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March, 2012

Announcing the 2nd Annual Improvised Play Festival

Here’s a long overdue official announcement of The Improvised Play Festival, happening in just a few weeks at The Hideout.

The Improvised Play Festival is a celebration of narrative and/or theatrical improv in all its forms.

Last year was the very first festival, and it was a great success.

First, our out of town headiners:

Improv Playhouse of San Francisco

This project is straight from Bay Area Theatresports in San Francisco.

They’ll be doing two shows for the festival: an improvised one-act play and an improvised movie. No gimmicks… just 100% committed, experienced, incredibly well connected narrative improv from people who’ve been doing it a long time.

cast: Tim Orr, Regina Saisi, Lisa Rowland

Bunker 13, from Wing-It Productions in Seattle

I saw this show when I was in Seattle a few years back, and I’m thrilled they’re coming down for the festival.

Bunker 13 is a personal look at the lives and friendships of five soldiers during their downtime in the Vietnam War, as they await orders, get letters from home and combat their homesickness.

cast: Steve Lange, Conor McNassar, Mike Christensen, Ryan Miller, Dan Zertuche

Festival-wise, there will be a party/gather each of the 3 nights of the festival. The performers from Improv Playhouse will be teaching workshops, and there will be t-shirts for sale, like in this mockup:

Here is the complete schedule:

Thursday, April 12th:
8PM: Furiously Missing / The Escorts

The official kickoff show of The Improvised Play Festival. Come for the ribbon cutting, and stay for two theatrical groups made up primarily of performers who got their start at The Hideout.

9PM: GrimmNoir / Local Genius Society
The darkness of fairy tales meets the darkness of film noir. Then, Local Genius Society presents Beach Cops! Your head may explode from the wild variety in this set.

10PM: Spirited
The wildly popular Hideout Mainstage show from 2011 returns: Improvised dreamscapes in the style of Lewis Carroll, Sendak, and Miyazaki

11PM: Steam, Rose-Colored Goggles, and the Flight of the Victoriana
The Victoriana finished its inaugural flight in early 2012, as a multi-week serial improv epic, created by Gnap! Theater Projects. Now it returns for one more steampunk adventure story.

Friday, April 13th, 2012
8PM: After School Improv
Just like those After School Specials you used to watch as a kid, except this time it’s funny on purpose.

9PM: PGraph Presents Dick and Jane
Parallelogramophonograph presents an improvised noir story set in the world of Jane Austen. When manners and murder collide, chaos is the order of the day.

10PM: Improv Playhouse, from San Francisco, present The Naked Stage
This award-winning, highly praised theatre company from San Francisco presents an improvised one-act play in the truest sense of the word: one scene and no set changes… just 100% entertainment.

11PM: Available Cupholders
Austin improv legends The Available Cupholders return to show what a group that keeps pushing the envelope can accomplish. Always hilarious and surprising.

Saturday, April 14th, 2012

7PM: Process
The Hideout’s current mainstage show seems like it was created for this festival. Process takes an insider look at the act of creating live scripted theatre. Follow the cast and crew of an imaginary play all the way from bombing and nailing their auditions, rehearsing their lines, blocking out their staging, to performing their parts big and small on opening night. The egos! The drama! The drama in drama!

9PM: Bunker 13, from Seattle!
A personal, improvised look at the lives and friendships of 5 soldiers during their downtime in the Vietnam War, as they await orders, get letters from home and combat their homesickness. From Seattle, and the renowned Wing-It Productions.

10PM: Improv Playhouse, from San Francisco, present The Naked Screen
This award-winning, highly praised theatre company from San Francisco presents a completely improvised movie on stage. Genre, characters, action, and plot are all pulled forth from the ether.

11PM: Confidence Men
Improvised plays in the style of David Mamet. This touring, highly praised group is from right here in Austin, TX.

MIDNIGHT: The World’s Only Narrative Improv Jam
You’ve never seen a jam like this before! Cast members from all the various shows in the festival, other improvisers, and audience members are invited to perform in this narrative improv jam, where we’ll experiment with making up stories on the spot together, with absolutely no previous prep. Alcohol might also be a story trope we utilize. FREE!

You can find out more information, and get your tickets at:

or get your tickets directly at http://hideouttheatre.com/improvisedplayfestival

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Behind the Scenes: After School Improv

Roy here. This Saturday at 6pm we’re launching After School Improv, our first ever student mainstage show.

Cat Drago is one of the cast members, and in this post, she talks about how the rehearsal process has been so far.

Cat: When Jason emailed me saying I got cast in this show- I had to read it twice.

Well, maybe three times. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to tell people! My first big improv show, directed by one of the first improvisors I ever saw, Jason Vines. What could be better? After School Improv. A show inspired by those old episodes that used to offer up “Life Lessons” to naive and wayward kids alike.

