Kickstarter Campaign ends TONIGHT!!!

Cincinnati Comedy Team Building

There’s so much going on, we just had to make the latest Community Announcements internal email public. Buckle up!

1. The Ballad of Improv Cincinnati - The Improv Cincinnati Kickstarter ends tonight at 10pm! To celebrate crossing the $10k thresh hold, we've released the footage "The Ballad of Improv Cincinnati", a Delmar Davis original song also featuring Tone Branson and Mary O'Connell. We love it so damn much! Watch it here

And just a friendly reminder: There are a handful of rewards our students in particular may enjoy (outside of the swanky IC-branded swag), such as the original improv guides. They'll be short PDFs, co-written by Jon and Colin and packed with helpful knowledge, tools and techniques: 

  • Overcoming Fear – A brief guide to help new improvisers overcome fear, shame, and performance anxiety. Provides tips on how to navigate a scene when you're in your head. Lists several common fear-based defense mechanisms, how to notice them, and how to avoid them. 

  • Game Styles and Strategies – What is game? Different theaters and teachers have different opinions! This short guide will tell you all of the game definitions we've learned as well as how to execute them. 

  • Forms From Around The World – A brief introduction to signature improv formats from theatres across the globe. Useful if you are or would like to one day become an ongoing performer. 

  • Saving The Scene – In a stalled improv scene that feels impossible to salvage? "Saving the Scene" will provide tips and tricks on how to revive any failing scene. 

Only $10 each - or $25 if you buy em all. If you'd like to purchase one of these individually - or add it to your existing pledge, it's easy. Just follow the instructions here.

1. Did you know? - Did you know that Improv Cincinnati has...

- Student IDs that let you get into Saturday night improv shows for free? If you're an active student and haven't received one, please reply to this email.

- A sketch comedy writing group? All are welcome, just let us know if you'd like to join. First you'll need to sign into the IC Slack Channel…

- An improv team that features a music producer, a beat boxer, and a free style rapper? It's called Cavalcade and it's happening this Saturday.

2. Give back and support PFLAG - The next Improv(e) Cincinnati event is TOMORROW at 9am @ CPT. We'll be assembling PFLAG bracelets w/support group info to be given out at the PRIDE parade. Improv Cincinnati Founder and big shot Jon Ulrich (ie, me) will be there. He will be requesting autographs.

Learn about the event here & Join the Improv(e) Cincinnati FB group here.  

3. Improv Supercharge - One of the coolest electives we've ever offered. Seven teachers are teaching seven different workshops. You can also register for your favorites a la carte. This week's is "Improv for Commercials and Bookings" with Jess Harris. Jess has trained at every improv institution and spent years in the trenches of Hollywood. Learn more here 

4. Cincinnati Sketch Contest and Show - This summer we launch a brand new sketch comedy review focused entirely on Cincinnati. And a great show needs great sketches. Want to try your hand at sketch writing? Learn more here.

5. Final performance of "Live from Jabba's Palace" - IS SOLD OUT. Hope you snagged your tickets! This was such a fun, epic, and hilarious production. Huge thanks the production team, cast, and volunteers who made it happen. The Force was strong with this one!   

6. The Long Form Mixer Cometh - The #1 best way to get better at improv is to perform in front of a crowd. The next opportunity is the Long Form Mixer on Friday, June 7 at 7pm. Mark your calendars. Open to all. If you haven't completed 201-Theatricality, it may be a learning experience - but it will only help your improv journey (even if it's a little scary)! 

7. Laughing the Night Away - Improv Cincinnati is pleased to host "Laughing the Night Away", a fundraising show for Alzheimer’s Association of Cincinnati. This is a comedy show for everyone, but it’s dedicated to the caregivers and families of patients diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Special thanks to Tom Badger and Emily Elma for leading! Learn more here.

April and May 2019: Our Busiest Months Ever


There is SO much going on in April and May. Take a gander below:

1. Long Form Mixer is here! - The Mixer is a beloved IC tradition, however it only focuses on short form Whose-Line style games. The new Long Form Mixer will be long form only. (Shocking.) First one is this Friday nightApril 12. All are welcome. Learn more here & find Facebook event here.

2. Give back - This Saturday, April 13, Improv(e) Cincinnati participates in the annual Cincinnati Parks GreenUp Day at California Woods Nature Preserve. Come mingle and give back in the great outdoors! Learn more and register here.

