Pulling Back the Curtain of DC Improv



Washington, D.C.: the seat of America’s government, home to world-changing nonprofits, and a hotbed for improvisational acting?

Of course, DC has been home to many famous and prominent performing art institutions for centuries (see: Ford’s Theatre, The Kennedy Center, Arena Stage, etc.), but you may just be surprised to learn of the smaller, but secretly flourishing community of improvisers and improv theatres embedded in our community.

But wait, what is improv, you may ask?

No, it’s technically not what you see on Saturday Night Live – that’s sketch comedy. But improv is where many SNL alums got their start. There are several formats and styles of improv acting, but in its purest form, an improv scene is a live, improvised scene or set of scenes all originating from one word or idea.

The number one rule in improv is always saying “Yes, and…” This allows scenes to continue and gives performers the permission to build the scene, no matter how ridiculous. The result is a fun, engaging show that has never been seen before…..and will never be seen again.

Living the #FrayLife means getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things, and improv is a fun way to accomplish both. From watching shows, to attending classes, to performing on teams, here are 3 (of the many) ways you can explore this growing underground scene here in DC.

1. Watch Shows

If you’re unfamiliar with improv in DC, seeing a show is a great first step. Bring friends for a different weekend activity option, take a Tindr date to break up that awkward ice, or just go by yourself and relish in the fact that you’re supporting the local arts. Below are some recurring shows that can spice up your social calendar:

Every Tuesday night, Harold Night at Washington Improv Theater is the place to be. Photo credit: Washington Improv Theater

Washington Improv Theater’s Harold Night: Every Tuesday night at the Source theatre on 14th Street, WIT puts on two shows that feature teams playing in the famous improv format: the Harold. Tickets are free, but donations are encouraged.

ComedySportz at the DC IMPROV comedy club: Billed as fun and appropriate for all ages, ComedySportz is a long-running, monthly show in Dupont that pits two teams against each other to win the greatest trophy of all: the most laughs from strangers in the room. Tickets are $15.

Laugh Index Theatre shows: LIT has a show for all types, from short-form improv, to stand up and storytelling. There’s at least one show a week in Adams Morgan, with specialty shows throughout the year. Tickets range from $5 – $25.

Chinese Menu Comedy (on Facebook here): Chinese Menu Comedy hosts acts from DC and around the country at their regular Adams Morgan location. You can pick from from a large variety of occasional shows and a yearly comedy invitational. Tickets start as low as $7.

2. Take Classes

Up for getting out of your comfort zone? The best way to dive head first into improv is to take a class. DC Theatres offer a variety of classes that start with the basics and work you up to performing. But perhaps more importantly, by taking an improv class, you’ll meet new friends, force your brain to think differently, and become more comfortable with being vulnerable and open. Here are some great places to start:

Classes at Washington Improv Theater: WIT offers a structured, five-level program that is perfect for anyone starting out. Each level consists of eight, 2 ½ hour classes.

Photo credit: Northcapitoldc

Classes at the Unified Scene Theater: From all-day workshops, to weekend intensives, the Unified Scene Theater in Bloomingdale offers classes and workshops that span all types of improv and comedy curriculum.

Classes at Dojo Comedy: Dojo Comedy near Columbia Heights offers four levels of improv performance curriculum, with a free introductory class.

#FrayLife Tip: WIT offers free, two-hour improv workshops every month for those who want to try it on before they commit to a full class.

3. Perform

Photo credit: additudemag

If you get bitten by the improv bug, seek medical attention immediately. Just kidding, it’s a good thing! There are tons of opportunities to perform improv in DC once you’re ready (or crazy enough) to get up on stage…in front of people…with no script.

Sounds terrifying, right? It is! But, hey, you live in DC so you should know all about faking it ‘til you make it. Once you get there, take a look at performance opportunities with any of the theaters listed above. They have several house teams that perform regularly, and often host open auditions.

#FrayLife Tip: If a formal theater team isn’t your thing, there are tons of resources and connections here to start your own indie improv team.

At this point, you’re well armed with the resources and knowledge to get started. You’re on your way to becoming the next Amy Poehler. Break legs!

Have you ever been to an improv show….or taken the stage yourself? If so, let us know how it went in the comments on social with #FrayLife!

Need other fun ways to entertain yourself this spring? Here are 6 DC events you need to circle on your calendar.




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