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Gearing Up for the 2014 Boston Comedy Arts Festival

ImprovBoston is excited to announce that the 2014 Boston Comedy Arts Festival will take place from September 10-14! Our team is headed to the Chicago Improv Festival this weekend to spread the news about our great festival and connect with internationally renown troupes. Please take a sec to fill out this FORM and you'll be the first to know when festival submissions go live.

We are eager to meet you and share what we have in store for this year.

Cheers!

The 2014 BCAF Team


Keeping it Fresh: the ROBO story

Few people command the stage like James Robilotta, founder of North Coast, New York's only freestyle rapping, beatboxing, long-form improv team. He graces festivals with his comedy, confidence & charm.

James started North Coast four and a half years ago. As he puts it, “hip hop and improv go together like sour cream and onion on potato chips - it’s a flavor punch for your face!”

In their almost five years, North Coast has grown from a “discombobulated dream to a team that headlines festivals, performs at colleges & teaches workshops on how we do what we do.” The “always fresh” cast has brought their upbeat, infectious energy to nearly every improv comedy theater in NYC, traveled across the country to festivals such as the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival and the Women in Comedy Festival. The group has prided themselves on not letting rapping be a gimmick; they are both incredible improvisers and great freestylers. http://www.northcoastnyc.com/wp/about-us/

If that’s not impressive enough, James makes his living as a motivational speaker visiting colleges all across the states. Since beginning public speaking in 2002, his message has evolved to that of empowerment and authentic leadership. He uses his comedy background to get this message of positivity and being in the moment across.

What does James Robilotta love MOST about hip hop improv? “Just how stupidly fun it is.” For James, “there is no greater rush in improv than freestyling as your character and hitting the game/pattern (of the scene) simultaneously.” It’s more about “getting out of your own way and practicing than anything else.”

You can be captivated by James Robilotta on stage with North Coast on Saturday September 7; 8PM at the Brattle.


HEIGHTENING RELATIONSHIPS by Matt Nelson

My experiences with ImprovBoston probably sound pretty familiar to many – Memories of playing with Paul, Don, Deana, Bobby and Dave in Mainstage; playing with countless others on the Mainstage, on the Studio Stage and at the Brattle… Subsisting off pre-show dinners and post-show drinks at The Field; late night tacos followed by more drinks and laughter until the wee hours of the morning at Club Kenna; hauling my clothes down to the coin-op laundry on Broadway in Somerville on Sundays after having stuffed our faces at Kelly’s Diner…

Since it’s so familiar, you might find yourself asking why it bears mentioning. Well, for those of you that don’t know me, you might be surprised to learn I’ve never lived in Cambridge, Somerville or Boston; not even New England. I live in Philadelphia.

I run the Philadelphia Improv Festival, and although I’ve been inviting members of the IB community down to play in my festival for the past nine years (shout out to the Perry brothers!), as a producer I don’t get nearly as much time as I’d like to socialize and really get to know performers. In what now seems like serendipity, my introduction to ImprovBoston really came about six years ago via Zach Ward. In 2008 while attending the Dirty South Improv Festival (now NCCAF), I was randomly assigned Will Luera as a workshop instructor. Always the heartfelt ambassador, Will told us about the culture of IB, and it sounded both impressive and inviting. The following year, I got to spend a great deal of time with the cast of Marjean, and that impression was cemented.

The next couple years could play out like a montage of great moments. More IB groups coming to Philadelphia for the festival; tapping incredible IB instructors to teach workshops; the start of the Boston Improv Festival (now BCAF); being invited to come play with the Mainstage and All-Star shows; bringing my roadshow Adrift up for non-festival shows; inviting IB groups down for more non-festival shows. But the thing I learned so quickly was that those moments never ended with the blackout. I remember countless people crashing on countless couches; renting karaoke rooms in Philadelphia’s Chinatown; throwing back pints in Davis Square. I wasn’t just investing in the characters on stage – I was investing in the people in the community.