3. Three Year Bash - Just a reminder that April marks IC's Three Year Anniversary (!), and at the end of the month we're doing it up right with three different events! Tickets are free, limited, and going fast. Join us! Learn more and grab tickets here

4. New competitive improv show - The Bucket List is unlike anything IC has done before: Led by Charlie Roetting, two improv teams are determined randomly from a pool of registrants. Each team gets 20 minutes to win over the audience. The winners get an actual prize worth actual money (!). Want to play? You gotta register first. All skill levels welcome. Learn more and throw your name into the hat here.

5. Star Wars Variety Show - "A Night at Jabba's Palace" includes improv, sketch, stand up, and more  all through the Star Wars universe. IC original productions consistently sell out, so if you want to attend learn more and buy tickets now. (Seriously). Get in free if you volunteer. Interested?  

6. Cincinnati Sketch CONTEST and Show - This summer we launch a brand new sketch comedy review focused entirely on Cincinnati. And a great show needs great sketches. Want to try your hand at sketch writing? Learn more here.

We’re so grateful to have such a terrific community who can make all of these things happen. Hope to see you there!

Make Improv History on 4/12!

Cincinnati Comedy Team Building

Sean Dillon here.

Improv Cincinnati’s first ever Longform Mixer happens on Friday April
at Clifton Performance Theater. It starts at 7pm, ends whenever,
admission is free, and everyone's welcome. We need reps in order to
improve at improv, and mixers are an excellent way to get them.

This is also the first time I’ve ever written a blog for IC. A quick
scan of previous entries suggests this post should be approximately
300 words long.

Therefore, please know that the Longform Mixer will be very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
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very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very, very,
very, very, very, very, very, very fun.

Here’s the Facebook Event for IC Students

BIG NEWS: Three Year Anniversary Bash

Cincinnati Comedy Team Building

This month, IC turns three! To celebrate, we're having a Three Year Anniversary Bash - and it's not only one event, it's three

Friday Apr 26 will be a laid back late night party with fun improv-y "Side Quests". (Registration required - Password is ThreeYears)

Saturday Apr 27 will have a bit more pomp. Awards, trophies, a new IC song, pizza(!), and a few surprises. (Registration required - Password is ThreeYears)

Sunday Apr 28 will be a hangover Mixer/brunch. Show up at 10am. Whoever shows gets to decide if we have a Mixer, go to brunch at Frisch's, or do both. (No registration required)

Tickets are free but limited. We won't be surprised if they sell out, so if you'd like to attend any or all register soon. (Also, please only register if you definitely plan to attend).

Here are the links again:
Friday Night
Saturday Night
Password for both is ThreeYears

Should be a great time - and is our small way of saying thanks for the last three years!

All the best,
Jon and Colin

Announcing The Cavalcade Showcase

The critics rave that Cavalcade knows how to put on a show
We rap about anything - we never know where we’ll go.
Our lines are improvised because we go with the flow
We’d be on Wild’n Out but we ain’t trying to go pro.

If you haven’t seen us play then you must rectify this mistake.
The first Saturday of the month - we should just make it a date.
The show starts at 10pm because we like to stay up too late.
Like caffeine in your coffee, our rhymes will keep you awake.

As if that weren’t enough, we have some tricks up our sleeve.
We’ll be welcoming some guests that you must see to believe.
A rap act or a poet? Or someone entirely unforeseen?
It’s different every time, so the truth remains to be seen.

TL;DR: Improv Cincinnati introduces The Cavalcade Showcase, a monthly show that brings together freestyle rap, improv comedy, hip hop acts, stand-up, spoken word poets, and more! Catch it the first Saturday of the month at 10pm. Find details on the first performance here.

The Bucket List

Author: Charlie Roetting

Do you have a Bucket List? We do and you’re on it.

On the third of Saturday of every month, ten improvisers throw their names into a bucket. Then, before the very eyes of the audience, two teams of five players each are randomly selected determined by two lucky audience members drawing names. Once the teams are decided, an opening act gives them time to meet one another and talk strategy. This opening act is henceforth known as…The Sacrifice.

Now it’s time to rumble.

Both teams square off in a head-to-head improv showdown. Polish up your pennies because a coin toss determines the order. Both teams spend UP TO twenty minutes doing whatever they want – and we mean WHATEVER they want (within reason) — so long as it isn’t scripted.

At the evening’s end, the audience determines the winner. The losing team goes home packing, shy one set of steak knives. The winning team however, receives a nice little prize – yep, one with cash value – and is automatically placed back into the bucket for the following month. Bet you can taste that sweet sweet mysterious prize right now.

We should all keep a bucket list. If you don’t, you should start. And if you do, you should add to it: “Winning the IC Bucket List”.

