Collaborative chuckles

Winnipeg’s improv scene grows together

Angelica Schwartz

The Winnipeg Improv Festival is just around the corner. 

Now in its 15th year, the festival will feature German improvisor Nadine Antler and Kids in the Hall legend Kevin McDonald. There’ll also be a few familiar faces from the University of Winnipeg: the recently-reunited Rumble Pack will rise from the dead to present a show Oct. 3, while Parking Lots Improv is scheduled to play the Gas Station Arts Centre the following day.

“Members of University of Winnipeg improv have also made a great presence known to the Winnipeg Improv Festival by forming the volunteer army that helps make the festival run smoothly,” festival’s founder/Crumbs member Stephen
Sim notes. 

The symbiotic relationship began with the inaugural University of Winnipeg Improv Festival, this past May. For the new festival, Sim taught a master class and organized a sampler, similar to the one showing at the Kings Head on Sept. 30. Sim and his fellow Crumb Lee White have also mentored Outside Joke over the years. 

“It’s for the general good of Winnipeg and the improv arts community,” says Sim, explaining his role in fostering the next generation of comedians. “Improv is inherently a collaborative art form. You don’t do it alone, and that leaks into every facet of the improv community, not just in the way we generate content onstage.”

This culture of reciprocation and teaching is continued through free weekly workshops, hosted by the U of Improv group every Monday at the Asper Centre for Theatre and Film. RobYn Slade, local improvisor and member of Outside Joke, emphasizes the importance of the group for people who come out of the Canadian Improv Games, which is a national high school improv tournament.

“There aren’t enough avenues in Winnipeg to motivate them to continue to improvise,” she notes. “They can launch into adult improv classes, and hope that they click with enough people to start a performing group, or they can cry forever because improv isn’t a part of their lives anymore.” 

U of W students can continue their love for improv through the weekly workshops, which will culminate in a second UW Improv Festival next year. The workshops are not only for experienced improvisers, but also welcome U of W students with little to no improv experience. 

UW Improv, which became an official student group last year, will focus its weekly workshops in the fall semester on the building blocks of improv, moving on in the winter term to instruction geared toward long-form improv.

“Winnipeg has a really rich arts scene,” Erin Schwartz, president of UW Improv says. “But I feel like the youth and university students should really take part.” 

For a sample of what U of W improvisers are up to, check out Neighbourhood Watch’s Halloween show and visit for more info.

Published in Volume 69, Number 4 of The Uniter (September 24, 2014)

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