Four-day improv festival kicks off Wednesday night


Published: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at 5:39 p.m.

Skyler Stone was a 19-year-old punk-rock kid from South Florida when he was shoved onto the stage at his first improv show. Now at 34, he can watch others go through the same transformation, from a nervous student to an improv addict, as the executive producer and co-founder of the Gainesville Improv Festival.

Facts

About the festival

What: Gainesville Improv Festival
When: Today-Saturday, 8 -10 p.m.
Where: Squitieri Studio Theatre, Phillips Center for the Performing Arts
Cost:$6 - $8 for students, $8 - $13 for general, online or at the Phillips Center

The Improv Festival is back for its seventh year, bringing about 20 comedy troupes from as far as Chicago and as close as your back yard here in Gainesville.

“It’s more than a local act,” Stone said. “It’s a national kind of performance.”

The festival runs from today through Saturday at the Squitieri Studio Theatre, formerly known as the Black Box theater, at the Phillips Center for the Performing Arts.

Stone said that what a lot of people don’t understand with improv is that what one may see from a group one night could be completely different from what one sees the next night by the same group.

Based out of Chicago, the headline troupe this year is 3033. One of the group’s members is Bill Arnett, a UF graduate and former TSF performer. He teaches at the iO Theater, an improv school in Chicago.

The theater’s alumni include former Saturday Night Live cast members and writers Tina Fey, Chris Farley and Amy Poehler.

“We’re celebrating the local groups and what they have gone on to do,” Stone said.

Though most are professional improv groups, there are a few college troupes, including UF’s TSF.

Stone said he’s always happy to bring together the local community and showcase the young talent of TSF, but he’s excited this year for a college troupe from Missouri who are making the trek down by car.

It’s that kind of energy that has kept the festival running for so long, he said.

But there’s always the worry no one will show up. Then, he said, they have shows like last year where they nearly sold out the 250-seat theater all four nights.

“That’s the romance of it — not knowing if it will work,” he said. “And then, yes, it does!”

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