Throw Your Name Into The Bucket List Below. The first 10 who enter will be contacted to participate. The rest will be put in the queue for another month…

Name *

**Kidding! It is the only rule

New Teams Announced!

Thank you to everyone who attended our recent round of auditions. We’re honored to have so many talented and passionate students. You’re energy and dedication are the traits that keep this theatre running, and more importantly, you help us fulfill our mission of lifting spirits and inspiring personal growth.

A new house team will be comprised of: Josh Bush, Miguel Trejo, Sam Corder, Sania Arab-Corder, Sam Holcomb, Samantha Voigt, Alex Morris, Des Morris, and Jordan Mytton.

Castle of Wonder welcomes Josh Shreve and Eric Holmes.

Wampus welcomes Ada Cencki.

Charlie Roetting coaches a “Special Missions” team that will learn and perform the “Pretty Flower” form. Performers will include: Cyndi Stinson, Jason Lenczicki, Evie Epifano, John Gilsinger, Chris Wang, Cat Ward, Mary Lee Sauder, and Brandon Isaac.

Finally, we welcome back our all-female house team formerly known as Brovaries: Mary O’Connell, Audrey Macneil, Jenna Yuenger, Chloe Kaplan, and Amanda Monyhan.

Please congratulate these terrific performers when you see them. We’re thrilled and grateful to have them aboard the IC performance family!

Read More

Cincinnati-Themed Sketch Comedy Show and Contest

A New Sketch Comedy Format

This summer Improv Cincinnati launches a brand new sketch comedy review focused entirely on a city near and dear to all of us: Cincinnati. Each show, audiences will vote for their favorite sketches. The sketches receiving the fewest votes will be dropped, and two new ones will be added the following week. Every week will be a different show!

The Audition Starts Now

If you want to be a writer (and possibly performer!) for this show, submit your best Cincinnati related sketches now to Only the best entries will be added to the review. The sketch that receives the most votes every performance will earn that sketch’s author a gift card to a Cincinnati-based business or restaurant.

We can’t wait to read your sketches - and to perform them for a live audience this summer!

Good Luck!

Auditions: House Teams

It’s that time again! We’re having auditions on Sunday March 3rd (10am - noon) for our improv house teams. House teams are Improv Cincinnati’s featured teams with regular monthly performance opportunities. They’re open to everyone, but preference will be given to those who have completed the five levels of IC’s training program (or equivalent). We look forward to expanding our roster of players and providing new opportunities to our graduates.

Check the levels that you have completed... *
Please list all that apply...
Availability *
When Can You Rehearse? Check all that apply.
Let us know anything else you want to say...

5 Ways Improv Can Enhance Relationships

#1 Positive Interactions

As almost everyone knows, the fundamental principle of improv is "Yes And", which is essentially affirming and validating each other's choices in an act of selfless collaboration. There's also a natural positivity when improv is done well because comedy is meant to lift our spirits. Incidentally, love is uplifting and positive, but over time it often slides into negative interactions.

John Gottman is a psychologist who studies how the daily interactions of couples affect their relationship over the long term. His research has accumulated enough data that Gottman can now view video tape of a couple interacting and predict (with 91% accuracy) whether their marriage will end in divorce within five years. The offending actions are often subtle microaggressions that many of us take for granted: contemptuous eye-rolling, exasperated sighing, and biting sarcasm. Casual, habitual negativity kills relationships. Improv is a positive and nonjudgmental art form; it gets us in the habit of sharing joy with the world.

#2 Wholeheartedness

Part of the spirit of Yes And is that scenes are exponentially better when the actors eagerly accept their partner's offers. New improvisers often reflexively block the offers from scene partners because they fear losing control of the scene. It’s interesting that the natural inclination many of us have is to put up defensive resistance to anything that challenges our comfort zone. The #1 trait of excellent improvisers is wholeheartedness, which is to have the spirit of jumping into things with zest and total commitment.

In life, couples reflexively block the ideas of their significant others because they’re reluctant to step outside of their comfort zones. Constant rejection can stifle the free-spirited nature of an otherwise healthy relationship. Approach your partner’s offers with wholeheartedness, and you will find that this eager acceptance is mirrored back to you.

#3 Active Listening 

You can't “yes” what you don't hear. If improvisers are overworking their brains by worrying about what to say, they're missing the line of dialogue to which they're replying. Someone once said that a good improv actor listens to his scene partner like he's listening to his lover. Why does this resonate with so many students? Because we all know the feeling of new love. Lovebirds want to immerse themselves in each other.

