Review: ‘Improvaganza-A 3-Night Improv Festival’ Presented by Howard Community College’s Arts Collective

Thursday, March 30, 2017, the fun began in The Studio Theatre at Howard Community College with the start of Improvaganza-A 3 Night Improv Festival (with the additional bonus of three Master Classes in Improvisation being held on Saturday, April 1). This is all presented by the HCC Arts Collective and its wonderful “What Improv Group?!”. Each night will feature other area improv troupes and W.I.G. Performing tonight were Fractal, Waiting for Steinberg, Dad Joke, Plan B, and W.I.G. This is a sampling of both long and short improv theater. Long and short relates to the lengths of the skits. The first may last as long as the skit seems to flow, and the second is usually no longer than 10 minutes and can be shorter. Each group gets around 20 minutes.

Photography by Bruce F. Press, featuring Columbia, MD’s What Improv Group with audience members.

The night opened and closed with W.i.G. and several of their wonderful regulars. Opening began with Jordan Colea, JP Desmond, Thomas Matera, Emma McDonnell, and Apryl Motley. Their skits often begin with the audience, and this night was not different. A sweatshirt and a water bottle brought up on stage lead to skits about retail sales and an eccentric bank customer. A shout out for different family relationships lead to a tale of pig slaughter, and one about coworkers became a story line of two astronauts. Colea was a wonderfully empathetic pig and even became a space helmet.

Up next was Fractal a long form team taking part in the Conservatory program at the Baltimore Improv Group. Fractal performs in Baltimore every other Tuesday at 7:30PM. The group features Spencer Clites, Ryan Frommelt Clara Jegede, David Lee, Nadja Martens, Jennifer McCord, Brian Shea, and Rob Wongus. Their section started with a word from the audience, “banana”, and evolved into office workers, a lost child, dating birth control and conception and finally grandmas. The troupe’s technique leads to lots of laughs.

They were followed by Waiting for Steinberg. This troupe does short form and features Keith Becraft, Michael Furr, Rebecca Gerber, Robin Jones, Adam Long and Joel Stob. They had an unusual format called “Elimination”.  They do the same story but keep eliminating one performer. This one started with an underground vacation on an island. They also did a poetry bit using a translator as the performers spouted prose in non-existent languages. This was followed by a Kleenex controversy and a baseball skit.

After Intermission, we were treated to Dad Joke, a two man troupe (Mikael Johnson and Marc Reber), that does long improv and performs in the MD/DC area. Their comedy revolves around parenthood. An viewers suggestion that dad be a coal miner from Georgia became a improv about a father and son reuniting. Johnson and Reber kept things light and humorous even when the topics got dark.

Plan B was up next, and they are one of the founding troupes of the Baltimore Improv Group, and use short form. The group was represented by Josh Baci, Sharon Baldwin, Rob Davis, Frankie Daniels, Julia Hall, Jason Herbert, Gillian Parent, Kevin Permison, Amy Sens, and Kerri Shannon. Plan B used freeze action with audience help as performers grabbed positions and took over from their fellow performers. They also did a bit on the best and worst person for various occupations. However, one of the funniest skits of the evening was when they called up an audience member. It turned out to be  the Dean  of Arts and Humanities at HCC, Valerie Lash. The volunteer was more than willing to add to the humor, and then the performers improvised a day in her life based on questions they asked her.

Photography by Bruce F. Press, featuring Baltimore’s Plan B.

When W.I.G returned this time with members Doug Goodin, Chania Hudson, Lauren Tobiason, and Sierra Young, they brought back a favorite of their repertoire.  They brought up 4 audience members, and the remaining audience did a shout out of things you might teach. Tonight, it included lessons in smoking meat, archery, mini-golf and modeling.

The Studio Theatre was set cabaret style and there were snacks on the tables. Drinks were available at a minimal charge. Along with W.I.G., The Comedy Pigs, Trampus, Door #3 are to appear Friday, and joining them on Saturday will be Charmsical, The Middle West, Penthouse Basements, and Silversmith.

Improvaganza marks W.I.G. last performances of the season, but Arts Collective original devised play runs from June 8-18, 2017. Most of the other troupes can be seen at local theaters and establishments in Maryland and D.C..

Special thanks to S.G. Kramer and Douglas Beatty as the Improv Festival Coordinators, W.I.G. Directors S.G. Kramer and Daniel Johnston, Stage Manager, Linwood Milan, Creative Assistant, Lisa Yerrid, and Production Assistant, CJ Cameron.

Running Time: Two hours and 20 minutes, with an intermission. Note: Running time may vary as the troupes change.

Interview: A Q & A with Arts Collective@HCC’s ‘IMPROVAGANZA’ Participants: Part One.

IMPROVAGANZA: Improv Festival and Improv Master Classes at Arts Collective @HCC.

Improvaganza plays March 30-April 1, 2017, at 8 PM at the Studio Theatre at the Horowitz Center at Howard Community College – 10901 Little Patuxent Parkway, in Columbia, MD. Master Classes are taking place Saturday, April 1st. For information on performances, master classes and tickets, call (443) 518-1500 or go online. Master Class information can be found here.


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