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Thursday, August 21, 2014

Thoughts on the Stumptown Improv Fest

Posted by Alison Hallett on Thu, Aug 21, 2014 at 11:29 AM

The founders of the Stumptown Improv Festival: Jed Arkley,  Leon Anderson, Erin Jean ORegan
  • Pat Moran
  • The founders of the Stumptown Improv Festival: Jed Arkley, Leon Anderson, Erin Jean O'Regan

Took me a few days to get this up—sorry, we were making an arts guide. (The fall issue of Agenda comes out on Wednesday! Get so excited!)

The Stumptown Improv fest debuted last weekend; with two shows a night at the Miracle Theatre, it sold out nearly every show and brought a caliber of improv to town that Portland audiences rarely get a chance to see. My personal highlights were a high-energy, ridiculously loopy set from Minneapolis duo Ferrari McSpeedy; Portland's Bang + Burn (AKA John Breen and Beau Brousseau), who created a smart and surprisingly coherent start-to-finish action movie spoof in only half an hour; a mind-bogglingly smart set from Vancouver, BC.'s Sunday Service, who used books borrowed from the audience to provide inspiration for their scenes; and the utterly winning and delightful duo Virginia Jack, two women also from Vancouver.

I think it's interesting that the best shows came from duos—watching two smart people who are totally in synch work off of each other can be amazing, and limiting the number of people onstage seems to allow for higher-concept work. Of the larger ensembles, Portland's Whiskey Tango turned in my favorite performance, though the Curious Comedy players weren't bad either. The other local troupes I saw just weren't up to the caliber of the out-of-towners—I suspect diplomacy influenced the booking a bit more than it should have, and I hope we'll see the festival tighten up its lineup next year. (There's clearly a strong editorial eye at work—seriously, the guests they brought in from out of town were absolutely top-notch.) The fest could clearly use an additional venue, too—at the four shows I saw, the Miracle Theatre was packed to capacity.

Overall, it was a super successful first offering. Clearly Portland has an appetite for this sort of thing. Can't wait to see what next year looks like.

The Sunday Service shares a profoundly awkward kiss.
  • Pat Moran
  • The Sunday Service shares a profoundly awkward kiss.

Tons more pictures here!

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