Comedy showcase

Johnny Thornton, center, portrays a tree on fire during a This Just In rehearsal Sunday at the Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts.

A crowd of improvisational comedians from around the country and Canada are set to convene in Laramie next weekend for three nights of shows.

The inaugural Mountain West Improv Fest is scheduled for 7 p.m. Sept. 6-8 at the University of Wyoming Buchanan Center for the Performing Arts Thrush Theatre. Admission is free to each show, but tickets are required because of the venue size. This Just In, a student improv comedy group at UW, is hosting the event.

Each night, collegiate teams will perform 20-minute comedy sets, followed by sets by professionals from around the region, said club director Amanda Biggs. Also during the festival, student comedians will have the chance to attend workshops led by visiting professionals and club alums working in comedy. In addition to This Just In, the event is set to include student comedy groups from University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado, Truman State University in Kirksville, Missouri, University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan and University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan. Cheyenne’s Ozymandian Theater is scheduled to perform Thursday and Denver’s Jon Bon Jovaries — an improv duo that includes UW graduate Kim Lockhart — is scheduled to perform Friday. On Saturday, comedians from different schools will be mixed together and perform alongside a professional coach.

“It’s going to be busy, and it’s going to be really fun,” Biggs said.

The UW team was inspired to organize the improv festival after it was invited to a similar event in Saskatchewan last winter. Improv comedy is popular at universities in the Midwest and West, but not as much in between, Biggs said, and the group hopes to raise its profile.

“We thought (a festival) would be a beneficial thing to bring back to Wyoming, where there isn’t a whole lot of recognition of improv,” she said.

Improvisational comedy usually takes one of two forms, Biggs said. In short-form improv, comedians play games that last 5-10 minutes and include a built-in structure to guide the action. Long-form improv often starts with a monologue, followed by a variety of scenes that stick to a similar theme.

Participating teams will choose how they’d like to structure their sets.

“It’s a cool way to see improv from outside of Wyoming,” she said.

Biggs, who’s been performing improv comedy for about 10 years, said the club was excited about bringing a range of comedy styles to Laramie audiences.

“Hopefully, audiences are going to get a wide variety of improv, which is what we wanted to do with the festival,” Biggs said.

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