Sadly, when the oxytocin has worn off, we start to lose those intimate listening skills. Active listening means putting down the smart phone, making eye contact, asking follow up questions, and locking in to every word. It means you validate your partner by giving them your total attention. It isn't easy, but it's essential to a healthy relationship. 

#4 Defuse Arguments

Ever find yourself in an argument and wondering why you're continuing to argue? You don't even care that much; you just want to be right. Arguments are depressing, often pointless, and rarely move a relationship forward. Improv scenes are similarly weighed down by the heaviness of arguments, which is why we coach improvisers how to end them. Surprise surprise... a great way to end an argument is to let go of your pride and admit fault. And it turns out that admitting fault often leads to the heart of good improv, which is connect and be emotionally vulnerable. When you defuse the argument bomb, you start intimately connecting on a human level. How many times have you found yourself stuck in an automatic argument cycle? Break the cycle and connect. It's easier than you think.

#5 Know, Care, Say

Will Hines unlocked the secret to performing better improv scenes with three words: know, care, say.

“Know” means that you know the world of the scene. You’re familiar with the people, you understand your occupation, and you play at the top of your intelligence (your characters aren’t unnecessarily ignorant). It’s not a stretch to say that couples should show an interest in each other’s lives, to know each other and to be curious about each other. New lovers are hungry for information about each other because they want to know everything about the other person. Older relationships can take this for granted where couples are no longer even checking in with their partner.

“Care” means that the outcome of the scene matters, that the stakes are high, and the relationships are meaningful. Often, but not always, scenes that are the least successful are ones that are trivial and pointless. No surprise, but relationships are also the best when two people actively care about each other. Great marriages are filled with meaningful conversations, unforgettable vacations, and little acts of kindness. It’s easy to forget the importance of actively showing love when we have mortgages, teacher’s meetings, recitals, etc. It’s good to stop and purposefully take the time to connect with your partner.

“Say” means that great scenes, by their very nature, are interpersonal interactions between two people. That may seem obvious, but anyone who has seen improv has witnessed scenes that are about things, ideas, other people, and even irrelevant nonsense. The same is true about our relationships in life. The best conversations are ones that are meaningful. Allow yourself to slow down and connect with each other. Make time for a weekly check-in where you can voice what you appreciate, and also what’s been bothering you. Too often we keep things in.

Announcements Galore

cincinnati comedy

Magnificent IC Community,

A veritable plethora of announcements follows. Some say too many. To that we scoff haughtily. 


Update from Jon and Colin - In case you missed the annual update. Read it here.

Help a Friend - Kurt Lindemann is a wonderful human being and a veteran computer programmer. He was recently let go from his job and is seeking new employment. His specialty is C#.Net. Can you or someone you know help him out? Reply to us if so.

Second City Workshops and Smash Up Show - A new Second City show at Playhouse in the Park means Chicago improv vets are in town. Two cast mates are hosting a workshop on improvised spoken word/storytelling. Sign up here. We're also doing a special smash up show this Friday at 11pm with performers from IC, Second City, and OTRi. Note: Because it's a specialty show, student comp tickets won't apply. Learn details here.

Give Back with Improv(e) Cincinnati - The next event is Feb 23 at FreeStore Foodback. Come give back to the community and work side by side with fellow IC'ers. Note: You must register ASAP via the FreeStore page to attend. Officially register hereFacebook event. If we don't get enough registrants by Feb 5 we'll be ineligible to participate - so register now.

Diversity Scholars Update - Last round's showcase revenue and donations were enough to sponsor three diversity scholars this round. Thank you for making a difference!

Kickstart IC? - To celebrate IC's three year anniversary and to fund upgrades at CPT, we'd like to run our first ever Kickstarter campaign - and we need help. Are you interested in helping or leading this process? We'll need someone with organization skills and creativity. If that's you, reply to this email.

For IC Students

January Mixer - Mark your calendars for 1/27 at 7pm at Chamelon. Meet other students, play silly short-form games together, eat enormous pieces of pizza. What's not to love?

Town Hall and Auditions - Share your thoughts on how things are going with IC and/or audition to be on a house team. Save the date for March 3. See those events and more at IC's new public calendar.  

Help Out - Volunteering at IC shows is a great way to A) set yourself apart in the community and B) see shows. Our illustrious House Managers, Cait and Erica, have created a new way to sign up. Find it here.


Jon and Colin

Founder’s Message

cincinnati comedy

It’s already 2019!? These years really do keep going faster and faster.

We wanted to take a moment to reflect on the year that was, as well as to give a few ideas of what’s to come.

