Phoenix Improv Festival 12 hits Herberger Theater Center in Downtown Phoenix

Phoenix Improv Festival 12 is in full swing, as the 3-day comedy fest kicked off last night at Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix. The festival features troupes from around the country, as well as a bevy of local improvisers, and I love it because everything is completely made up and based off audience suggestions.

MuChuChu2Local troupe Apollo 12 kicked things off on a high note, with memorable scenes that included cast members writing wishful letters to God. Apollo 12 is one of the Valley’s longest-running improv troupes, and member Bill Binder is part of the reason longform improv theater The Torch Theater exists in central Phoenix — get to know more about him and the Valley improv scene here, and check out Apollo 12 here.

Next up was Pawn Takes Queen, a three-person troupe with some lady power (which is always nice to see) from Cedar City, Utah. This troupe was the highlight of the night for me. They took the suggestion of “burgers” and weaved a 25-minute scene of three friends whose latest burger business venture is a failure.

Pawn Takes Queen1Their set stood out to me because they created rich characters with really strong relationships. It had the most honesty within the scenes I saw all night, and I loved watching the characters involved. Learn more about the troupe here.

Comrade was up next, from Burbank, Calif. This was my first time seeing these guys, and they were fun to watch. I thought the lady in their group really stood out because she added really funny dialogue and touches to the scenes, and I always love to see strong females on stage.

Comrade improvThe group had one main storyline that went off on several tangents throughout their show, and I thought the format was interesting because of all the callbacks. The group did a good job of bringing back earlier elements into later scenes, which is impressive. Learn more about them here.

Local troupe MuChuChu, whose members both have Arizona roots, was up next. This two-person group created strong characters in a Harold format. Two storylines were introduced, and then characters and themes were brought back throughout the show before everything was tied together. It’s hard enough for a four-person troupe to do a Harold, but this twosome did a stellar job.

MuChuChu improvClosing out the show was HawkinStroth, from Hollywood, Calif. I saw them last year, too, when they used the word “retard” heavily throughout their set, and last night’s show of theirs was a little disappointing because I felt there was a lot of arguing between their characters and not enough accepting of factors that were introduced. One of the main tenets of improv is to agree to whatever is going on in the scene and work with it, not deny it — it was odd to see a veteran duo have so many moments of denial last night.

HawkinStroth improvRegardless, I’m guessing they’ll be back for future PIF’s, so find out more about them here.

The Phoenix Improv Festival continues tonight at 7 p.m. at the Herberger. Sunday, April 21, from 2 p.m. to about 6:30 p.m., there is an all-Arizona showcase, so you can see all the great improv troupes from all over the state who are currently performing. I’ve been a live improv fan for 7 years now, and if you still haven’t checked it out yourself, I suggest you head to the Herberger this weekend pronto. Check out more about my love for improv here, and leave a comment with your favorite improv experience.

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