Fracas! Improv Festival

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The Fracas! Improv Festival (commonly known as Fracas!) is a three-day (formerly a two-day) annual improvisational theatre festival held at The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. The festival is hosted by Second Nature Improv, one of USC's improv troupes. In addition to performances, the festival hosts discussion panels with professional improvisers currently working in television, film, and/or theatre, as well as improv workshops. While the performances and panels are open to the public, workshops are available only to registered festival participants.

History[edit]

Fracas! I (2004)
The first Fracas! Improv Festival was held on April 16 and 17, 2004, about a year and a half after Second Nature was formed. Noting the lack of attention given to college-aged improvisers at larger national festivals, founder and director of Second Nature, Nick Dazé, started Fracas! as a way to connect with other collegiate improv troupes.[1]

Eight troupes attended the inaugural festival, but with the exception of Recess (a troupe from George Washington University in Washington, D.C.), all the troupes were from California. Two troupes (including Second Nature) Each troupe was given a forty-minute performance slot, with four troupes performing each night. At the end of each performance, the audience voted on a favorite member of each troupe and those favorite performers played in an "All Star Show" which closed the festival on Saturday night. The festival was held adjacent to USC's campus at the Village Gate Theatre, which only sat 75 people at maximum capacity.

Fracas! II (2005)
The second annual festival took place April 15 and 16, 2005, also at the Village Gate Theatre. Ten troupes performed at the festival including Occam's Razor from The University of Chicago. Of the remaining nine troupes, four were from the University of Southern California. Unlike the previous year's festival, troupes at Fracas! II were given only 30 minute performance slots in order to accommodate the larger number of participating groups. Five troupes performed each evening, culminating with the "All Star Show" which ended the festival on Saturday night.

Fracas! III (2006)
The third annual Fracas! occurred on April 21 and 22, 2006, and was attended by six troupes. Because so few troupes participated, each was given a 45-minute time slot. As in past years, the favorite performers from each team played together in an "All Star Show" which ended the festival. New to the festival this year was the addition of professional workshops. Some of Los Angeles' top improvisers including James Thomas Bailey, Andrew Daly, Owen Burke and Eric Hunicutt taught workshops.

Fracas! IV (2007)
The fourth annual Fracas! in 2007 was a huge year of growth for the festival. An unprecedented 15 college troupes participated from nearly a dozen colleges nationwide. Additionally, with the Village Gate Theatre now too small a venue, Fracas! was moved to USC's Ground Zero Performance Cafe, which could fit double the audience of the Village Gate. The festival was expanded to three nights, and took place on April 12–14, 2007. The 2007 festival was attended by more than 1000 people, and had more than 150 registered participants. Fracas! IV consisted of 5 performances each evening, with each troupe performing for 40 minutes. A decision was made to replace the "All Star Show" which Second Nature believed encouraged showboating and was against the festival's spirit of collaboration. In place of the "All Star Show" an open improv jam was held at the end of each night of performances. Any audience members, including members from all troupes, were permitted to perform. For the first time in the festival's history, no admission was charged to audience members, with the bulk of the festival's cost being covered by donations.

Nearly a dozen workshops were held over the course of the three-day festival, allowing participants to study with top performers from The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, iO West, The Groundlings, and ComedySportz. Additionally, Fracas! IV saw the addition of discussion panels held with improvisers who were currently working in television, film, and/or theatre. Panel members included Angela Kinsey and Melora Hardin from The Office, Frank Caeti and Keegan-Michael Key of MADtv and The Second City, and Michael Bunin of My Boys. Panels were held on three topics, "Improv and Sketch Comedy", "Improv in the Entertainment Industry", and "Short Form and Long Form". The latter had representatives from all four of Los Angeles' major improv training centers.

The Onion was the headlining sponsor of the 2007 Fracas! Improv Festival, with additional support from campus radio station KSCR as well as USC's Undergraduate Student Government.

Fracas! V (2008)

The fifth annual Fracas! Improv Festival showed the festival's continued ability to grow. The festival hosted 18 troupes, expanding to welcome three more schools. Additionally, Fracas! became an international festival for the first time ever, expanding its horizons and hosting a troupe from the United Kingdom. The opening night of the festival was moved from the Village Gate Theatre to USC's McCarthy Quad, another first. Fracas! V took place on April 17–19, 2008. Each night offered 6 hours of free improv, showcasing 6 troupes per night and concluding with an improv jam open to the public.

The amount of participating troupes led to more professional workshops, offering students 14 different workshops with a dozen professional improvisers from The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, iO West, The Groundlings, and ComedySportz. The festival also added a fourth discussion panel. The discussion panels once again offered an hour of candid conversation with the country's top improvisers from film and television. Panelists included Ed Helms from The Office, Stephnie Weir from MADtv, Saturday Night Live's Jerry Minor, Todd Stashwick of The Riches, and members the popular improv troupes Convoy and The S.W.A.R.M.. Discussion panel topics included: "Women in Improv", Improv in the Entertainment Industry", "Forming and Sustaining a Cohesive Group", and "Creating an Original Improvised Show".

