Fracas! Improv Festival

The Fracas! Improv Festival (commonly known as Fracas!) is a three-day (formerly a two-day) annual improvisational theatre festival held at The University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California. The festival is hosted by Second Nature Improv, one of USC's improv troupes, and is noteworthy for being the first improv festival where only collegiate improv troupes are permitted to perform. In addition to performances, the festival hosts discussion panels with professional improvisers currently working in tv, film, and/or theatre, as well as improv workshops. While the performances and panels are open to the public, workshops are available only to registered festival participants.

History

Fracas! I (2004)
The first Fracas! Improv Festival was held on April 16th and 17th, 2004, about a year and a half after Second Nature was formed. Noting the lack of attention given to college-aged improvisers at larger national festivals, the troupe started Fracas! as a way to connect with other collegiate improv troupes.

Eight troupes attended the inaugural festival, but with the exception of Recess (a troupe from George Washington University in Washington DC, all the troupes were from California. Two troupes (including Second Nature)Each troupe was given a forty minute performance slot, with four troupes performing each night. At the end of each performance, the audience voted on a favorite member of each troupe and those favorite performers played in an "All Star Show" which closed the festival on Saturday night. The festival was held adjacent to USC's campus at the Village Gate Theatre, which only sat 75 people at maximum capacity.

Fracas! II (2005)
The second annual festival took place April 15th and 16th, 2005, also at the Village Gate Theatre. Ten troupes performed at the festival including Occam's Razor from The University of Chicago. Of the remaining nine troupes, four were from the University of Southern California. Unlike the previous year's festival, troupes at Fracas! II were given only 30 minute performance slots in order to accommodate the larger number of participating groups. Five troupes performed each evening, culminating with the "All Star Show" which ended the festival on Saturday night.

Fracas! III (2006)
The third annual Fracas! occurred on April 21st and 22nd, 2006, and was attended by six troupes. Because so few troupes participated, each was given a 45 minute time slot. As in past years, the favorite performers from each team played together in an "All Star Show" which ended the festival. New to the festival this year was the addition of professional workshops. Some of Los Angeles' top improvisers including James Thomas Bailey, Andrew Daly, Owen Burke and Eric Hunicutt taught workshops.

Fracas! IV (2007)
The fourth annual Fracas! in 2007 was a huge year of growth for the festival. An unprecedented 15 college troupes participated from nearly a dozen colleges nationwide. Additionally, with the Village Gate Theatre now too small a venue, Fracas! was moved to USC's Ground Zero Performance Cafe, which could fit double the audience of the Village Gate. The festival was expanded to three nights, and took place on April 12-14, 2007. The 2007 festival was attended by more than 1000 people, and had more than 150 registered participants. Fracas! IV consisted of 5 performances each evening, with each troupe performing for 40 minutes. A decision was made to replace the "All Star Show" which Second Nature believed encouraged showboating and was against the festival's spirit of collaboration. In place of the "All Star Show" an open improv jam was held at the end of each night of performances. Any audience members, including members from all troupes, were permitted to perform. For the first time in the festival's history, no admission was charged to audience members, with the bulk of the festival's cost being covered by donations.

Nearly a dozen workshops were held over the course of the three-day festival, allowing participants to study with top performers from The Upright Citizen's Brigade Theatre, iO West, The Groundlings, and ComedySportz. Additionally, Fracas! IV saw the addition of discussion panels held with improvisers who were currently working in tv, film, and/or theatre. Panel members included Angela Kinsey and Melora Hardin from The Office, Frank Caeti and Keegan-Michael Key of MADtv and The Second City, and Michael Bunin of My Boys. Panels were held on three topics, "Improv and Sketch Comedy," "Improv in the Entertainment Industry," and "Short Form and Long Form." The latter had representatives from all four of Los Angeles' major improv training centers.

The Onion was the headlining sponsor of the 2007 Fracas! Improv Festival, with additional support from campus radio station KSCR as well as USC's Undergraduate Student Government.

Dates for Fracas! V (2008)

The 5th Annual Fracas! Improv Festival will take place Thursday April 17th through Saturday April 19th, 2008.