A few fond memories from 2018:

  • Clifton Players allow IC to use Clifton Performance Theatre full time!!

  • Massive IC community turnout to walk aside Ferris Bueller-themed float in the Northside 4th of July Parade

  • New students team program. These allow Core Curriculum graduates the opportunity to play on a coached improv ensemble and perform at IC shows.

  • Performances in the Dam Good Improv Festival and Improv Festival of Cincinnati

  • Creation of Diversity Scholarship funded by showcase proceeds and donations. The scholarship provides additional opportunities for individuals with unique voices and perspectives to take improv class.

  • Impact!

    • 45 classes

    • 148 students took Improv 101: Fundamentals (formerly Level 1)

    • 35 students completed Improv 501 (formerly Level 5), thus graduating from IC’s Core Curriculum

    • 51 shows and nearly 2000 attendees

    • 9 Diversity Scholarships awarded

The Community in Action…

We also refined our values this year. And while values are nice, they’re nothing without action. Naturally, the IC community really stepped up to model them:

Embodying Yes And:
When Clifton Performance Theatre became IC’s new full-time home (thank you, Clifton Players!), the IC community STEPPED UP! Countless volunteers helped pack and move existing costumes, set pieces and props to Clifton Players’ new home. Sean Dillon led an effort to paint the back room and even provided the paint. New shelves and organization systems were installed. The bar was relocated and spiffed up. Sparkling lights now adorn the performance space. Heck, someone even donated the money to buy new LED color-enhanced lights! We are flabbergasted!!

IC’s House Managers are a delight! Not only do they recruit and manage volunteers, make sure show attendees are warmly greeted and served, and take care of the myriad show prep and clean up activities – they do it voluntarily! Furthermore, they’re always finding new ways to do it more effectively! We are the luckiest!

It seems every time we turn around Nathan Mendel is volunteering more time for IC. He has put in 30+ hours to program a custom class registration system for our website – and also has put in the time and research necessary to help us add and upgrade the theater’s equipment. What a guy!

Thank you to everyone who embodies a Yes, And mindset – and extra special shout outs to Sean Dillon, Cait Riley, Erica Bauman, Nathan Mendel, Mary O’Connell, Tone Branson, and our anonymous LED lights donor!

Fostering a fun, inclusive, and friendly community filled with meaningful and supportive relationships:
Sean Dillon’s monthly Mixer exemplifies this value in every way. Everyone feels welcome, included, and safe, and Sean carefully curates the themes and games in a way that helps blend novice and experienced improvisers without either group feeling outside their skill level. We’re also excited to see the game nights, D&D groups, and karaoke nights that have popped up. The community is easily our favorite part of IC, and we can’t wait to see how we grow and support one another in 2019.

Equipping students and performers with the skills to succeed, the opportunities to try, and the freedom to fail:
We may be an improv theatre, but our scripted seasonal shows are outstanding! Tom Schmidlin and Ed Osterman’s Hogwarts parody “Luna” (directed by Cait Riley) was hilarious and wonderful. Mary O’Connell’s spectacular “Twi-Lit Zone” was deliciously weird and stylish, and sold out well before opening night. Both production casts were jam-packed with IC students. It’s our hope they grew artistically and had experiences as unforgettable as their performances.

In 2018, we were also lucky to welcome legendary improvisers, Matt Donnelly and Rich Talarico. Each taught terrific workshops and were hosted by our friends at Rebel Pilgrim.

Improving our theater, our community, our state, our country, and our world:
We’ve mentioned all the work that has gone into CPT, but did you know about Colette Lindemann’s community service group “Improv(e) Cincinnati”? They’ve already volunteered at Freestore Foodbank, made scarves for people in need, and distributed food for Community Matters. We’re excited to see what they’ll do next...

Looking Ahead

We have a bunch of cool things planned for 2019:

Second City Workshops - In January, we welcome our friends at Second City Tourco who will have a month-long residency at Playhouse in the Park. The cast will offer exclusive workshops to IC: “Creating Original Works with Improv, Freestyle Poetry, and Spoken Word” with Asia Martin and Terrence Carey and “Staying Grounded In Your Insanity” with Chuck Normant.

Regular performance schedules are being created and will be implemented in January. This will allow all student and house teams to have recurring predictable schedules. For instance, Veracity (improv inspired by true stories) will perform the third week of every month and Hot Mic (full length improvised musical) will perform the fourth week of every month. Find out more on IC’s calendar soon.

Meeting days - In 2019 we’ll be consolidating auditions and several meetings onto key days. The first is Sunday March 3. More info to come on this. Make plans to be there!

