The Improvised Play Festival Isn’t on Fire Downtown
The Hideout Theatre’s annual supercharging of improv is pretty hot tho
By Wayne Alan Brenner,
2:45PM, Wed. Feb. 22, 2017
On fire or not, we’ve already got a listing for the thing, of course. Because this is The Austin Chronicle and we’ve already got a listing for almost all the things, don’t we? (Weary but joyful answer: Yes.)
But we just had to ask the Hideout’s Roy Janik a question.
Because the Hideout’s already a popular place to catch some comedy, already sells out so many of its shows, already runs a packed schedule of improv classes at various levels of expertise. It’s not like the place needs a boost right before SXSW, is it?
And although the Improvised Play Festival does bring in several talented troupes from across the country (and Canada, because let's not forget that that's a different country with a much better leader) – and although it provides an excuse to restage some favorite formats not currently in the venue’s schedule – it’s not a truly ginormous deal like the Austin Sketch Fest or the Out Of Bounds festival, right?
So why, Roy? Why spend the extra time and effort to organize and produce and promote this boisterous three-day spectacle on the last weekend in February? Why saddle first-time festival producer Quinn Buckner with such a load?
Are you, to put it in somewhat technical terms, fucking crazy, or what?
Roy Janik: First of all, Brenner, I don't like your attitude. Second of all, thank you for the insightful question. We started the fest as a celebration and as a way of putting a flag in the ground for the stuff we love. We do a lot of different stuff at the Hideout, but we really love stories. That's a rather specific thing: narrative improv. And we know about groups dispersed all over the world traveling down a similar path. So the festival provides us a chance to share this thing we love, not only with Austin audiences, but also with our out-of-town guests. They show us what they've been working on, and we show them our stuff – and that idea of cross-pollination is crucial to us. Which is why we're trying something new this year. We created an ensemble made up of equal parts out-of-town performers and locals, and we brought in Vinny Francois from Montreal Improv to direct them. They'll learn to be a group together very quickly and then do two shows in the festival.
Brenner: Okay, and all of that is because, what? Because binge-watching “Who’s Line” on YouTube isn’t enough for some people?
Janik: You know, despite the internet, improv is still a folk tradition. You learn it by seeing it in person, and doing it for yourself. You learn it by talking about it for way too long with your new friends at the afterparty. It's beautiful.
Brenner: Duly noted. So, dude, about those press comps …