Participating Troupes by year

Fracas! IV (2007)

April 12

*Birdstrike Theatre, UC Davis
*BUICK, UCLA
*M.R.S. Degree, University of Southern California
*Improvability, UCSB
*Comedy Corner, University of Arizona

April 13

*Vidushak, University of Southern California
*Laser Squad Bravo!, Loyola Marymount University
*The Charles Darwin Experience, University of Arizona
*S.A.D., UCSC
*Commedus Interruptus, University of Southern California

April 14

*jericho!, UC Berkeley
*Live Nude People, University of California, Irvine
*Barren Mind Improv, ASU
*Humor Force V, UCSC
*Second Nature Improv, USC

Fracas! III (2006)

April 21

*Smile and Nod, Team 1, Cal Poly SLO
*Humor Force V, UCSC
*Smile and Nod, Team 2, Cal Poly SLO
*Commedus Interruptus, University of Southern California

April 22

*M.R.S. Degree, University of Southern California
*Occam's Razor, University of Chicago
*Second Nature Improv, University of Southern California

Fracas! II (2005)

April 15

*M.R.S. Degree, University of Southern California
*The MacGuyver Complex, Cal Poly SLO
*Commedus Interruptus, University of Southern California
*The King's Gambit, Cal Poly SLO
*Humor Force V, UCSC

April 16

*Collision Inc., University of Southern California
*On The Spot, CSU Northridge
*Occam's Razor, University of Chicago
*Second Nature Improv, University of Southern California
*Buck House

Fracas! I (2004)

April 16

*Without A Box, The Claremont Colleges
*Smile and Nod, Cal Poly SLO
*BUICK, UCLA
*Second Nature Improv, University of Southern California

April 17

*Humor Force V, UCSC
*Recess, George Washington University
*Danger Police!
*Commedus Interruptus, University of Southern California

Discussion Panels

For the first time in 2007, the Fracas! incorporated discussion panels as a new way for professional improvisers to share their knowledge of and appreciation for the art of improvisation with the newest generation of improvisers. While the discussion panels were aimed at college improvisers, they were open to the general public at no charge. The festival planners intended for the panels to provide a starting point for the young improvisers that attended Fracas! to begin considering how the art of improv can continue after college.

Though it was the first time discussion panels were held, a number of high profile improvisers volunteered their time to be panel members, including cast members from The Office, MADtv, and each of the major improv training centers in Los Angeles. A member of Second Nature Improv moderated each panel.

Video footage of all three Fracas! IV panels are available at the festival website, as well as being the preliminary episodes of the Fracas! Improv Podcast.

According to the festival website, discussion panels will return to the 5th Annual Fracas! Improv Festival.

2008 Discussion Panels

The following discussion panels are scheduled for the upcoming 5th Annual Fracas! Improv Festival, which will occur April 17-19, 2008. More information can be found on the [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas festival website] .

Women in Improv

The Women in Improv discussion panel will feature a discussion on the experience of being a female improviser in a predominantly male environment. The following panelists are scheduled to appear:
*Heather Anne Campbell "(Boom Chicago, ImprovOlympic, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Natasha Leggero "(Reno 911!, Joe Schmo 2)"
*Jessica Makinson "(Halfway Home, Trigger Happy TV, ImprovOlympic)"
*Danielle Schneider "(Best Week Ever, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Stephnie Weir "(MADtv, ImprovOlympic, The Second City)"

Forming and Sustaining a Cohesive Group

The Forming and Sustaining a Cohesive Group discussion panel will feature a discussion with members of the legendary improv troupe The Swarm as well as members of the up-and-coming troupe Convoy. The following panelists are scheduled to appear:
*Alex Berg "(Convoy, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Todd Fasen "(Convoy, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Alex Fernie "(Convoy, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Sean Conroy "(The Swarm, ASSSSCAT, Crossballs, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Billy Merritt "(The Swarm, Uncorked with Billy Merritt, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"

Improv in the Entertainment Industry

The Improv in the Entertainment Industry panel will involve a discussion of how improvisation is used within the entertainment industry, including improvisation in non-comedic acting, and whether or not improv comedy can work on television. The following panelists are scheduled to appear:
*Tim Bagley "(Monk, Will and Grace)"
*Brian Huskey "(VH1's Free Radio, Late Night with Conan O'Brien, Superbad)"
*Jerry Minor "(SNL, Mr. Show, Carpoolers)"
*Kaitlin Olson "(It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Riches)"
*Todd Stashwick "(The Riches, Burn Manhattan, Hothouse Improv)"

Creating an Original Improvised Show

The Creating an Original Improvised Show panel will discuss the process of creating an original show that relies heavily upon improvisation. The following panelists are scheduled to appear:
*Chad Carter "( The UCB's MySpace Show, Creature Comforts, Human Giant)"
*Ed Helms "( The UCB's Seth and Ed's Puppet Talk Show, The Daily Show, The Office)"
*Seth Morris "( The UCB's Seth and Ed's Puppet Talk Show, Curb Your Enthusiasm, The Marijuanalogues)"

2007 Discussion Panels

Improv and Sketch Comedy

The Improv and Sketch Comedy discussion panel featured a discussion of both Improv and Sketch Comedy, as well as how the two forms of comedy influence each other. Panelists were:
*Frank Caeti "(MADtv, The Second City)"
*Heather Anne Campbell "(Boom Chicago, The Groundlings)"
*Sean Conroy "(Late Night with Conan O'Brien, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre)"
*Megan Kellie "(The Great Sketch Experiment, Karla)"
*Keegan-Michael Key "(MADtv, The Second City)".