New scripted show - This summer expect a new musical parody of the Star Wars universe, which may or may not involve Ewoks. Tone Branson will direct and Tom Schmidlin and Edmund Osterman will again pen the script.

Additional theater improvements are planned, including a new audio system, a new projector, and a camera system to record shows.

Thank you

2018 reinforced yet again that Improv Cincinnati is more than just a theatre. It’s a community and home for lovable weirdos. We move into 2019 with a passion for great improv, a desire to improve people’s lives, and a love for the students and performers who make this place special. Thank you!


Jon and Colin

Have a surprising story? RISK! is coming...

cincinnati comedy

RISK! is coming to town in February, and they’re seeking stories! Check out the message below:


My name is Brad and I am looking for storytellers in your area to pitch true stories from their lives for consideration to be in the RISK! live show that is coming to CINCINNATI on 2/8/19 @ LUDLOW GARAGE


(Please note: while RISK! like to offer a theme as a launching point for storytellers to brainstorm around, we are much more interested in great stories than we are stories that adhere closely to said theme. Alternate theme ideas might be "What was I thinking?" or "Secrets.")

I am reaching out to you because I found your contact information while looking up storytelling and comedy organizations in your area. I am hoping you can encourage the storytellers, comedians and performers in your community to pitch us their stories for the chance to perform in our live show.

RISK! Is a live show and podcast “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public” hosted by Kevin Allison, of the legendary TV sketch comedy troupe The State. RISK! has featured people like Janeane Garofalo, Lisa Lampanelli, Kevin Nealon, Margaret Cho, Marc Maron, Sarah Silverman, and regular folks from around the world, dropping the act and showing a side of themselves we’ve never seen before. The RISK! podcast gets over a million downloads each month. called it “jaw-dropping, hysterically funny, and just plain touching.”

RISK! is not like other storytelling shows. It’s “where people tell true stories they never thought they’d dare to share in public.” We encourage our storytellers to step out on a limb, be brutally candid and emotionally raw. This is an uncensored show where taboos are tackled and people talk about things they ordinarily might not share in mixed company, but might save for their therapist.

To hear some of our stories, go to:

For more information about what we look for in story pitches and how to submit, go to:

Send us your pitch by: 1/4/19 to be considered!

Please let the performers in your community know about this exciting opportunity as soon as you can, and let me know if you have any questions!

Thank you,


On The Importance of Object Work

originally by Micah Philbrook

July 3, 2018 14:00

I remember watching youtube videos late one night on improv and object work (yeah, I’m an improv nerd). In this one video*, there was a clip with an improvisor from Barcelona, I believe, who described improv, and specifically object work, as “creating in the minds of our audiences”. That has stuck with me ever since. It’s a powerful concept and one that I think gives improv artists a responsibility for this often forgotten aspect of improvisational theater.

Just in case there happen to be any readers of this article that are not improvisors, that have not devoted time and money to this art, that have not watched or performed in countless shows, dissecting and analyzing them late into the night with friends, then allow me to explain what object work is before I go any further.

In Improvisational theater, “Object Work” (a.k.a. “Space Work”, a.k.a. “Environment Work”) is the act of manipulating negative space to create imaginary props, costumes, and set pieces that help create the world the scenes inhabit. In short, it’s make believe cups and suspenders. It’s very different than what we improvisors call “finger props”, i.e. a thumb and forefinger gun or the Inspector Gadget phone. It’s closer to mime than perhaps many improvisors want to admit, but that is a useful comparison for any non improvisors reading this. If you are still confused, I encourage you to do a google search for the term “object work” and watch any one of the hundreds of youtube tutorials that will turn up, each professing to offer some useful tips and tricks to interested viewers.

But this article isn’t simply on what object work is, but on why I feel it’s important in our craft, perhaps one of the most important aspects, that is sadly often overlooked or completely abandoned.

For Us
First and foremost, I believe object work to be extremely valuable for us as creators in this art form. By existing in our environments, we uncover details that can inspire us and lead to powerful discoveries about our characters and the environment. Simply using the items that would normally exist in a space, say a kitchen, can tell us so much about the character we are creating. How does this person make coffee? Where do they keep the cups? Do they know where the filters are kept in this kitchen? How am I going about this process, am I relaxed like I’m in a home? Is it my home? Or am I being professional or guarded like I am in a work environment? The answers to these questions, uncovered in real time, will tell the improvisor who they are playing and give hints towards their awareness and comfort within this space. If we are open to these discoveries, we as improvisors will find endless material from which to create nuanced and believable characters free from forced or unknowing choices.