Then it hit me- the big scary “offer” in the room… NARRATIVE.

Could I even DO narrative improv? I mean, that’s intense, right? To make up an entire continuous story on the spot… You have to be REALLY good to do that!

The fear set in, and by the first rehearsal, my excitement had turned to insecurity and fear.
But right from the get-go our cast just clicked. Rehearsals went so well, as Jason guided us through intense scenes varying in everything from secret agents to a kidnapping by that creepy coach everyone avoided in school. Week by week we learned not only how to create a continuous story, but how to forget about the plot, what comes next.

“The story will happen on its own,” Jason said. “Just focus on what is right in front of you.”  By reacting naturally to whatever was presented to us, we discovered that the story literally arises from our own reactions. “Don’t talk about what you’re going to do, just do it! Less volley, more spike!” Jason would say, and while it has taken us a while to figure it out, I think we have all surprised ourselves at what we were capable of.

Our cast has worked together to create something awesome, and shockingly true to life. We have delved into real and difficult issues that have plagued a lot of teens, including ourselves.

The end product, I think, is not just a cool made-up story that’s fun to watch. It’s something that we have all felt. That first time you’re rejected by the one you like, pressure to be better and greater, the zit you discover on the morning of prom! It’s all a part of life, and thanks to an incredible cast, tech crew, and awesome director- it’s presented to you in living color at the Hideout Theatre.

I am so blessed to be a part of it. Come see the show! All the cool kids are going…

After School Improv is running March 10th, 24th, 31st, and April 7th at 6pm. Tickets available here.

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What Geniuses Thought They Could Do Improv in a Bar?

Roy here.

This Sunday marks the final show of Underground Improv, a joint project between The Hideout Theatre, The Dive Bar, and Local Genius Society.

When the opportunity to put a show up at The Dive Bar came to the Hideout, I immediately thought of turning it over to Local Genius Society. They’re a newer troupe, made up of recent graduates of our improv classes. They’ve got drive, and an infectious style.

The shows have been super successful. As we come upon the last one, local genius Kayla Freeman tells us what it’s been like for the group:

Kayla: We got the offer from Roy on a Sunday night, only a few weeks after Andrew had moved to L.A. and we had just welcomed Ryan on board. We had heard barprov horror stories of apathetic audiences, sound issues and drunken hecklers. Despite this, we did exactly what you’d expect improvisers to do:

We followed the fear; we said yes.

The next day, Nicole and I met with Roy and the folks from the Dive Bar. The moniker “Underground Improv” was created during that initial meeting, and it stuck. The name fit the setting and captured our aspirations. With this show we aimed to foster the independent spirit by hacking the barprov model, bringing improv to non-theatergoers, and giving newer players stage time.

We surveyed the location a few weeks before we opened. Nicole, Karen and I went on a Wednesday evening and unknowingly walked into the middle of a “Dark Fantasy” book signing. Forgetting our chainmail and furry handcuffs at home, we were obviously underdressed. A few days later, we sent Ryan to assess the Sunday crowd instead… and discovered there wasn’t one. The Dive Bar was like a ghost town on Sundays. It was liberating, in a way. If we crashed and burned, at least it would be for an empty room.

We were so wrong.

Each show played to a full house with effusive reception. We played for birthday and bachelorette parties, people who claimed to hate improv before seeing our show, students in a college improv class, out of towners from NYC and Minneapolis, unsuspecting bar patrons, and of course, our fellow imps. The intimate space and the opportunity to grab a drink with our audience right after the show added a further level of immediacy and connection. It’s invigorating to get people excited about an art form that they previously knew little about or had an ill perception of.

This has also been an incredibly educational experience. We were not without growing pains. Each week we strived to try new things while aiming to squeeze in rehearsals and meetings in our already busy schedules. Because of this, Local Genius Society learned a lot about navigating the obstacles of a non-traditional performance space, communication styles and conflict management. (Our Level One improv training certainly came in handy here!) Roy told us that by the time we figured it all out, it’d be over. And he was right. Bring on the next challenge; we’re ready.

As this run is coming to an end, we want to express our gratitude to the Hideout and the Dive Bar for this experience. Many thanks to all of our guest players and the supportive improv community for coming along for the ride. Your patience and support has been invaluable. We look forward to taking the lessons we’ve learned to tackle bigger, crazier projects and new locations. So don’t be surprised if you see Underground Improv spring up in some other unconventional venue. Improv is fertile ground for pioneering new artistic, interactive, and performance methods. The possibilities are limitless!

And for those of you non-improvisers who stumbled upon Underground Improv by chance, let me just say, as always: if it looks like fun, that’s because it is.

The Dive Bar is located at 1703 Guadalupe St. at 17th St. Show is at 8:30pm.

The final Underground Improv show is this Sunday, March 11th, 2012. Details via this link.

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