What: Improvaganza
Where: Edmonton Citadel Theatre
When: June 14-24, 2017

The theatre was packed with avid fans of improv and comedy as Improvaganza kicked off its 17th celebration of international improv and comedy skill. The festival featured 18 groups from across Canada, the United States, and around the world.

Each day showcased a few groups of actors or a single ensemble, which allowed for a display of various approaches to improv and comedy from the adorable Puppy Prov group, which featured dogs from a local shelter, to Folk Lords, a group that did homages to traditional indigenous origin stories and short skits derived from Chekhov plays. Sprinkled between the acts were classes that attendees could sign up for on improv skills, comedy, acting, and other related skills.

The opening night featured a healthy sample of the groups scheduled over the festival and introduced us to the two hosts for the festival, two very energetic and fun individuals who kept me entertained the entire evening. One of the first acts they introduced the crowd to was Your Moms, a group of three women who asked for an action from the crowd and transformed it into an extended comedic scene about three mothers. Tropes about the actors’ moms brought humour to the set, and while it may seem mundane, I was brought to tears when the twist was ultimately revealed.

Another three-man act, Broke Gravy, would invite the audience to ask a deeply personal question, or a “fifth date question,” to which they would initially respond by walking off the stage as if the question were deeply off-putting. When asked about how their first relationship ended, and their reactions were so smooth I actually believed they were done with the skit.

The headliner for the second evening was “The Irrelevant Show” from CBC Radio, whose actors performed a medley of the show’s best hits — the most memorable of which was based on an advertisement for “Lil Shouty,” a fictional pillow designed to absorb the anger and hatred of its users. What made this scene particularly adorable and amusing was that the Lil Shouty sounded almost childlike, and I felt a lot of pity for this poor shouting pillow. When the announcer revealed that Lil Shouty doubles as a punching bag and I heard the dismay in Li’l Shouty’s voice, I was torn between laughing and just wanting to give Lil Shouty a hug. This skit is definitely one worth looking up on the internet, because this description can’t possibly do it justice.

Wonderful actors and more made Improvaganza a huge success once again. I can only wait with excitement to see what wonderful talents come next year. However, if you’re an improv enthusiast — or even if you’re not sure how you feel about improv — I would highly recommend going to Rapid Fire Theatre, which holds regular shows starting September.

Image courtesy of Billy Wong
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