For Our Partners
Secondly, I believe that a concentration on object work provides our scene partners similar inspiration about the relationship our characters are in, their character’s relationship to us, their relationship to the environment, and their own ability to exist in the world. Using my kitchen example again, if my scene partner reaches for a cup but doesn’t know where they are kept, do I? And if so, why? And if they are making coffee, perhaps I can get out that tray of pastries in the fridge. What are the pastries even doing in the fridge? And if we’re both preparing food related items, do we work here? Are we setting up for something specific? Or are we merely getting our breakfast together? Is this a special occasion or our normal routine? By being aware of our partner’s choices and actions, often called “moves”, we are allowing for discovery. And if my partner’s moves can lead to discoveries for me, ipso facto, my moves can provide the same fertile ground for my partner.

For Our Audience
It is in this area that I feel the object work skill of an improvisor can be the most profound, even as I admit it’s almost more of a side effect. Our artform of improv is almost entirely unique in the world of the Theatrical Arts (capitalized for importance and pretension) in that we allow for this sort of make believe material creation. I am not aware of any other theater where the actor can create props out of negative space without first explaining what is going on to the audience. It is taken for granted in this medium (sadly, sometimes even by the improvisor) that the actors will be using pantomime to create whatever items and pieces of the environment are needed at the exact moment they are needed. If you consider a broadway production, with their elaborate sets and detailed costuming, it is almost laughable to imagine actors in those shows curling their fingers around an imaginary cylinder and beginning to move their arms like they are using a broom. It would look out of place and therefore the item itself wouldn’t be remotely believable in any way other than as if the character was pantomiming. In improv, the characters are not pantomiming, they are using an actual broom. And since there is that unspoken agreement between audience and artist, I think we have to take this very seriously. But more on that later. What does good object work do for the audience of an improv show? Well, I’ll go back to the first quote I referenced at the start; we are creating in the minds of the audience, in their imagined reality of the world on stage. Every bit of pantomimed object work we create is filled in by the audience. That coffee cup is given shape by the improvisor, but it is given color by the audience member. That tray of pastries is given dimensions by us on stage, but it is given it’s contents (at least initially) by the audience member’s imagination. And as we create more imaginary items, the audience creates even more. If we mention that we are in a kitchen, the audience has already begun defining that space, coloring the walls and creating the counters, using their own experience with kitchens. When we make the motion of sweeping or using a shovel, the audience is calling up their own memories of the same items, allowing their imagination to give color and life to an otherwise make believe situation. And therefore, when we create these items that an audience fleshes out, we need to take that responsibility seriously. They are willing to go along with new developments to their perceived world, but a particularly jarring one, caused by an improvisor not remembering that they are holding a cup or forgetting to open that door as they exit when they closed it as they entered the scene, can throw the whole world into momentary disarray. The effects may only last a second, or perhaps for the rest of the scene. Will it cause them to stand up, exclaim their disapproval, and storm out? I hope not. But it can take them out of the scene and therefore could potentially ruin the experience for them. And even if it transports them out of it for one scene, collapsing their suspension of disbelief, isn’t that enough of a reason not to do it?


Dear improvisor, please don’t get lazy with your object work. Maintain a sense of realism so that you don’t work harder to justify your laziness. What follows are some tips I tell my students and actors when we’re dealing with object work.

Object Work Is Important
Often I see improvisors ignoring object work to focus on character work and dialogue. Sometimes, they focus only on dialogue, letting character work fall away as well. I think this is because in our world of make believe, our words seem like the most tangible thing, ironically. We have to be the kind of artists that can utilize all areas of this art to create. And for reasons I have mentioned above, object work may be the strongest way we can draw our audience in to the experience. By forgoing or forgetting object work, we’re giving our audience (and ourselves) only a small portion of what they could be getting. And we are missing out on some brilliant discoveries in our scenes.

Objects Come From Some Place and Go To Some Place
In that oft repeated improv phrase, there is a lot of simple truth. That cup you’re drinking from can’t just magically reappear in your hand. Remember to set it down and remember where you put it. Your phone doesn’t just start in your hand, you have to fish it out of your pocket or bag. That computer desk doesn’t disappear when you need to stand up, that car door doesn’t close itself, that office door has to be opened to leave the room... You see where I’m going with this.