Since then I’ve collaborated with Elyse on concept shows for my theater. Just the other night I spent nearly an hour on the phone with Michelle chatting blood effects for the stage. IB has been a huge influence on me creatively. But even more so, it’s how they’ve all become a part of daily life on a real, personal level. I’ve been invited to join email listservs and Facebook community groups. For the last few years, every day has been filled with both the minutiae and milestones of life. Restaurant tips, bad work days and T closures interlaced with new loves, old fights and the loss of dear friends. As I’ve watched the theater turn 30, I’ve also watched kids grow up and new friendships form. The depth of how largely IB has integrated into my life has never been more apparent than this past April. That horrible afternoon of the Marathon bombings, I wasn’t fixed to the television – what I needed to know, that everyone was safe, was coming in through email, social media and text messages. Hour after hour, more faces and names would appear like a light bulb, and each had to be checked in on. Those 300 miles might as well have been 3 blocks for all the difference it made. That’s the day I knew that these people meant so much more to me than a night of laughter. Over the better part of a decade, they’d redefined for me what community can mean.

There’s a reason that South Station, Back Bay and Logan are the only three points familiar to me south of the Charles. The heart of Boston to me isn’t Beacon Street, Boston Common or Fenway. It’s the Central Square stop on the T­, where just off Mass Ave, through an unassuming storefront, lies a second home to some of the best people in the world – and where for a few fortunate days throughout the year, I also get to hang my hat as I’m welcomed like family.


It's Raero, you guys!

Rachel (Raero) Rosenthal returns to Boston, where her comedy career began. She was a cast member on ImprovBoston’s Mainstage almost four years, along with performing in various showcase shows, like This Improvised Life. Now living in New York, she performs regularly at the People’s Improv Theater (The PIT). In addition to being an improviser (musical, too!) & sketch writer, Rachel is a side-project mastermind. She founded Bridesmaiding, a website dedicated to helping women plan and execute all parts of a wedding.

Rachel will be performing at this year’s BCAF with North Coast, a freestyle rap improv group from NYC. North Coast’s cast is so dynamic that when these individuals come together the energy is electrifying and contagious. [http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SPDupfdorSA&feature=share&list=UU8_aN9Rp1...

We asked Raero a few questions about her humble beginnings, her favorites and...you guys!!! You’re about to fall in love.

HOW DID YOUR COMEDY CAREER BEGIN?
I started taking improv classes at the ripe age of 11 because I was terrible at team sports. I had way less injuries and more friends in improv than I did in soccer. (Good move, Mom!) A few years later, I had the opportunity to join a sketch and improv team with other young kids – it was pretty amazing. We wrote all of our own sketches – and had adult contributing writers as well. We performed a Second City type of show and wrote and rehearsed together every week. It was a great exercise and many of the kids from my “Half Pint Players” team are still in the entertainment business today. I did that through middle school, high school, and even into my first year of college. Then I stopped, and drank beers for a while.
That being said, it wasn’t until I started performed at ImprovBoston that I started to see the word “career” after the word “comedy.” After performing for many years there – and with the help of talented castmates and solid direction, I started to grow a lot and I finally realized – you know what? I’m kinda good this thing. Maybe I should do this.
And I made the move to New York.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE MOMENT ON STAGE?
Oh man. Who can remember improv after the show is over? I can definitely tell you about my favorite moments BREAKING on stage? There was one ImprovBoston Gorefest show where Patrick French, Bobby Smithney (both present/former IB Mainstage players) and I were all in a scene working with a special effect for the first time. Basically – I played the nurse, and Patrick was the doctor who needed to saw through Bobby’s arm. He couldn’t cut through the fake arm latex no matter how hard he sawed. And so - a circus of twisting and pulling and turning the fake arm ensued – trying to force it to break. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. Even writing about it now makes me laugh. Patrick was struggling so hard with that fake arm – tears were streaming down my face with laughter – and I ultimately peed my pants on stage.
Also, just a few weeks ago – I had a show at the PIT in New York with Family Haircut, and a team member (Phil Wells) had a timely burp that made me laugh so hard, I had to go back stage and ‘get it together’ during the show.
I’m an adult.

LIVING OR DEAD, WHO WOULD YOU LOVE TO SHARE A STAGE WITH?
Gilda Radner, Fred Armisen, Amy Poehler

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE FUTURE OF COMEDY GOING?
I feel like the future is already here. If you want to be seen, if you want to write and produce your own stuff, if you want to get a job… you can do all of these things from the comfort of your own home(town.) It used to be that you had to move to one of the major hubs to be seen, but clearly that’s not necessarily true anymore. If you can write and create quality comedy and get it seen on the ol’ internets, there is money to be made. With Youtube comedy channels like Above Average (among others), the comedy audiences are clearly out there. If you build it, they will come.

TOP PICKS OF THIS YEAR’S BCAF?
This is so tough! Okay here are a few of my faves.

