With 20 of the best comedy troupes traveling to Sarasota from all over the country and from as far away as the United Kingdom and Canada, Florida Studio Theatre’s campus will by teeming with comedy and improvisational theater for two days, July 12-13, at the 11th Annual Sarasota Improv Festival.
"This year is exciting for me, because I have an opportunity to shape the artistic vision of the Festival as I have over the last few years,” shared Will Luera, FST’s Director of Improv and Director of this year’s Sarasota Improv Festival. “And I will get to see how the Festival interacts with every part of the theater. I appreciate the trust that Rebecca [Hopkins] has in me as she hands over direction of this amazing Improv event to me."
Headlining the 11th Annual Sarasota Improv Festival is Quartet, a group consisting of some of the country’s top and most experienced improvisers. Formed by Bob Dassie in the 90s, Quartet has taken many forms and featured a variety of members—including Tami Sagher (Writer, 30 Rock, Psych, and How I Met Your Mother), Stephnie Weir (MADtv), and Jack McBrayer (30 Rock). No matter who makes up Quartet, the group is dedicated to relationship and character-driven improvisational comedy.
The four members of Quartet performing at the Festival are Carla Cackowski, Craig Cackowski, Bob Dassie, and Jean Villepique, all of whom were part of the Chicago’s original iO (Improv Olympics) Theater just as improv was beginning to establish itself in the United States. Carla and Craig Cackowski may look familiar— the married couple has their own improv duo, Orange Tuxedo, which was a favorite at last year’s Festival. Dassie has performed and taught improv all over the world, and has appeared on Monk, Community, and HBO’s Funny or Die Presents. Villepique has studied and performed at Chicago’s iO and Second City theaters, and has starred on AP Bio, Sharp Objects, and 30 Rock.
For the fifth year in a row, FST brings international improv groups to the Sarasota Improv Festival. Both making their Festival debuts, 2-MAN NO-SHOW hails from Toronto, Canada, and The Maydays, one of the UK’s top improv groups, are based in Brighton and London, England.
One of the most in-demand Canadian acts, 2-Man No-Show features just two men — Ken Hall and Isaac Kessler — and is known for the pair’s daring physicality and ability to create outrageous scenarios. According to the Chicago Tribune, Hall and Kessler “Display the kind of restless intelligence, physical curiosity, and potent vulnerability that keeps the stakes high and the gags appealing.” 2-MAN NO-SHOW has been nominated for two Canadian Comedy Awards for Best Improv Troupe and Best Comedic Show, and was a critics’ pick at the New York, Chicago, and Toronto Comedy Festivals. “I’ve been trying for a while to get 2-MAN NO-SHOW to the Festival,” shared Luera. “But they’ve been so busy touring and doing gigs in LA. I’m thrilled that Festival attendees will finally be able to see the hilarious characters and unconventional storylines that 2-Man No-Show creates.”
Called “Always great … laceratingly funny, and, at times, deeply affecting” by Brighton’s Fringe Guru, The Maydays create clever scenes and songs on the spot that not only inspire laughter, but also, at times, reflection. The Maydays currently perform four shows with varying approaches — in Tonight’s Top Story, audience members cut out newspaper articles just before the show, and the group comes up with scenes and songs, inspired by a few randomly selected articles, that reflect the specific city’s spirit.
Returning for the Festival are several favorites, including Parallelogramophonograph, Dad’s Garage, ImprovBoston, and Available Cupholders. In addition to the 27 performances taking place over the course of 48 hours, 14 workshops will be held during the day on Saturday, July 12, for those who want to learn from some of improv’s top artists. The Festival concludes with the highly popular finale All Play, where all of the Festival artists complete a series of improvisational games together. The resulting performance is a complete surprise—audience members have no idea what they will see onstage, and improvisers are unaware of what suggestion will spark their creativity.
For the complete list of groups and bios, visit sarasotaimprovfestival.com or floridastudiotheatre.org. Weekend passes are $75, Friday passes are $39 and Saturday passes are $59. Festival passes may be purchased by calling FST’s box office at 941-366-9000 or at floridastudiotheatre.org.