While improv is usually seen as fun and games, it also can bring a community together.
The Goose on the Loose Comedy Festival combines improv shows and workshops with professionals and aspiring improv performers around Columbus, Ohio, Barbara Allen, festival organizer, said. The festival starts Thursday and is a partnership between Sassy Do, an all-female improv group in Columbus, and Wild Goose Creative, a nonprofit arts organization and gallery.
“Our idea was to take improv and to take it into our communities just to [show] how powerful storytelling is and improvisations for building community, building relationships,” Allen said.
Allen said Sassy Do has done improv festivals six times in the past, in partnership with Wild Goose Creative.
The event is split into different parts. Allen said there will be collaborations, workshops and performances at Wild Goose Creative, as well as additional workshops at the Reeb Avenue Center on the south side of Columbus.
Allen said they revamped the festival to focus on community building and received a grant from the Ohio Arts Council for the festival. They also partnered with United Way at the Reeb Avenue Center, an organization that offers support to the community in the way of education, job training and more.
“The whole idea of the festival is to have the merger of where comedy and community collide, what kind of power there is in story and in play, and then just being present with other people, what happens to you as a person, as a leader, as a performer, as a human. So that’s really where we see that intersection,” Allen said.
While the festival will feature workshops for aspiring improv performers and those interested in comedy, it also will feature performances from both professional and amateur improv groups from Columbus and the Midwest.
Hitch*Cocktails, a group from Chicago that has been performing for more than seven years, will help run the festival and perform its signature show, which is “an improvised thriller in the style of Alfred Hitchcock,” Bruce Phillips, member of Hitch*Cocktails, said.
Hitch*Cocktails is a longform improv show in which the members “get a suggestion of a fear from the audience” and use that to inspire a 1950s-style thriller, Phillips said. The group improvises its way through the story in 90 minutes.
Phillips said the workshops are great not only for improving a person’s improv skills, but also for improving their public speaking and communication skills.
“I think what we try to communicate when we teach improv is that your ideas are correct, your ideas are always right, and we’re gonna create an environment where you can feel supported in the choices that you make, and it’s amazing,” Phillips said. “It’s a wonderful experience to have to be able to make decisions and make choices and have everybody in the room make you feel like a rock star at it.”
McKenzie Fleischer, a member of Sassy Do and two Ohio State improv groups — Fishbowl Improv and Circular Reasoning Improv — and a fourth-year in theater, said she attended a workshop with Hitch*Cocktails in 2015.
“I learned so many new games, and because they were people who did improv professionally, it was just like a whole other — they were just performing at a much higher level than you can see when you see normal shows,” Fleischer said.
Fleischer said the festival is a great opportunity to meet other people in the world of comedy.
The festival kicks off Thursday with Sassy Do’s annual “Spooky Do,” a Halloween performance at Wild Goose Creative, with $5 admission. Fishbowl Improv and Circular Reasoning Improv will perform starting at 7 p.m. Friday. Hitch*Cocktails’ workshop takes place 3:30-5:30 p.m. Saturday, with registration for $20, followed by a Hitch*Cocktails performance at 8 p.m. for $15 in advance and $20 at the door. The event will wrap up Sunday with a 10 a.m. workshop and a 7 p.m. performance.