Local, national improv troupes come together at annual festival


The Chicago-based comedy troupe 3033, which includes, from left, University of Florida alumni Danny Mora and Bill Arnett, along with Andy St. Clair and Alex Fendrich, performs at the 2012 Gainesville Improv Festival.

Courtesy of James Wales
Published: Thursday, January 30, 2014 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, January 29, 2014 at 11:21 a.m.

From rented chairs for modest crowds to nationally recognized guests performing at the Phillips Center, the Gainesville Improv Festival has grown over nine years and returns this week with more than 20 troupes hoping to leave audiences in stitches.

Facts

Gainesville Improv Festival

What: Annual event featuring nationally known and local improvisational troupes
Today: 8 and 10 p.m. at High Dive, 210 SW Second Ave.
Friday-Saturday: 8 and 10 p.m. at Squitieri Studio Theatre, Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road
Tickets: $6 general admission, $8 ages 21 and younger for tonight; $13 general admission, $8 students Friday; $11-$15 Saturday
Info: 392-2787, www.gainesvilleimprov.com

For its ninth-annual celebration of improvisational theater, the festival partnered once again with the University of Florida's Theatre Strike Force to bring 24 improvisational and sketch-comedy troupes to Gainesville stages.

The 2014 festival, which offers two performances daily at 8 and 10 p.m., began Wednesday and continues tonight at High Dive, 210 SW Second Ave., and Friday and Saturday at the Squitieri Studio Theatre at the Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road.


Gainesville Improv Festival

What: Annual event featuring nationally known and local improvisational troupes

Today: 8 and 10 p.m. at High Dive, 210 SW Second Ave.

Friday-Saturday: 8 and 10 p.m. at Squitieri Studio Theatre, Phillips Center, 3201 Hull Road

Tickets: $6 general admission, $8 ages 21 and younger for tonight; $13 general admission, $8 students Friday; $11-$15 Saturday

Info: 392-2787, www.gainesvilleimprov.com


This year's headlining troupe, the Chicago-based 3033, performs with opening sets by Chicago's Houndstooth and Gainesville's The Sunday Group at 8 p.m. Saturday.

Other Windy City groups featured in this year's lineup include Lethal Action Force, which performs with Gainesville's Delta Group and Jacksonville's Beastwood at 10 tonight, and the Annoyance House Ensemble, which performs with Theatre Strike Force's Short Form Team and the West Palm Beach ensemble Bananas Republic at 10 p.m. Friday. For a complete schedule of performers, see www.gainesvilleimprov.com.

The Gainesville Improv Festival was the brainchild of two members of Theatre Strike Force in fall 2003. Skyler Stone and Tom O'Donnell, both now UF alumni, created the festival to share their craft with the community.

Stone said they wanted the chance to truly celebrate the Gainesville improv scene. Since its humble beginning, the performers have become part of something special, he said.

“Knowing that you were a part of this magical moment that will never exist again, but wouldn't have existed without you, is kind of like this almost spiritual thing,” he said. “Not to get too hippie about it.”

Stone's fellow improv-lover and close friend O'Donnell said that as artists, they share their craft on the stage. And it is an experience like no other.

“It's a joy,” O'Donnell said. “We do this more for love than anything else. And it really feels good that the goals and the aspirations that we set in motion actually get fulfilled.”

With wives, careers and homes outside of Gainesville — Stone lives in Chicago and O'Donnell in West Palm Beach — the duo said coordinating an event like the Improv Festival can be difficult at times, but it's worth the effort.

“When you have a passion for something and you love something, you have to find time to make that work,” O'Donnell said. “If you don't, you're not fulfilling your job as a human.”

Brian Jaegar, another alumnus of UF and Theatre Strike Force in Chicago, said a big part of why the festival has grown into such a big event is because of the reputation the comedy troupe carries across the U.S.

“We've come to a point where Theatre Strike Force is such a force to be reckoned with, pardon the pun,” Jaegar said,

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