments we’ve ever had! Naturally, our classes since March have moved online. We’ve taught our core curriculum (101-401) adapted to the Zoom online platform, and a wonderful variety of Special Topics classes developed by our faculty. At this point, we have some returning students who have never studied with us any way OTHER than online, which is weird and wonderful and inspiring. 
REGISTER NOW!We’ll soon be enrolling our Winter Session, which includes core curriculum classes, 101-301. We are also offering  (open for registration now) two sections of John Gebretatose’s Performing With a Purpose, focused on directly encountering social justice issues through performance. John’s qualifications here extend beyond his role as HUGE’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion; he is also one of the founders of Blackout Improv, a Twin Cities troupe renowned for using improv to bring focus to the Black experience.

In addition to offering this course, we are also fundraising to support a higher-than-usual number of scholarships for it, because we want to erase any barriers of cost for students to start this valuable journey. If you’d like to support that, you can use this link to donate to this scholarship fund.

Like our community, all of us at HUGE are horrified and outraged by the murder of George Floyd in May. At that time, we released this statement, which holds just as true now as it did then. We don’t repeat that to pat ourselves on the back, but as a reminder of the hard and important work that remains before us as a community-serving organization. While John is our leader in — and the most visible face of — our efforts to keep doing better on matters of diversity, inclusion, and racial justice, every member of our core staff views this as a personal responsibility.  PUTTING IN THE WORKIn addition to the things we’ve touched on elsewhere, here are a few highlights from our efforts this year:Before our closure, we were proud to host Spirit Jam in February 2020, a workshop/jam organized by Patricia Carlberg to raise awareness of disability in improv. It was a beautiful event that brought in a lot of folks who had never been to HUGE or even done improv in the past. Thank you to Patricia, and everyone who took part!John hosted the first two sessions of an online panel series entitled “Reclaiming Our Value”, with sessions for “Black Comedians in America” and “Comedians in America with Disabilities.” We were fortunate to have a star-studded lineup for these panels, including Amber Ruffin of NBC’s Amber Ruffin Show, Colton Dunn of NBC’s Superstore, and Cedric Yarbrough of Comedy Central’s Reno 911. These fantastic discussions are available for view on our Youtube page and highly recommended!We’ve continued to host our monthly BIPOC Improv Jam (BIPOC = Black, Indigenous, and People Of Color), which rapidly made the shift to an online format in March, and has been a great success. We’re especially proud that the BIPOC Jam crew was THE #1 fundraiser for Improvathon 2020. Thanks, friends!It isn’t actually our project, but we want to recommend to you the ongoing weekly discussion series Anti-Racism for Comedy Folx, by Socially Distant Improv. John is a frequent participant, and it’s chock full of entertaining insights into the BIPOC comedy experience that can help us all do better
Exec Dir Butch Roy, Managing Dir Sean Dillon, Admin Breanna CecileArtistic Director Rita BoersmaDirector of Diversity and Inclusion John GebretatoseEducation Director Jill Bernard
Earlier this year, we had the pleasure of announcing that John Gebretatose, currently our Director of Diversity and Inclusion, will be transitioning into the role of Executive Director over the next five years. This decision reflects John’s transformative work in his current role and our desire to make it even more central to HUGE’s efforts and identity. Current Executive Director Butch Roy will transition into the newly created role of Theater Manager, overseeing the day-to-day operations of our space.
  OUT OF THE FRYING PAN, INTO THE… EMBERS?This has been a hard year for HUGE, financially. But it could have been absolutely disastrous, and we’re grateful for all these reasons it wasn’t:
Federal PPP and EIDL loans. HUGE was a recipient of a Payroll Protection Plan loan of $45,900 and an Economic Injury Disaster Loan of $82,700. The EIDL loan will need to be repaid in full with low interest, but helps assure our solvency in the short-term. We are currently in the process of applying for forgiveness of our PPP loan, which — if successful — would essentially transform that $45,900 into a grant. 
Extra support from MSAB. In addition to the Operating Support grants we were already set to receive for 2020, we were thrilled to receive a $15,000 Creative Support for Organizations grant from the Minnesota State Arts Board.
Improvathon. This is always our biggest fundraising day of the year, and this year it was even more important than usual. Critically important. And our community showed up hard, and helped HUGE exceed our ambitious but necessary fundraising goal of $50,000… by a margin of $7. After 28 mostly-sleepless hours, we were loopy and delighted to be able to announce that wonderful result. Thank you SO much to everyone who helped make it happen… whether by performing, or fundraising, or giving, or just watching. 
Our donors, members, and supporters. So many of you have stepped up to keep us going this year, whether once or every month. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
A note from Johnny R. Financials (aka Sean the Managing Director):
All of these things were a great big help, and it may sound like we just spent the year raking in the dollars. But the reality is, our earned income dropped to near-zero, March-December of 2020. We had a tiny fraction of our usual shows and classes, and effectively none of our usual bar sales. Our expenses dropped too, but we still had to pay our full lease, service providers, utilities, leadership staff (at 1/4 the usual rate/hours), and all the other expenses that allow a non-profit to survive through a long hiatus without collapsing. And as of November, those expenses totaled over $300K, leaving HUGE with a sizable deficit for the year so far, despite all the assistance.

On a bright note, the federal stimulus bill that just passed Congress includes $15B for entertainment venues nation-wide. We’re hoping we’ll see some relief there that will help us recover.