Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The Tumbleweed Project !!!!!

Yes, that’s right, there are five exclamation points in that title. “Why so excessive Meags?” you ask. Well, I’ll tell you. There are five exclamation points because this is one of the most exciting projects I’ve ever had the pleasure to be a part of. The Tumbleweed Project is the brainchild of Julie Dumais, Artistic Director of the Combustion Festival; an enormous and lovely improv festival in Toronto in the last week of May. The project is essentially a cross-Canada road-trip that picks up a new improviser in every city it visits, does a show, takes some workshops and finally arrives in Toronto were we’ll perform as an ensemble at the Combustion festival. Each improviser also loosely represents a region of Canada, though that region may not be the location the improviser is joining the tour, for example Justin Collette of Moncton, New Brunswick is joining the tour in Chicago. I’m going to be 3rd to join the team on May 15th in Calgary. I’m looking forward to the road-trip across the prairies, particularly to visit Winnipeg, where I haven’t been in years. I’m also going to seize this opportunity to track down some photobooths in each city for Photobooth.net.

For more information about the Combustion Festival, the Tumbleweed Project or to follow our on-the-road blog visit www.projectproject.ca. (The artwork on the poster is by Vancouver’s Ehren Salazar.)

Here are some tour details, for the specifics please visit the Facebook event here.

MAY 13: VANCOUVER- Tim Carlson @ Little Mountain Gallery
MAY 14: EDMONTON- Hannah Spear @ Rapid Fire Theatre
MAY 15: CALGARY- Meags Fitzgerald @ Loose Moose Theatre
MAY 16: REGINA- (no new member) @ The Fainting Goat
MAY 17: WINNIPEG- RobYn Slade @ Exchange Community Church
MAY 19: CHICAGO- Justin Collette @ Playground Theater
MAY 20: OTTAWA- Cari Leslie @ Elmdale House Tavern
MAY 21: MONTREAL – Kirsten Rasmussen @ Mainline Theatre
MAY 23: TORONTO - Mark Little @ Clinton's Tavern
MAY 24-29: TORONTO – @ the PROJECTproject COMBUSTIONfestival

Friday, May 7, 2010

Back from the Chicago Improv Festival!

I’ve just returned from Chicago where I was making Improv Art at the 13th Annual Chicago Improv Festival (CIF), the largest improv festival in the world. The festival was spread out over multiple venues in the city; Second City, IO, Annoyance Theatre, The Playground, Comedy Sportz... and others. There were hundreds of acts from all over the world, though unfortunately the festival was less international than originally anticipated because the European groups were unable to fly in because the Icelandic volcanic residue. The biggest highlight for me was CIF’s Award’s Night where they gave a best Ensemble of the Year award to The Improvised Shakespeare Company, Best Improviser to Susan Messing and three Lifetime Achievement awards to the late Severn Darden, Dick Schaal and to Harold Ramis. It was at Second City’s intimate ETC stage and the tone of the evening was uplifting and inspiring. It was very exciting and humbling to be around many of the field’s most talented individuals. I may be writing an article for improvisation.ca about the evening’s events and will post a link here if I do.

From an improv art perspective, the festival was a challenge for me because I had to carry my materials with me from venue to venue, usually doing three shows a night and sometimes with only minutes to set-up. (Usually at a festival I have a little studio on stage, where I sit comfortably for the whole time and have a convenient area in the lobby to display and sell my works.) The challenge ended up paying off because I got to meet tons of people that way and got to work in some great venues. After this experience I feel like I could make improv art under any conditions. In an Icelandic volcano? Probably.

I’ve been to a lot of Canadian Improv Festivals (spectating, performing, or art-making) and I’d like to think that I know a good percentage of Canadian improvisers, and that if I don’t, that it’s just a matter of time until our paths’ cross. Going to a Canadian festival is like going to my family reunion, if my entire extended family were comedians. CIF was the first American festival I’ve been to and though it still very much felt like a family reunion, it felt like someone else’s family. This may sound like a silly observation but it was crazy to meet that many improvisers at that level that I’d never met before. Once I got over my shyness I made some great friends from companies all over the states and Mexico, and I’m looking forward to my next American festival which will be that much less daunting.

The photo above is of my make shift studio at Comedy Sportz, it was taken by Jerry Schulman.