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.