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The History of IMPROVment

The Beginning

In the of fall 2001 and spring of 2002, Matt Greenfield and Bart Keyes tried to resurrect the People’s Improvisational Society (PImpS), which was (as far as they knew) the only improv troupe that Case had seen. The new group was small, lacked experience, and did not seem to have much interest in developing to a performance-level troupe. Nonetheless, in the fall of 2002, that group, along with Nick Hanek’s newly formed troupe, the Make-You-Laughers, staged a dinner theater murder mystery directed by Greenfield. This failed miserably and both groups ceased operations.

In the fall of 2003, however, Matt approached Bart suggesting that they try again, taking the best of the PImpS group, but this time adding some of the talent that had been part of the Make-You-Laughers (this included, among others, the Class of 2006 theatre majors, who generally had good amounts of performance experience and ambition). This new incarnation, known as IMPROVment, started rehearsing that fall. The first performance was held in the Eldred Black Box Theatre on Case Western’s campus. Attendance was sparse, drawing in an estimated 15 people. However, the troupe had officially found a permanent home for the wide majority of their shows. The newly formed troupe had three shows that fall, with attendance generally ranging from fifteen to twenty-five people.

The Troupe Grows

By the spring of 2004, Bart Keyes had taken over troupe operations and Matt Greenfield assumed his duties as host. That same semester, an aggressive advertising campaign began that resulted in a dramatic increase in attendance (this is when people started standing behind pews and sitting on the stage). IMPROVment started seeing more than one hundred guests at each show, and in most cases turned audience members away due to seating limits.

In the fall of 2004, IMPROVment held auditions for the first time and added several new members. This now allowed IMPROVment to perform even more often because they never had to worry about being short on cast members. Their aggressive advertising campaign continued, proving that the huge turnout from the previous spring was no fluke. That year, IMPROVment put on roughly eighteen shows. IMPROVment also ventured out of the Black Box, performing at such campus venues as Strosacker Auditorium and The Spot.

Branching Out

In the spring of 2006, IMPROVment extended its hold on the national improv scene by earning well-deserved accolades at the Chicago Implosion Improv Festival. The following year, in the Spring of 2007, IMPROVment took first place at the Ohio State Improv Festival held in Columbus, Ohio; returning in 2008, IMPROVment took first place once again. The fall of 2008 saw IMPROVment’s philanthropic side with its First Annual Charity Show working in conjunction with The Children’s Miracle Network. Partnerships continued in 2009 and beyond with IMPROVment performing at Ohio State University’s Bellwether Improv Festival and Case Western’s Roc for Doc. Troupes such as Bowling Green State University’s Plastic Shatners and Oberlin College’s Obehave! (now known as Kid Business) visited Cleveland and performed alongside IMPROVment as special guests in Black Box shows.

Winter 2010 marked the flourishing of IMPROVment’s professional connections: Chicago-based improviser Jet Eveleth, faculty member at both the iO Theater and The Second City Conservatory and the co-artistic director of the Chicago Improv Festival, traveled to Cleveland (by the generous grace of Undergraduate Student Government’s funding). She not only held both a public and a private long-form improvisation workshop, but guest-starred in a special Black Box show, featuring her solo sketches and a long-form show with IMPROVment. Since then, IMPROVment has improvised with Susan Messing of Chicago’s The Annoyance Theater and iO Theater; Chris Kervick, IMPROVment alumnus and of The Annoyance Theater; and Chris Bohan, co-founder of Cleveland’s Something Dada.

Bringing Comedy Home

The first-ever IMPROVment Alumni Show was held in the fall of 2010, bringing back members from its founding days. In the fall of 2013, the second alumni show was held in conjunction with IMPROVment’s 10th Anniversary, to triumphant fanfare. With a large and prosperous alumni base, alumni shows are becoming a bi-yearly event.

IMPROVment hosted their first improv comedy festival in the spring of 2012, bringing together a number of local Cleveland-area groups to perform together on the main stage of Eldred Theater. The Cleveland Improv Comedy Festival packed the seats and aisles of the theater and paved the way for IMPROVment’s inter-collegiate festival, The Lake Effect Improv Festival. Not only did this festival feature troupes from all over Ohio, but IMPROVment alumni-founded rising Chicago sketch troupe Pretty/Windy. Now an annual event, Lake Effect shows are held during the spring semester and feature collegiate and professional troupes of different improv styles from all over Ohio and beyond.

IMPROVment continues to see its popularity rise as they now perform regular weekly shows. Our alumni are improvising throughout the nation, whether they are living in Chicago, running Cleveland’s Oddy Fest, or working with Teach for America down in Memphis, Tennessee (others are now practicing doctors and lawyers, among other things). IMPROVment is glad to see such a devoted fan base and always welcomes newcomers to our shows. We hope to see you soon!

Page last modified: February 16, 2015