Improv that inspires

Catch a one-time-only performance at Winnipeg Improv Fest shows


Helicopter! Rural farms! Racoon eyes! Goblets! 

Get your random suggestions ready. Actors will be improvising scenes in exchange for laughs again at this year’s Winnipeg Improv Festival.

Stephen Sim, the founder and now artistic director of the fest, has been making an improv festival in Winnipeg a reality since 2000.

“I have already done months of work and now it’s just all coming together,” Sim says. “It’s a great time because the local improv scene mixes with the out of town guests and we do some amazing shows together.”

Some of the new out-of-towners who will be performing this year include a troupe from New York called North Coast who are known for their freestyle rapping and hip-hop take on improv. 

The group is also featuring world-renowned back-up beats by the 2015 World Beatbox Champion, Kaila Mullady. 

“This is our first time in Winnipeg,” Boris Khaykin, a performer with North Coast says. “The crowds are supportive and sharp in most communities we play and we have no reason to believe Winnipeg would be any different. The city seems like a cultural hub with many festivals so we expect a smart crowd that’s ready to laugh!”

Laughing we will be, as there will also be performances by Rapid Fire Theatre (Edmonton), Dad’s Garage Theatre (Atlanta) and CRUMBS. Kevin McDonald is making an appearance as well. 

Sim says the festival is always eager to encourage collaborations between artists. This year Winnipeg visual artist Kal Barteski will be creating art on the spot that will be projected behind improvisers on stage creating “a feedback loop of awesome.” 

Other local acts participating in the festival are performers from improv group Outside Joke. They’ve been involved with the festival since the beginning and think the Winnipeg improv scene is great, but could always improve.

“The IF (improv festival) has always done a great job of introducing new formats and styles of improvisation to Winnipeg audiences,” RobYn Slade, an actor with Outside Joke, says. 

“There’s always room to improve, especially in terms of getting more people interested and invested in the form we love so much.”

Thankfully, the Winnipeg Improv Festival gives us just that. It is an environment that welcomes, unifies and inspires an improv scene.

“The Improv Festival is an event that really does bring everyone together,” Sim says. “There are workshops, there are improv shows to see and guests to be inspired by. It is the kick-off to the improv season in Winnipeg.” 

Improv is a performance art form that relies on risk and co-operation to make something hilarious, but it is also unique in that a performance can never be recreated. 

“The most rewarding part of improvising is creating a story that will only ever exist for the audience watching that particular show,” Slade says. “When the show is done, it evaporates. It’s this ephemeral, shared experience.”

And if anything, the Winnipeg Improv Festival gives you a good place to laugh in the present while being able to shout weird words from a crowd.

Published in Volume 70, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 24, 2015)

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