The annual Seattle Festival of Improv Theater begins tomorrow (Feb. 13) and runs through Feb. 17 at multiple venues in Seattle’s University District.
Besides a packed scheduled of improv troupes on three stages, the five-day festival also offers a full schedule of classes on Feb. 16 for those looking to hone the art of funny, off-the-wall performance.
Andrew McMasters is a festival founder and its executive producer. Here he tells us a little bit more about the festival’s history, gives a few suggestions for acts to catch, and suggests how many laughs each audience member should expect.
Eleven years and counting….did you ever think this particular event would last so long?
I always hoped so, but projects in improvised theater are notorious for breaking up quickly. It’s taken the interest of motivated people besides myself to keep the festival growing, and they just keep coming.
What do you think is the biggest difference between first festival and eleventh one?
This has grown from something myself and my friend Matt Grabowski wanted to see into something that is anticipated and enjoyed by the entire Seattle improv community. Overall it’s just grown to include more and more people.
What changes have you seen lately?
In the past few years, we’ve seen more and more innovation in both our applicants and the groups we accept, compared to just picking “the best.” So there’s a balance now between how good something is and emphasizing the good things that have also never been seen before.
Your tag line this year reads: “21 groups / 10 cities / 5 nights / 2 venues / 1 festival / 104,659 laughs.” Which number surprised you the most after you did the math?
Most of those numbers are pretty close to previous years, but I don’t think we’ve ever actually counted the laughs! That was our marketing guy. I think he said that’s something like sixty laughs per audience member? That’s probably not far off.
So how many applications did you get for this year’s SFIT?
We had fifty-five groups apply this year! Thirty-six of them from out of town, and nineteen from the Seattle area. This is the most interesting part of the festival for me, and really speaks to the growth of the community. When we started eleven years ago, we have three shows from the Seattle area in the festival. The fact that we could get nineteen different shows applying from Seattle alone is a testament to what this festival has done and how much our community has grown.
What new group this year really surprised you?
Five Deadly Improvisers. It’s an improvised Kung Fu movie – complete with fights and bad dialogue. It reminds me of being a kid and watching those films on Saturday mornings – they lovingly have captured the style of those films.
Can you also name a couple of returning groups that the audience won’t want to miss this time?
Pimprov. They are five gentlemen from the south side of Chicago that dress up like Pimps. The idea is, they are pimps who decided to take a beginning Improv class and form a company. So the show is very tongue-in-cheek, rude, offensive and outright hilarious! It is one of the hardest things to be a talented improviser, and then act like a beginner, as well as play a larger than life character.
Twinprov. They are two identical twins from Oklahoma City who do scenes that are punctuated by Rap Songs. Because they are twins they have an uncanny connection on stage and it is magical to watch them fill in each other’s rhymes and play off of the ideas that one or the other of them present.
A complete schedule for this year’s festival is posted at SFIT website.