In the old days, there was a fair amount of improv, but it didn’t feel like a scene. Besides the two troupes at Lighten Up, there was ComedySportz, Out On A Limb (three former ComedySportz players), Caught in the Act (the troupe between Laughing Stock and Full Frontal), Renegade Theater (from Lawrence) and At Large (a TYA-based group featuring Matt Rapport and Brian Kameoka, among others).
Every troupe except ComedySportz performed at our theater at one point or the other. Lighten Up also did a few short-run shows—a Harold show with mixed troupe members, an all-chick show, some dabbling in sketch. Still, it didn’t feel like a scene—we were just renting out space.
And with the exception of Lighten Up, everyone was playing versions of the same short-form games—the only differences were the format and whether the group did sketch or not. So seeing other troupes wasn’t the horizon-broadening experience it is in Chicago.
So what’s different now? For me, there are a few factors that make it feel like a “scene”:
—The Westport Coffeehouse. If you want to play, you just call Pam, pick a night, work your butt off to get the word out and put up a show.
—The mixing and matching. You can play in more than one troupe, put up a short-run show or throw down in Thunderdome and On The Spot! For the majority of players—if not all the owners—it’s not about competition anymore. It’s about trying new things with new people.
—The forums. The single most important contribution City 3 has made to KC improv is a place for us to waste time on line.
—The choice…the fabulous, glorious choice. Want to see improv? What kind? Short-form or long-form? Accessible or experimental? Student group or professional? Pick a weekend—then decide. For the first time ever in Kansas City, seeing someone else play doesn’t mean watching their take on Chain Death.
—The collaboration. City 3 and KCiF brought different players, different groups, different ideas and different POVs together, and they’re both stronger for it.
—The socializing. We gather. We drink beer. We play The Bad Idea Game (it’s been too long since the last time, by the way). We meet up at McCoy’s after shows. We go to each other’s shows—and each other’s parties.
Call it a scene, a community, a movement…whatever. We’ve got one, and it’s only going to get stronger.