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Improv Festival Returns to OTR for 4th Year

Love improv? Get ready for a feast Sept. 6-10, when the 4th Annual Improv Festival of Cincinnati (IF Cincy), produced by OTRImprov, takes up residence at Know Theatre in Over-the-Rhine.

The headliners:

  • Heyday comprised of veteran improvisors seen with Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, LA, Westside Comedy Theatre, and a current cast member on Comedy Central’s Drunk History.

  • Big Ol’ Show featuring Amber Nash, best known for her role as Pam Poovey on the Emmy winning animated show Archer and Matt Horgan, the Associate Artistic Director at Dad’s Garage in Atlanta.

  • Matt Damon Improv featuring all women of color, their shows invite a special guest white male improv veteran who can only speak when repeating things the women of Matt Damon Improv have already said in the show - forcing them to really listen and take a baby step in a woman of color’s shoes.

Acts are coming in from Los Angeles, New York City, Chicago, San Diego, Atlanta, Detroit, Nashville, Ann Arbor, and there will be plenty of local acts, too. Programs change every night. Find the full schedule here:

Cincinnati’s improv scene has exploded in the past few years and more and more groups performing regularly around the city.

Local troupes on the line-up are host OTRimprov, Two Sketchy Dames, Highly Improvable, Family Bunker, ...and then cannibalism, Killer B’s, Hot MIC, Act One, and CS6001.

Fort Thomas’s Kat Smith is co-director of OTRImprov and previews their show. “We’re excited to perform The Chronicle this year, where we have a special local guest join us to tell stories that we then weave into a long form improv piece (Guest TBA).

“I think our troupe is incredibly playful and inventive - many of us have been playing together for more than five years now, but I am constantly amazed at what we create on stage together. We've started really exploring new long forms and pieces that have inspired us to slow down, enjoy the moments on stage together, and stretch our boundaries as performers.”

How does a small local troupe pull together an annual festival? Organization, sweat, and, of course, teamwork.

“Planning IF Cincy is a huge job,” Smith says. “We start in January, outlining what our goals are for the year and starting to think through the schedule, marketing needs, artist hospitality, etc. We have a committee that works on the festival year-round.

“This is definitely a group effort, and we could not do it without many of our OTRimprov cast and family volunteering their time to get things accomplished. This year, we had a few acts we specifically targeted to bring in, but the majority of acts applied to be part of the festival. It's the first year we opened up applications for the festival, and we were extremely pleased by the interest!"

“What's really exciting to me this year," she said, "is that one-third of the performers we have at IF Cincy are women. One of our key goals this year was the highlight the diversity of voices in the improv community. One of our Saturday night headliners is an all-female troupe comprised of all women of color, called Matt Damon Improv.

"The other thing that is truly exciting to me is how many Cincinnati troupes we have performing. When OTRimprov started, we wanted to make sure that not only were we fostering our own act and talent, but that we were building community.

“Improv was hard to find on a regular basis five years ago in the Cincinnati/NKY area. Now, there are competing shows on a weekly basis -- meaning, there is improv being performed at multiple venues on the same night! I think it's safe to say the community is growing!"

Want to hone your improv chops? There will be workshops over the weekend, find the schedule online: Space is limited, reserve your slot soon.

IF Cincy, Sept. 6-10. Know Theatre, 1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine. 7:30 p.m. Sept. 6 (Locals night), 7:30 & 9:30 p.m. Sept. 7-9. 2 p.m. Sunday. Tickets $20 Thursday-Saturday (per show), $10 Wednesday and Sunday. Passes range from $35-$90. Tickets online only:

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

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