At Austin's Hideout Theatre, improv is performed several nights a week, and much of the work presented there is theatrical style. "A lot of improv on stage is just... a blank stage, no costumes... but this is kind of the opposite end of the spectrum," says Hideout co-owner Roy Janik. "We're still improvising the content and the characters and the plot and all that stuff, but we'll oftentimes know what genre we're playing in, we'll tell one long story, and we'll have costumes and lights and props."
That's the style of improv that will be on display at this week's Improvised Play Festival. Held yearly at the Hideout, it's a celebration of that longer form, plot-driven improv style. Troupes from Austin and around North America will gather at the Hideout to create original plays (with costumes, lights, props, and all the usual trappings that word implies) live on stage.
The performances will range from the relatively short (twenty minutes) to the feature length (an hour and a half), with most falling at about an hour in length. "It just depends on what the group is comfortable with," says festival producer Quinn Buckner.
"We sort of started small and we're trying to get bigger and bigger," says Buckner. "This year we're trying to get together an ensemble from around North America... to perform a festival ensemble to showcase what we can do."
Buckner and Janik will both be performing in the fest with their respective troupes. Janik's been performing with local troupe Parallelogramophonograph for eleven years, and still finds new and exciting things every time they take the stage together. "Improv is such an ensemble-driven experience that you constantly find new inspiration in your scene partners," he says. "Ultimately there's a glue that binds it all together, and that's following the fun, drawing inspiration from each other, and discovering new things in the moment that you couldn't have come up with on your own, but the synthesis of two or three or four or five or six minds together makes it exciting and new each time."