02/21/2020 | News release | Distributed by Public on 02/21/2020 15:43
As the great Robin Williams once said, 'You're only given one little spark of madness. You mustn't lose it.' This weekend promises to offer Newark audiences plenty of unique and entertaining moments, sparked with that little bit of madness, when the city's annual celebration of improv theater kicks off.
This weekend (Feb. 21-22), the Rutgers/NJIT Theatre Arts Program in collaboration with the local arts-based organization, Express Newark, will be involved in hosting the two-day 2020 Newark Improv Festival (NIF). Diverse troupes and performers from across the U.S. will be arriving in Newark to showcase their improvisational stylings ranging from comedy and music to drama.
Proceeds from the festival are planned to help fund Newark residents interested in taking improv classes out of Express Newark.
'The performers touching down in Newark include everything from musical improv, to one-man shows, to student groups to those who've performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival … there is something for everyone,' said Isaac Jimenez, the festival's artistic director at Express Newark. 'What I think is great about our festival is that it's almost entirely comprised of teams of color, which is often not the case with improv comedy. We've created opportunities for folks in the community, showing our audience that anyone can do this and are creating an atmosphere where professional and amateur teams can network, learn and grow.'
Of course, NJIT students are in on the act.
The Rutgers-NJIT student-run improvisational comedy group, Improv Technicians, and the inaugural Newark Improv teams are helping kick off the weekend of festivities, Feb. 21 at 7 p.m. at the Rutgers-Newark campus' Bradley Hall Theatre.
'We've been approaching this event differently than our shows. … It's a different crowd than normal, not primarily college students, so we need to be aware that we might have to be a little smarter with our jokes,' said Nicholas Cheney humorously, a theatre arts and technology (THAT) and chemical engineering double-major who will be participating with the Improv Technicians at NIF. 'I'm very excited for this weekend. When I joined the troupe last year, older members were talking about how great the festival was in years past, and I'm excited to see what the hype was all about.
'I adore meeting other troupes. It's fascinating to me being able to meet like-minded people who are as passionate about 'making stuff up for 15 minutes' as I am!'
The Rutgers/NJIT THAT program's improv courses have seen such rising comedy stars come and go as Golden Globe-winner Ramy Youssef, while Improv Technicians has been 'cultivating a culture of improv in Newark and on-campus' since 2011. The group has been evolving its act off campus right alongside Newark's growing downtown art movement.
'We started the festival in 2013 and it's grown each year,' said Louis Wells, artistic coordinator, Rutgers/NJIT Theatre Arts Program. 'We prioritize diversity in the selection of performers. This is also the first year that we've been able to bring the community onstage as performers. Over the years the students have gotten more invested in the art form and how it creates community. Improv works with the students because it gives them a voice and reveals their intelligence.'
The multiday event will bring in groups from Atlanta, Baltimore, Virginia, New York and Newark, headlined by world-renowned hip-hop improv group, North Coast, and the veteran house team from the Baltimore Improv Group, Casually Dope.
Workshops will take place at Express Newark throughout Saturday morning and afternoon with free introductory-level improv classes and workshops in hip-hop, musical freestyle improv and intermediate-level scene work. Shows resume Saturday at 7 p.m. at the Bradley Hall Theatre.
For more festival info, visit: https://newarkimprov.com/festival