What a great festival TJ and Wendy put on with the Off the Cuff folks. I first met the two of them many years ago at The Phoenix Improv Festival at The Herberger Theater, but I got to really know them last year at Camp Improv Utopia. I’d been meaning to visit for some time, but I was just never able to make it happen, so I was excited to be invited to teach and finally make it up to Cedar City, UT for the 3rd Red Rocks Improv Festival.
I’m a huge advocate of the idea that quality improv doesn’t need to be the exclusive domain of New York, Chicago and Los Angeles. If improv is to grow, it has to grow everywhere and great performers need to help their cities grow rather than escaping to the safer environs of the established communities. Because of that, I have mad respect for the Off the Cuff ensemble. Cedar City is quite possibly the most remote festival I’ve ever been to. It’s small and it’s separated from the world by giant beautiful canyons on all sides. It’s in every way, a small town. But they don’t use that as an excuse to not try to build national level theatre.
The challenges and lack of access to resources must make for a much more uphill battle to foster great work or reach audiences than Phoenix, or certainly than Chicago, but they continue to put great improv theatre out there for a community that might be satisfied with far less.
It was exciting to run my Starting Out Strong workshop on Friday afternoon. We dug deep into some long held ideas on what an opening is or isn’t supposed to be and why we don’t always pay enough attention to why exactly we’re doing them. Some really exciting exercises lead to some openings I’d like to see shows follow. One of the better compliments I’ve received on a workshop was the student who mentioned “I almost passed out during that last exercise, but I wanted to see it through.” That’s good stuff.
Shows were great that night, highlighted by BillyHawk, StrongBose and Off the Cuff’s home troupe. Sadly, Shane Carey and I had to return to Phoenix immediately after shows so he could teach back at The Torch Theatre. I wasn’t able to stay and take workshops myself on Saturday. I’m sure the workshops from Nick Armstrong, Josh DuBose and Brian O’Connell were fantastic.
If you visit Cedar City, please stop by OTC Comedy. You’ll have a great night. Even if you aren’t heading that way and want to support good improv across the country, you can help support their theatre by adopting a chair. It would be money well spent on supporting the arts in Utah.
Thanks again to everyone who helped bring me out.