The Baton Rouge Improv Festival, first of its kind, will be held from May 12-16.
The festival will be held in a hybrid fashion, said the Artistic Director and CEO of the organization Brett Duggan. Workshops, Q and A's, and of course, live performances will be available for anyone to attend or participate through Zoom.
Duggan, also a professor of theatre at LSU, touted the festival's impressive lineup of performers. Former artistic directors from esteemed improv theaters such as Second City in Chicago and In Pro Los Angeles will be leading workshops and answering questions in panels.
"These are amazing, sought-out teachers," Duggan said excitedly.
The groups booked for the performances are equally as impressive. Many different styles of improv will be represented such as short and quipy sketches, long-form, musical improv and a group that does improvised Shakespeare in iambic pentameter.
The styles of the performances won't be the only diversity presented at the festival as the performers themselves come from a vast variety of backgrounds. There will be groups from all over Louisiana, all corners of the United States and even as far away as London and India. Some groups are all female, all African American, all Latinx. Included are performers in the LGBTQ+ community, a mix of young and old performers, and the list goes on.
"Improvisation puts the creative voice into the performer," Duggan said about the importance of diversity of performers. "If there isn't a play written that tells your story, you either have to write it down and try to get people to do it, or you have to keep looking or waiting until somebody shows up to tell the stories that you understand from your life and your background and your culture."
The purpose of this festival, the professor explained, is to create an event that fosters community, conversations about different backgrounds and experiences, and understanding of different viewpoints, in a historically divided and segregated city and state.
"But improv is all immediate everyone on stage is co director co writer, performing, working together to support each other and tell stories make make us laugh at things that we relate to spread understanding [and] kindness," Duggan said.
However, he also acknowledged that having a festival is not going to heal communities overnight.
"This festival won't magically fix it, but it will open discussions and provide voices from many backgrounds. Things don't just magically change ... [and] just saying inclusion doesn't necessarily do anything."
When looking toward the future, the CEO stated the Baton Rouge Improv Festival's mission for the future. The organization plans to do outreach by teaching workshops in public schools, making the festival affordable for everyone and holding events across the city.
"I want to grow upon this great little improv community," Duggan said.