Avoid Cartoon Eating
When an improvisor is doing some rote action (i.e. stacking boxes) that becomes mindless to them, they will often lose the basic realism of the activity. The same box gets moved to the same point in the other stack over and over again. I call it cartoon eating after the way animators saved time by drawing their characters taking the same bite of food again and again. Instead, make every action real by seeing each box and where you put it. Even in this area, discoveries can be made that will drive the scene forward or create new aspects of character and relationship.

Leave Space For The Broomstick
Whenever I am using an object, like a broom or a shovel, something I close my hand around, I will leave space for the object. It seems like a small thing (and it might be depending on your hand size), but the action allows my brain to continually perceive the object as real. I have seen many improvisors use a closed fist while sweeping and invariably the realism is lost and their hands move out of sync in a way that no one sweeping ever does. Unless their broom was broken or had some sort of odd hinge. This concept can be applied to almost any object, but essentially you’re allowing your brain to do a lot of the work for you by telling it this is not just imaginary space but an actual item you’re holding. By maintaining that encapsulated negative space, you create a bit more reality for you and allow for even more discovery.

Lastly, I want to leave you with a quote from Viola Spolin, the woman who created (modern) improvisational theater, whose son went on to found The Second City. Spolin has a wonderful saying about object work and our individual approach to it. I’m paraphrasing here, but the quote is “If it’s in your head, we can’t see it. If it’s in space, we can all play with it”.

I take this to mean if you really believe the object is real, then it will be real for us all. But if you are only playing make believe, then it will be invisible to everyone. You have to believe it or no one else will.

Is there some aspect of object work that I have left out? Do you have any thoughts or a response to what I’ve laid out above? Let me know in the comments or DM me.

*I can’t for the life of me find that video with the Barcelona improvisor again, so if you know to which one I’m referring, please post it in the comments or DM me. I’d like to link it and give the artists’ credit.

Improv(e) Cincinnati's next volunteer project: Scarfing It Up!


Date/Time: Saturday, November 10, 10:00 AM to 1:00 PM
Location: Clifton Performance Theatre

We're going to gather at CPT to create great heaping piles of easy, no-sew fleece scarves for a local shelter to distribute to people in need of warmth. If we have time and fingers, we'll also make a few blankets.

No crafty skills? No worries! No skills are necessary for this project. All you need are a pair of scissors and some moderately functional fingers. Here's a video that shows exactly what we'll be doing:

We will provide some of the necessary materials, but it would be especially helpful if you're able to bring some, as well. Here are the things we'll need:

Fleece fabric - 
Various colors and patterns to appeal to different tastes.
1 yard of fleece will make 4-6 scarves.
4 yards of fleece will make 1 blanket.
Fleece can be obtained at most places that sell fabric (JoAnn, Walmart, etc.).

Scissors - 
Fabric scissors are great for this, but regular old scissors will work just fine.

Folding tables for work surfaces - 
I have a couple I can bring, but we might need a couple more as well.

That's it! It's about as easy as it gets.

We'll make as many as we can from 10am until 1pm, then we'll clean up and maybe go grab some lunch.

Sound good? You can RSVP to this Facebook event:

Or, if you don't use Facebook, you can let Colette know you're coming at

Auditions: The Twi-Lit Zone

Improv Cincinnati is proud to announce auditions for The Twi-Lit Zone: A New Dimension of Holiday Tales, an original Christmas-themed parody of “The Twilight Zone” by writer Mary O’Connell. Auditions will be at Clifton Performance Theatre on Saturday October 6th from 11am - 2pm. Sign up for an audition slot in the form below…

Rehearsals begin Oct 14th (generally on Sunday and Monday evenings); Performances are December 7th, 14th, and 21st.

Frost Whirling, narrator
‘Nezer Scrooge, redeemed misanthrope
Jay Marley, deceased business partner, now guardian angel of Nezer
Bubba Ratchet, simpleton employed by Nezer
Tiny Tubs, spoiled pet dog/cat of Bubba
Frank, obnoxious nephew of Nezer
Accountant, wasteful spender of Nezer’s money
Partygoer, disorderly guest who adds to chaos
Ghost of Christmas Past
Ghost of Christmas Present
Ghost of Christmas Future
Talkin’ Tracy, life-sized doll that always tells the truth
Mom, perfect TV mom, hiding secret “truths”
Dad, perfect TV dad, hiding secret “truths”
Sally, perfect TV daughter who loves Talkin Tracy
Johnny, perfect TV son who wants to be good at Fortnite
Candy Landis, reporter
Red Barry , reporter and old friend of Candy
Lie Detector Scientist
Rudy Brown, beneficiary of Santa’s gifts
Gingerbread Man
Mrs. Claus

Name *
Choose an audition slot...