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

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Howard Community College’s Arts Collective’s What Improv Group?! is presenting Improvaganza, HCC’s (and Howard County’s, too) FIRST Improv Festival with Master Classes, on March 30, 31 and April 1, 2017 at 8pm in HCC’s Studio Theatre at the Horowitz Center. Arts Collective’s Improvaganza Improv Festival will feature twelve outstanding improv troupes from the Baltimore/DC/VA Metro Area.

We had the pleasure to sit down with a few of the folks participating in many various levels in this first-ever improv festival… here’s what they had to say:

Why did the Arts Collective choose to include this 1st-Ever Improv Festival in their 22nd Season?

Co-Director S.G. Kramer.

Susan G. Kramer: (Arts Collective Producing Artistic Director, What Improv Group?! Co-Director, Improvaganza Co-Coordinator/ Organizer) Organizing and hosting a multi-troupe improv festival with outstanding, eclectic improv troupes from the Baltimore/Washington and surrounding areas has long been an Arts Collective’s dream. For 22 years, Arts Collective has embraced improvisation as powerful-beyond-measure story-telling magic, and the opportunity to bring together like-minded improvisers to share their passion for storytelling and truth-telling in various formats is finally here!

What about performing in this Improv Festival (a first for Arts Collective, HCC, and Howard County) intrigues you?

Co-Director Daniel Johnston. Photo courtesy of Arts Collective@HCC.

Daniel Johnston: (What Improv Group?! Co-Director, Performer, Founding Member) I have been affiliated with Arts Collective both as an employee and community member for nearly ten years now, and they never fail to surprise me with how innovative and creative each season is. Their take on standard things such as Improv is always so unique and expressive, and that’s what appeals the most to me.

Emma K. McDonnell: (What Improv Group?! Performer, Founding Member) It would be great if this event kicked off a long tradition, maybe an annual or bi-annual improv festival, hosted by AC.

Megan Wills: (Silversmith, Trampus, Waiting for Steinberg Casting Director, Coach, Producer)  It’s going to be a great opportunity to network with other creative minds and impress patrons of the arts who might not have been exposed to improv before. We love awakening new passions!

What do you think audiences can expect from this multi-troupe festival?

Tony Lopez: (Door #3 Performer, Unofficial Adventure Coordinator) They will see variety and unexpected depth.  There will be different styles of improv and energy, highlighting different slices through life, humor, emotions, and the repercussions of moment-to-moment decisions.  Not only is every troupe distinct, but so is every show any troupe does, so nothing is ever the same.  Every show is specifically for that particular audience.  Come bask in that.

Susan G. Kramer: Audiences who hunger for various takes on storytelling via improvisation will walk into a performance environment unlike any other Arts Collective event! HCC’s Studio Theatre will be arranged in a warm, funky cabaret atmosphere with treats at every table and beers, soft drinks sold at the bar. Audiences won’t want to miss out on the opportunity to “See All 3 Shows” at an amazing discount, while witnessing three distinct, truly unique shows!

Based on your improv experience, how would you describe the MD/DC/VA improv community, specifically or in general?

Douglas Beatty: (Charmsical, What Improv Group?! Performer, Improvaganza Co-Coordinator) The improv community is diverse, and welcomes all types of people with all different backgrounds, and these groups form small family units that create wonderful shows in spaces of various sizes.   Most improvisers do it for the love of performing alone, and I think the chance to make people laugh and have a nice time really brings people together.   This is especially important during those times we need more joy in our lives.

Kathleen Williams: (Trampus Performer) The communities in DC/MD/VA have different styles and speeds of improv. The classes offered in DC and MD are different in terms of energy level, sharing details, and finding the game.

Megan Wills: It’s an ever-expanding web of extremely intelligent and hilarious performers who have all kinds of varied life experiences because of the diversity of the region. This makes DMV audiences some of the luckiest!

Can you speak to the value of signing up for any of the Master Classes included in this Improv Festival?

Tony Lopez: Improv helps you focus on what’s important – working with your collaborators and making interesting harmony – and to remove things that get in your way – a desire to force your viewpoint on others.  Any good improv workshop will help people to get better at doing these things, and the Master Classes at Improvaganza look to be no exception.

Emma K. McDonnell: The master classes are a great opportunity for people/performers of all skill levels. The experienced improv actor might really enjoy the chance to try something new, and the novice improvisers will be able to work with some of the best local improv experts. There are three great and very different options to choose from, so if someone’s been wanting to try improv, this is a perfect way to do that.

Megan Wills: This is an incredible lineup of teachers, and each one has a unique story to tell – and vital performance skills to teach through improv. It’s a good bet to sign up for any of them.

In what ways, if any, do you think Improvaganza’s Improv Festival will benefit the improv community/ culture?

Douglas Beatty: I really hope it brings more troupes out of the city and into the various counties of Maryland. We have a thriving improv scene in Baltimore city, and part of the joy of improv is seeing and performing with fellow improvisers in other troupes. What Improv Group puts on wonderful, thoughtful improv and it is so nice to welcome fellow artists to join in the fun, and create partnerships for future events.

Tony Lopez: The more that people can watch improv being performed, the better they can get to know this growing art form, and the more chances the people who perform it will have to get better at entertaining a live audience. Most forms of performance are better when experienced live, and perhaps improv is more so, as the improvisers on stage can change the direction of the entire performance based on the feedback of the audience. A festival like Improvaganza increases both that public awareness as well as those performance opportunities.

Susan G. Kramer: It’s our truest hope the guest improv troupes involved (and their fans) might love the improv environment W.I.G. has created here over the past nine years. This could be the beginning of a long-lasting tradition!

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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