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


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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.