MURDERFIST (Friday @ 10:30 PM ImprovBoston Main Theater)
You will never forget your “first time” and the first time I’m talking about is the first time you see Murderfist. It is the craziest, most in your face, insane sketch show you will ever see. It is not for the faint of heart. It is freaking hilarious though. Also, they’re going up in the same slot as Coach Crotchky (played by my hilarious friend and castmate, Paul Dome!)

JOSH GONDELMAN, NORTH COAST, KEVIN MCDONALD (Saturday @ 8:00 PM Brattle Theatre )
Is it bad if I promote my own show? I mean, let’s be honest. This lineup is sick – I’m just happy to be a part of it. Josh is one of those stand-ups who doesn’t miss a beat ever. Every line of his show is funny. His transitions are funny. His jokes are funny. Everything is so tight and well written. It’s a joy to watch and be a part of. And Kevin McDonald!? Like, Kids in the Hall Kevin McDonald. Yeah – that’s the one.

Then, I mean, my team, North Coast, happens to be New York City’s premiere free style rapping long-form improv team and we’re doing a set too. But that’s just icing on the cake, folks.

Other shout outs go to hilarious standup, BORIS KHAYKIN, the always solid MAGNET THEATER TOURCO, as well as improv super troupe BIG BANG! All of those will certainly be amazing sets.

I can’t wait!

*See Rachel and North Coast perform September 7th at 8PM at the Brattle Theater*


COLLEGE TAKEOVER

This year’s Boston Comedy Arts festival is proud to showcase three all-star college groups: Boston University’s Liquid Fun, Clark University’s Peapod Squad & Gordon College’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen.

Each year these teams participate and compete at ImprovBoston’s College Comedy Festival & Beanpot Competition. We have watched them grow, graduate & even join the ImprovBoston community. It’s beyond impressive and inspiring to watch these often self-directed improv groups master (and we mean master) long-form improv in a year. ONE YEAR.

THE BEST FRIEND. BU’s Liquid Fun not only rocks the stage with a mix of short-form and long-form improv, they are actively involved in bridging the college improv community. Aside from making friends left & right at the College Comedy Festival, Liquid Fun invites many college groups throughout the year to perform with them. On top of that, they hosted their 8th Annual 24hr Comedy Marathon this year. The delirious night was full of not only college groups, but independent improv groups, ImprovBoston casts & stand-ups from Boston and beyond.

Current Liquid Fun president, Delaney Moghanian, is in charge of facillitating practices and workshops for the group. She aims to keep the “level of improv [the group is] doing on the rise.” Also on the rise? Comedy. Delaney firmly believes that “comedy is making a comeback. And laughing is definitely in!” For all of the couch-potato-YouTube-watchers, there is still “the counter culture [that] is insisting on seeing [comedy] live.”

Being a non-audition group, Liquid Fun reminds us about the community of comedy. “We’re all part of these collective ideas that make really good comedy,” Delaney says. Liquid Fun remind us of the reason we got into improv: the amazing friends, the fun we have on stage and the Redbull we used to drink to stay up for 24hrs.

THE INNOVATORS. Throughout the twenty years since Clark’s Peapod Squad was founded, the group has gone through phases of being mostly Theatre Arts Majors. Currently, they are mostly Theatre Majors. This is not the case with most college improv groups and it shows in Peapod’s commitment and skill. Over the years, Peapod Squad has won ImprovBoston’s Beanpot three times and is a two-time winner of the coveted MVB award.

At this year’s College Comedy Festival, college groups competed in a long-form set. Peapod Squad showed their innovative new musical long-form, The Music Man meets a Choose Your Own Adventure book. Having only recently started working on this form, their brave choice paid off.

THE CHAMPIONS. I’m sure Gordon’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen were ecstatic about their 2013 ImprovBoston Beanpot victory, but it was nothing compared to the pride of the audience that night. Watching this unbelievably well-oiled machine is what it must’ve been like to watch Steve Martin before he was Steve Martin. You know you’re witness to something big.

At this year’s College Comedy Festival, Sweaty-Tooth (as they call themselves) was mostly Gordon Seniors and Theatre Arts majors. Akin to the Magnet Touring Company, Sweaty-Tooth is void of a single weak link and performs with poise, ridiculous comedic timing & deliciously British sensibility.

