You never know what could happen Friday nights at the Warwick Center for the Arts. That is precisely what Daniel Lee White loves about the improv troupe he founded nearly ten years ago. Bring Your Own Improv spends one evening a week performing for an audience ranging from ten to about 55 people. The audience is crucial to performances, as they quickly become an involved part of the show.
White explains that his group performs short form improv, which focuses on improv games.
“This form of improv is not exclusive. On any given night we get a kid up there, you never know what can happen,” he said.
The group will celebrate their 10th anniversary with an anniversary festival on Friday, Aug. 3rd between 7 and 9 p.m. The festival will feature two shows, special appearances by former cast members, games, and donut cake for all.
Opened in August of 2008, Bring Your Own Improv initially made its home on Thayer Street in Providence. From there, it moved to Empire Street, until 2011, where it finally landed at the Warwick Center for the Arts.
Bring Your Own Improv hosts weekly shows, a 7 p.m. show that is family friendly, and a late night 9 p.m. show. Each show encourages audience participation, as cast members regularly ask the crowd for input, and, go one step further, inviting them on stage to participate.
White makes it clear that the family friendly disclaimer on the 7 p.m. show doesn’t mean it’s boring. In fact, it often makes the shows more interesting.
“It’s harder. There’s no shock humor. You have to work for the laugh.”
And work for laughs they do.
Amy Kahn and Erich Gottschalk have been cast members since 2014 and 2011 respectively, and speak of the flexibility and smarts that are necessary to a successful show.
Kahn explains that on any given night, the audience could be very willing to participate, or a bit more hesitant, more interested in watching. Either way, she says that the carefully selected cast is flexible and ready to perform.
Each year, the group holds multiple round auditions for new members, and is happy to report a wide-ranging group of actors- who range in age from twenty-one to fifty-four.
This variance in age and experience helps the cast be ready for just about any audience suggestion, Gottschalk explains, “You really have to know both pop culture and history.”
Along with their weekly performances, the group offers a Youth Collective for teens each Friday evening to help hone their skills. Each session includes one month of improv lessons and one month of performing on stage, and seeks to not only teach improv comedy, but also teach self-confidence and social skills.
Outside of the performances and youth workshop, the group is involved in the local community, performing for non-profits and charities.
The group performs once a month in the Izzy Family Room, a common room on the oncology floor of the Hasbro Children’s hospital.
In a press release submitted by Bring Your Own Improv, Erin Scott, the Executive Director of the Izzy Foundation, said, “Families, patients and staff look forward to the night where everyone can laugh, which reduces distressing emotions, helps families recharge and most importantly, draws people together, removing the isolation so many families feel when their child is battling a life threatening illness.”
White is thrilled that his group has spent ten years making all kinds of people laugh. That’s the point of Bring Your Own Improv.
“It’s a chance to drop whatever is out there and just have some fun.”
Bring Your Own Improv offers weekly shows on Friday evenings at 7 p.m. and again at 9 p.m. at the Warwick Center for the Arts. Tickets are $8 for adults, and $5 for seniors, students, military, and children under 12.