For the first time ever, collegiate troupes, panelists, and workshop instructors were able to record short messages in the KSCR Fracas! Green Room using the Fracas! Web Cam. The videos were updated regularly so that participants could follow them on the Fracas! Flickr Page.

Participating Troupes by year[edit]

Fracas! XIII (2016)[edit]

Fracas! VII (2010)[edit]

(not sorted into performance dates)

April 16[edit]

April 17[edit]

Fracas! VI (2009)[edit]

April 9[edit]

(plus more)

April 10[edit]

(and more)

April 11[edit]

(and big heaps of others)

Fracas! V (2008)[edit]

April 17[edit]

April 18[edit]

April 19[edit]

Fracas! IV (2007)[edit]

April 12[edit]

April 13[edit]

April 14[edit]

Fracas! III (2006)[edit]

April 21[edit]

April 22[edit]

Fracas! II (2005)[edit]

April 15[edit]

April 16[edit]

Fracas! I (2004)[edit]

April 16[edit]

April 17[edit]

Discussion Panels[edit]

For the first time in 2007, the Fracas! incorporated discussion panels as a new way for professional improvisers to share their knowledge of and appreciation for the art of improvisation with the newest generation of improvisers. While the discussion panels were aimed at college improvisers, they were open to the general public at no charge. The festival planners intended for the panels to provide a starting point for the young improvisers that attended Fracas! to begin considering how the art of improv can continue after college.

Though it was the first time discussion panels were held, a number of high-profile improvisers volunteered their time to be panel members, including cast members from The Office, MADtv, and each of the major improv training centers in Los Angeles. A member of Second Nature Improv moderated each panel.

Video footage of all three Fracas! IV panels are available at the festival website, as well as being the preliminary episodes of the Fracas! Improv Podcast.

2008 Discussion Panels[edit]

The following discussion panels took place at the 5th Annual Fracas! Improv Festival.

Women in Improv[edit]

The Women in Improv discussion panel featured a discussion on the experience of being a female improviser in a predominantly male environment. The following panelists appeared:

Forming and Sustaining a Cohesive Group[edit]

The Forming and Sustaining a Cohesive Group discussion panel featured a discussion with members of the legendary improv troupe The Swarm as well as members of the up-and-coming troupe Convoy. The following panelists appeared:

Improv in the Entertainment Industry[edit]

The Improv in the Entertainment Industry panel involved a discussion of how improvisation is used within the entertainment industry, including improvisation in non-comedic acting, and whether or not improv comedy can work on television. The following panelists appeared:

Creating an Original Improvised Show[edit]

The Creating an Original Improvised Show panel will discuss the process of creating an original show that relies heavily upon improvisation. The following panelists are scheduled to appear:

2007 Discussion Panels[edit]

Improv and Sketch Comedy[edit]

The Improv and Sketch Comedy discussion panel featured a discussion of both Improv and Sketch Comedy, as well as how the two forms of comedy influence each other. Panelists were:

Video footage of this panel can be found as part of the Fracas! Improv Podcast.


Improv in the Entertainment Industry[edit]

The Improv in the Entertainment Industry panel involved a discussion of how improvisation is used within the entertainment industry, including improvisation in non-comedic acting, and whether or not improv comedy can work on television. Panelists were:

Video footage of this panel can be found as part of the Fracas! Improv Podcast.

Short Form and Long Form[edit]

The Short Form and Long Form panel compared the two main types of improvisational theatre. The panelists discussed the supposed rivalry between the two forms, and the benefits to each. Panelists were:

Video footage of this panel can be found as part of the Fracas! Improv Podcast.

Workshops[edit]

With the entire festival aimed at fostering the experience of the college improviser, workshops make up a major part of the Fracas! Improv Festival. For many college improvisers who live outside of the improvisational epicenters (Los Angeles, New York City, and Chicago), the festival is an opportunity to receive professional instruction that is not available to them outside of the three main cities for improvisation. Each year, instructors from Los Angeles' top improv training centers offer workshops at the Fracas! Improv Festival.

In order to take a workshop at Fracas!, one must be a registered festival participant, and thus they must also be a current college student.

2008 Workshops[edit]

2007 Workshops[edit]

2006 Workshops[edit]

Sponsors[edit]

The 2007 Fracas! IV Improv Festival was sponsored by The Onion. Additional local sponsors were USC's Undergraduate Student Government, KSCR Radio. The 2008 Fracas! Improv Festival retained sponsorship by The Onion, and KSCR, and added additional sponsorship from Glacéau, the makers of Smart Water and Vitamin Water.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]

Articles