Not only does this college improv group impress the [radio edit] out of the audience, but also Gordon College’s Sweaty-Toothed Madmen have infectious amounts of fun on stage.

Come check out America’s future stars on Sunday SEPT 8 at 4PM in ImprovBoston’s Main Theater. Because that way...when you see them on TV, you get to yell “I saw them before they were famous! Now they’re famous!”


MEGAN GRAY on Junior Varsity & the Animaniacs

As Artistic Director, teacher, and performer at the Magnet Theater in New York, Megan Gray is a comedy hat-trick. Despite her busy schedule, she makes sure to find time for drinking red wine & a good crossword puzzle, because well… she’s “75 years old!” Not really. And she’ll prove it to you by reciting every word to the Animaniacs' "Nations of the World" song: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IDtdQ8bTvRc

Megan returns to this year’s BCAF to perform with Junior Varsity, a longform improv team started by Armando Diaz. We asked her some questions about comedy, life and dance parties.

How did your comedy career begin?
Comedy was a part of my life growing up and the foundations for a future career were laid early by my parents. They loved Letterman, the Marx Brothers, Abbott & Costello, etc.

My first big comedy moment was when I was 6 years old. I recreated a Roy Rogers commercial for my family, playing a French chef who was very excited about the new Roy Rogers sandwich. It really was a dream role for a first grader. Making people laugh became addictive.

Then I moved on to more roles, second grade and eventually studying Dramatic Writing at NYU Tisch. Actually, it wasn't until I started taking improv classes at Upright Citizen’s Brigade in 2003 that I realized you COULD make a career out of comedy. This was a huge revelation for me, and the moment my "official" comedy career began.

What is your favorite moment on stage?
My favorite moments on stage are when I am fully present and connected with my partner or team. Where we're all on the same page and every line feels effortless. You're not worried about where the scene is going. Each moment feels like a true discovery. Specifically, my favorite moment on stage will be with Junior Varsity on Friday, September 6th, 10pm at the Brattle Theater. (Well played, Megan. Well played.)

Best song for a dance party?
Midnight Runner’s “Come on Eileen”!

Living or dead, who would you like to share a stage with?
Madeline Kahn! Her comedic voice was so distinctive. No one does sweetness with a bite better than her.

Where do you see the future of comedy going?
I see comedy expanding on stage and the internet. The quality of both is increasing at a prodigious rate. We can inspire, collaborate and affect each other's work around the world in ways that weren't possible even five years ago, which can only lead to new innovations and greater comedy (according to my comedy meter). If this doesn't pan out, comedy will probably start happening under the sea or in the sky where the impending climate change won't affect us as much.

Who are your top three pics of acts to see at the festival?
Oh man, that's the hardest question yet! The festival gets bigger and better every year, I want to see everything. But if I MUST choose, my top 3 picks are:
1) Johnny Velvet and the Moonbeams (Saturday SEPT 6, 6PM, IB Main Theater): they're from NYC and I'm always surprised by the discoveries they make on stage
2) Geeking Out with: The IMPROVISED Show (Saturday SEPT 6, 730PM, IB Main Theater): I'm a fan of Pam Victor's improv interviews, so this show will totally be worth it
3) Kevin McDonald (Saturday SEPT 6, 8PM, The Brattle Theater): he did stand-up at the Magnet in NYC a while back and I can't wait to see him again.

You can see Megan and the rest of Junior Varsity on Friday SEPT 6 the Brattle Theater,
10PM.


MURDERFIST

That moment on a haunted hayride when you suddenly realize what’s about to happen and part of you panics, part of you needs to see what’s in the dark woods? That’s Murderfist.

If you ask anyone that has seen this award winning sketch comedy group, they will say “it blew my mind. Amazing. I never want to watch anything else. Why did you miss it? You were so wrong. So wrong.” Murderfist is a favorite at comedy festivals, and that is an understatement.

Named Best Sketch Group at the 2010 ECNY Awards, Murderfist was “birthed from the festering arm pit of Florida. [They] were formed by a combination of college student, drifters & drug dealers, which are all basically the same thing anyway,” explains John Moreno. Murderfist consistently pushes the boundaries of comedy. For example, the thirteen hour-long show they did at the People’s Improv Theater (PIT) in NYC. They performed 110 sketches. No repeats. If that’s not impressive, you’re a liar.

