, an improvisational actors troupe that originated at the Brave New Workshop's
comedy theater in 2005, has taken its company to the next level with a new permanent home in Minneapolis's Uptown area.
Until the group opened its doors in December 2010 at 30th and Lyndale Avenue South, it had to compete for time and attention at various venues throughout the week, according to Butch Roy, who leads HUGE Improv.
After working to build up the weekly "Improv-a-go-go" program at the Brave New Workshop, showcasing various troupes, and an improv festival that's now in its fifth year, the group decided to go for a place of its own. "You can only grow so big before you have to risk it and make the big change," he says, adding, "There was a lot of enthusiasm for long-form improv and then came the decision to make the leap."
Now, HUGE Improv is able to share its stage with many other performers, often hosting multiple shows daily.
But the nonprofit group, which is entirely volunteer-driven, is still fundraising for improvements to its all-black-painted theater, which, in traditional style, has just a slightly elevated stage and 100 seats on one level, according to Roy. Previously a retail space, the 4,000 square feet also includes a backstage area and a lobby, while the bar is still in progress (along with the accompanying beer and wine license), he says.
Altogether, the completed aspects of the build-out totaled $26,000, according to Roy. Earlier on, the group was quoted $67,000 for the work, but HUGE Improv was able to make up the difference with lots of donations and volunteer time, on everything from paint to drapes, he says.
The locally based Shelter Architecture
even contributed design services, which was a big help. However, HUGE Improv still needs financial support to offset its construction costs, he says.
Like many other businesses and organizations, HUGE Improv went through a rough period during the recession, where it incurred a lot of debt. Instead of getting bogged down by that, though, "We try to stay focused on the sense of play that makes it fun," he says, adding, "We want to be ourselves with the audience."
Source: Butch Roy, president, HUGE Improv
Writer: Anna Pratt