For the uninitiated, improv, or improvisational theater, is a form of live performance, usually comedic, in which everything is made up on the spot, often inspired by an audience suggestion.
Clint Vrazel, OKC Improv cofounder and artistic director, said that when the organization began, only about five troupes were performing in the metro.
“That number has grown to around 40,” he said. “We’ve evolved from short-form games like on Whose Line Is It Anyway? to full theatrical productions that tell big stories with lighting, sound and costumes.”
After establishing an ongoing performance showcase, the organization turned its attention to classes, with Vrazel and his twin brother and fellow artistic director, Buck Vrazel, serving as the first two teachers. Today, there are eight who work with dozens of students in beginning to advanced improv, sketch writing, musical improv, mime and improvised rap.
Kyle Gossett, musical and technical director, said the classes attract a diverse sampling of people, including marketing professionals, attorneys, artists, writers, developers, teachers and grandparents.
“We have debuted, mentored and fostered improv troupes that have gone on to perform at major-market festivals such as Chicago, New York, Austin, Seattle, Denver, Dallas and Kansas City,” Gossett said.
Clint Vrazel said he couldn’t have predicted their success.
“We had no idea so many people would share in our love of this art form,” he said. “In the beginning, we wanted a place where people could come together to do and see great improv. We did not expect so many people from so many different walks of life to challenge themselves with improv and have their lives changed.”
Winter Festivus grew out of a desire to celebrate the growing community of improvisers with a festival atmosphere that included shows, parties and workshops. The name itself was popularized on a Seinfeld episode.
“There’s nothing more fitting for a community of people who make up shows out of nothing than a fictitious holiday introduced on a show about nothing,” said Vrazel.
This year’s lineup of 20 acts includes narrative shows from Heel Turn, Everybody and Their Dog, and all-gal group The MiDolls; Star Wars-themed comedy courtesy of Cantinaprov; fast-paced hilarity from Take One, Smack Smack Sniff and Disastronauts; and musical improv from Night Rhymers, Almost Broadway, Off-Book and the Vrazel’s rap duo, Twinprov.
Dallas-based comedy duo Dave and Terry will performing its signature show, David and Terry Talk to Strangers, and will teach a workshop on character creation from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Sunday night’s show will feature dinner, a stand-up and musical-comedy showcase and the annual IMPY Awards ceremony honoring excellence in the improv community.
OKC Improv’s next full run of shows will take place Jan. 4-25, 2014, with classes scheduled for early February.