Murderfist sketches are bizarre, dream-like drug sequences met with intelligence and impeccable comedic timing. They push the audience out of their comfort zone, while taking care of them. Just when you think they couldn’t possibly take a sketch too far, they push it just a little further. The Kissing Booth sketch, for example. We’ll let you experience it on your own time (NSFW): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PtgBl3QnYQ

When asked where they see the future of comedy going, Murderfist said they want to see “some real Running Man shit. Take murderers out of prisons and put them right back where they should have been since the beginning, in death match comedy! Sure OJ Simpson was funny in Naked Gun, but wouldn’t he be even funnier in a cage match against the Latin Kings. We’re changing the WORLD!”
Who would they love to share the stage with, living or dead? John Wilkes Booth, Groucho Marks and Bruce Vilance.

Join Murderfist on a “journey to the extreme horizon of your mind-ocean;” Friday September 6 at 1030PM in ImprovBoston’s Main Theater.


Noelle Gray - Stand-Up comedienne and warrior

Over the next few weeks we will be highlighting several performers and acts from across the festival. Our first feature is of Noelle Gray, a Stand-Up comedienne from New Haven, Connecticut.

Noelle was originally diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer in 2007. She underwent a bilateral mastectomy and was told that her chances of getting cancer again were slim. She began practicing stand up comedy in 2011. In 2012 she celebrated her five year cancer-free diagnosis only be to re-diagnosed with cancer again a month later.

In September 2012, after a single round of IV chemo her doctor informed her that she had been misdiagnosed, that the IV chemo was not needed, and that it wasn't lung cancer, but metastatic breast cancer in the lungs. Not only was the chemo not needed, but she was now several months into having a serious diagnosis without having received correct treatment for it.

Up until this point she had not explored her diagnosis on stage as the topic of it was too painful to talk about. 16 days after the chemo, the day her hair started to fall out, Noelle wrote her very first cancer-centric set. Four hours later she was on stage trying out her new material.

In February of this year Noelle got some very unfortunate news. The breast cancer had spread to her brain which lead to both chest and head radiation therapy and another round of chemo. Noelle finished the treatment in July of this year. She jokingly likes to tell people that breast cancer in the head means she's got tit for brains.

Now just two years into stand up, Noelle's material is centered around her experience of dealing with what is now terminal cancer, how it impacts her life, and how she perceives the world around her.

See Noelle in the Saturday at 10pm show in the Studio Theater! - tickets available here: http://www.eventbrite.com/event/7706368957


CALLING ALL VOLUNTEERS!

BCAF NEEDS YOU!

The 5th Annual Boston Comedy Arts Festival is right around the corner and we need our friendliest, most reliable, and awesome community members to help make it another success!

We have been very fortunate to have amazing volunteers each year of the festival so we know that you're out there and just waiting for the word to put your name in again! That time is now friends!

This year BCAF will run from Tuesday, September 3rd to Sunday
September 8th. We will need volunteers on each of these nights as well as during the day.

BCAF will once again be hosted at ImprovBoston and will have
additional shows at the Brattle Theater in Harvard Square on Friday
and Saturday. Potential volunteer roles include:

Volunteer Coordinator -This position will work directly with the BCAF Producer to make sure all our volunteer needs are covered in advance of the festival dates. You will be responsible for communication with the volunteer staff and communicating with the House Managers working each night. You can expect to float around to each venue as needed. All volunteers will report to you, and you report directly to the Festival Producer. This position requires more pre-festival hours as well as time during the festival than other volunteer positions.

· Registration Volunteer (Both day time and night time staff needed) - Check in Performers

· IB Green Room Coordinator - Continue Registration, answer questions, keep noise down, keep room clean

· Line Manager - Manages the line for shows for performer passes

· Brattle Line Manager - Manages the line for shows for performer passes

· Brattle Green Room Coordinator - Answers questions, keep noise down, tell performers when to go on

• Street Team positions- take to the streets with posters and postcards, spreading the word about the festival.

• Hospitality Coordinators – help coordinate the after parties, including arrangements, setting up rooms, assisting the front of house throughout the parties, and assisting with clean up after. This position requires staying late at the Theater, especially on Saturday September 7th.

If you are interested in volunteering for one of the most exciting annual events at IB (and we know you are) please email the festival staff at bcaf@improvboston.com!


Now Accepting Submissions

The 2013 Boston Comedy Arts Fest is now accepting submissions. Spread the word! And don't forget - the submission Deadline is 11:59PM on TUESDAY June 25, 2013.

We are also accepting submissions for workshops as well.

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