On Stage

On-the-Spot Laughs

The Ocean State Improv Festival is back for a second year of making it up as it goes


An improv show is like a box of chocolates: you never know what you’re going to get when the performers take the stage. For the second straight year, the Contemporary Theater Company will bring that zaniness to South County for the Ocean State Improv Festival, being held from June 6-10. With one year under their belt and a packed itinerary, the CTC is eager to welcome improv enthusiasts back to Wakefield.

“We had an amazing time at the first annual,” says Maggie Cady, the general manager of the CTC. “We’re trying to bring the fun and excitement we had last year for the inaugural festival and amp it up for the second year.”

When the CTC says they want to create a worldwide improv community, they aren’t just talking a big game. This year’s festival lineup is loaded with performers from around the globe, including troupes from Chicago, Atlanta, Canada, Switzerland, Finland, and more. Also in the mix are several Rhode Island teams, including Providence-based companies Improv Jones and Large Mouth Bass, the latter of whom are one of the festival’s headliners. “It’s nice to build the ties within Rhode Island and see the incredible work that’s being done here, as well as expand that and introduce ourselves to a whole new group of people,” explains Cady.

In the spirit of collaboration and friendly competition, the slate of performances include four different mixer shows. Members of different troupes will have the opportunity to mingle and improvise alongside one another in head-to-head improv competitions. The mixer shows will culminate with Sunday’s “Duo Bracket Challenge” on the CTC’s outdoor performance patio. Pairs of performers who have never worked together will compete for audience approval in a bracket-style, voting-based competition rivaling the passion and unpredictability of March basketball. With a potluck to follow, Cady says, “It’s a great way to end the festival with a big outdoor party.”

Visitors will have the chance to try their hand at improv in over a dozen workshops being offered between Thursday and Sunday. Taught by members of the professional troupes, these workshops will teach participants a wide range of skills under the umbrella of improv, from performing in an ensemble to improvising Shakespeare. Several of the workshops will also have performance showcases, for those hoping to be discovered as the next big improv sensation.

“It’s a great week,” says Cady, who is looking forward to the variety and energy the second year of the festival will bring. “We had so much fun last year, and we’re excited to do it again this year.” Wakefield