St. Petersburg is far from being the only city where improv has taken off in recent years, but this one small city offers variety and access to the wild and often belly-laugh-worthy performance art not always seen in larger places.
This weekend, St. Pete joins many cities represented in the Vintage Improv Festival, a virtual improv show running September 11 through the 13 and featuring over thirty troupes with members from across North America and even a team with members from overseas.
“Vintage Improv” is improv focused on the talents, needs and interests of mature improvisers over the age of 50. There are a small number of professional improvisers that fall in this category, but the vast majority of vintage improvisers are people who have discovered their passion for improv later in life.
One such performer is St. Pete Beach’s Jim Parent, who’s been doing improv as a hobby for three or four years on stage and in classes at both American Stage and Spitfire Theater. Jim is part of a troupe called the Gary Schwartz Curated Troupe led by, you guessed it – Gary Schwartz, out of North Bend, Washington. Schwartz was a student of famed acting teacher Viola Spolin, and the group counts Spolin’s techniques as an important inspiration.
“Spolin is considered the originator of improv,” Parent says, “using it as a technique to help teach acting. Her exercises and ‘demonstrations’ helped actors be spontaneous and ‘real’.”
According to Parent, there are a number of schools of improv today, each focused on different aspects and objectives. There are rules or guidelines that they use in their philosophies, but such ideas didn’t exist when Spolin was teaching and, as a result “her techniques are much more about being yourself, spontaneous, real,” says Parent, “without thinking of the ‘rules’ so much.”
Find out how to tune into Jim’s show and others this weekend here Vintage Improv Festival web site.