Video footage of this panel can be found as part of [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas/podcast.html the Fracas! Improv Podcast] .

Improv in the Entertainment Industry

The Improv in the Entertainment Industry panel involved a discussion of how improvisation is used within the entertainment industry, including improvisation in non-comedic acting, and whether or not improv comedy can work on television. Panelists were:
*Jordan Black "(The Groundlings, Halfway Home, For Your Consideration)"
*Michael Bunin "(My Boys, ImprovOlympic)"
*Andrew Friedman "(The Groundlings, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia)"
*Melora Hardin "(The Office)"
*Angela Kinsey "(The Office, ImprovOlympic)".

Video footage of this panel can be found as part of [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas/podcast.html the Fracas! Improv Podcast] .

hort Form and Long Form

The Short Form and Long Form panel compared the two main types of improvisational theatre. The panelists discussed the supposed rivalry between the two forms, and the benefits to each. Panelists were:
*James Thomas Bailey "(artistic director of ComedySportz)"
*Eric Hunicutt "(training director, iO West)"
*Seth Morris "(artistic director of The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Los Angeles)"
*Brian Palermo "(The Groundlings)'.

Video footage of this panel can be found as part of [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas/podcast.html the Fracas! Improv Podcast] .

Workshops

With the entire festival aimed at fostering the experience of the college improviser, workshops make up a major part of the Fracas! Improv Festival. For many college improvisers who live outside of the improvisational epicenters (Los Angeles, New York, and Chicago), the festival is an opportunity to receive professional instruction that is not available to them outside of the three main cities for improvisation. Each year, instructors from Los Angeles' top improv training centers offer workshops at the Fracas! Improv Festival.

In order to take a workshop at Fracas!, one must be a registered festival participant, and thus they must also be a current college student.

2007 Workshops

*Harold Intensive, with Owen Burke, "artistic director, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, New York"
*Character, with Amy Rhodes, "The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Funny Or Die"
*Finding the Game, with Sean Conroy, "The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, Crossballs, The Untitled Onion Sketch Movie"
*Shakespearean Improv, with Matt Gourley, "ComedySportz"
*Second Beats, with Sean Conroy
*Television Genres, with Andy Goldblatt, "ComedySportz, Channel 101"
*Relationship, with Brian Palermo, "The Groundlings, Thank God You're Here, Curb Your Enthusiasm"
*Theatre Genres, with Andy Goldblatt
*Sound and Movement, with Seth Morris, "artistic director, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre Los Angeles, Curb Your Enthusiasm"
*Using Your 'Where', with Eric Hunicutt, "training director, iO West, The Reckoning"
*Musical Improv, with James Thomas Bailey, "artistic director, ComedySportz

2006 Workshops

*Andrew Daly, "The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, The Swarm, MADtv"
*Owen Burke, "artistic director, The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, New York"
*Eric Hunicutt
*Matt Gourley, "ComedySportz"
*James Thomas Bailey, "artistic director, ComedySportz

ponsors

The 2007 Fracas! IV Improv Festival was sponsored by The Onion. Additional local sponsors were USC's Undergraduate Student Government, KSCR Radio. The 2008 Fracas! Improv Festival retained sponsorship by The Onion, and KSCR, and added additional sponsorship from Glacéau, the makers of Smart Water and Vitamin Water.

References

*Georges, Amanda. [http://media.www.dailytrojan.com/media/storage/paper679/news/2007/04/12/Lifestyle/Uscs-Second.Nature.Improv.Throws.Renowned.Festival-2836938.shtml "USC's Second Nature Improv throws renowned festival"] . "USC Daily Trojan". April 12, 2007. Accessed October 22nd, 2007.

External links

* [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas! Improv Festival Official website]
* [http://www.2nimprov.com/ Second Nature Improv]
* [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas/podcast.html The Fracas! Improv Podcast]
* [http://www.2nimprov.com/Fracas/troupecontacts.html The Big List of College Improv Troupes] , provided by Fracas!

Articles
* [http://www.2nimprov.com/images/FracasAVclub.jpgFracas! Improv Festival] in The Onion A.V. Club
* [http://media.www.dailytrojan.com/media/storage/paper679/news/2007/04/12/Lifestyle/Uscs-Second.Nature.Improv.Throws.Renowned.Festival-2836938.shtml USC's Second Nature Improv throws renowned festival] by USC Daily Trojan
* [http://www.newu.uci.edu/showArticle.php?id=5643 Nudes in College Improv Fracas! at USC] by UCI New University
* [http://www.dailytrojan.com/news/2004/04/19/Lifestyle/Now-This.Is.Fracas-663704.shtml Now this is Fracas!] by USC Daily Trojan


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