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Midvale Journal

Second annual Wasatch Improv Festival brings big laughs, bigger talent to Midvale

Feb 05, 2019 02:46PM ● By Bob Bedore

The eight-person team from Los Angeles called Murder, Murder improvise an entire murder mystery in under 20 minutes. (Chelsea Hull)

By Bob Bedore | bob@mycityjournals.com

Organizers of the second annual Wasatch Improv Festival (WIF) were a little worried going into their second year. The first year of the festival had been a great success and was already being mentioned as one of the best festivals of the year by some performers. But in the end, they didn’t have to sweat a drop as the second installment of the WIF was bigger and better than ever. 

Thirty teams, representing 11 states, came to Utah to perform improv comedy at the Midvale Performing Arts Center. The event lasted three days and included not only performances for people to attend, but also classes and special events. All in all, it was 72 hours straight of good times and an improv lovefest. 

“We really wanted this to be a great showing,” said WIF board member Jason Wild. “Last year was so much fun, but it was good to take what we learned from our first year and see the improvements to this year’s festival. And I’m excited to do it again next year and raise the bar even higher.”

For those unfamiliar with the art form known as improv, here’s a quick rundown. Actors perform scenes without a script and usually only a small suggestion from the audience. They have to rely on, and trust, their teammates to help them create these scenes. Some of you might be acquainted with the television show, “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”. 

But that is just the tip of the iceberg of improv. Within that vague description there are an unlimited number of paths performers can take to entertain. At the Wasatch Improv Festival there was everything from musical, mystery, vaudeville, father-son, married, abstract, short-form, long-form, and full-on audience experience acts. 

“One of the main goals of the Festival is to showcase as many types of acts as we can,” said Jesse Marcus, another WIF board member. “There is a definite style of improv in Utah and we wanted our audiences to see what else is out there.”

For three straight days in Midvale the crowds saw the best that improv offers. Performers from throughout the US were represented and given a chance to show what their area had to offer. There was over 12 hours of made-up comedy. 

Classes are also a big part of the Wasatch Improv Festival. Besides the out-of-state teachers that WIF brings in, they also offer what is called a “Free Lunch” class. Here, actors get to come and get a free improv lesson from seasoned professionals and also get a free lunch during the class. This year’s sponsors of the lunchtime classes were “The Womansplaining Podcast” and “SLC Nerd.” 

Other sponsors of the festival included the Midvale Arts Council, FanX, The Utah Symphony, Life of the Party Entertainment, Five Wives Vodka, B. True Design, and the improv troupe Quick Wits. 

With the main goal of the WIF board being to make the festival bigger and better than last year, the success was apparent. Many actors felt a sense of community with this festival and remarked on how inclusive everything was during their stay. 

“Usually at a festival I’m going to do my classes and my set, but then I’m hanging out in my hotel room,” said teacher/performer Elke Reid. “But this festival just kept having great things to do and so many wonderful acts. I didn’t want to leave the theater.”

True to her word, Reid didn’t leave the Midvale Performing Arts Center until nearly 5 a.m. on Sunday. 

So now it’s on to next year. What will the members of the Wasatch Improv Festival do to top what is already being called one of the top festivals? No one really knows. But when it comes to improv, there is one thing you can count on…

They’ll make something up.