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