Baltimore Improv Group

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The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) is the largest improv theater in Baltimore, MD.

Overview and History

The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) began in 2004 by Mike Subelsky

In the years since, BIG has grown to 100+ performers, taught thousands of students how to improvise, produced thousands of shows and entertained (we hope) tens of thousands of attendees. In October 2017, The BIG Theater in Station North opened.

The theater as of May 2018 offers it's shows for free every night of the week with over 800 shows a year.

BIG also produces the annual Baltimore Improv Festival.

Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) – a non-profit 501(c)(3) – serves as the Baltimore City and Maryland state's largest improv comedy venue. BIG began in 2004 and now entertains with over 120 shows each year. With an annual audience of over 5,000 people, over 100 regular performers present audiences with shows every night of the week. As part of Young Audiences of Maryland (YAMD), BIG performs in assemblies and teaching residencies in Maryland schools.

  • Baltimore City Paper readers named Baltimore Improv Group as the best comedy outlet in 2017.
  • BIG provided high-quality instruction to more than 500 adults, teens, and youth in the 2017 calendar year.
  • BIG's annual audience exploded from 3,000 attendees in 2016, to 10,000 attendees in 2017, to over 20,000 attendees in 2018
  • BIG partners with Johns Hopkins, Coppin State, Loyola University, St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Towson University, and University of Maryland Baltimore County
  • BIG's student base has more than doubled from 2016 to 2018
  • BIG's free podcast recording studio is open to anyone in Baltimore​

As of 2019, the annual Baltimore Improv Festival brought in over 400 performers in 100+ comedy teams to the region. In 2019, they visited the event from 25+ cities, 15 states, 2 countries, and performed in 45 shows over 7 days. We've brought you one of the largest improv festivals on the east coast and mid-atlantic.

Mission

The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) advances the art and appreciation of comedy improv in the Baltimore region through enthusiastic participation and education. BIG enhances the quality of, expands participation in, and fosters the appreciation for improv throughout Baltimore.

Vision

BIG envisions awareness of, participation in and passion for improv comedy spread throughout the Baltimore region. We similarly envision improv’s infectious culture of support spread throughout the greater Baltimore area, inspiring community and creativity among all.

Values

Key values we work to promote include:

YES AND - An approach to life that encourages us to build harmoniously on the ideas, values and preferences of others rather than placing our ideas, values and preferences above our colleagues or in competition with them. MAKE OTHERS LOOK LIKE GENIUSES - Improv teaches us to honor and celebrate others, even if objectively they make mistakes or reflect opportunities for personal improvement, as we all do. When we make choices that amplify the best in someone else’s actions, we actively invest in a bigger, better, shared success.

A GROUP IS GREATER THAN THE SUM OF ITS PARTS - Improvisers enhance each other’s strengths through unconditional support, acceptance and enthusiasm. By embracing ideas without judgment, improv turns so-so ideas into good ideas, good ideas into great ideas and great ideas into earth-shattering masterpieces.

INCLUSIVITY & RESPECT - In pursuit of its goals BIG seeks to share the joy of improv with everyone. In order to ensure that all parties feel welcome and able to fully participate in our offerings, BIG insists that all stakeholders uphold these standards:

  • Professionalism
  • Mutual Respect & Civility
  • Acceptance and Celebration of our Diversity as a source of strength


Artscape

For Baltimore's free arts festival Artscape 2019, audiences attended 31 separate performances from early Friday afternoon until late Sunday evening. The event held an average attendance of 85 people per show.

Over 2,250 people saw an improv show at the theater over Artscape weekend. Another 480 people saw the theater's stand up show LOL@Artscape.

More people saw improv at BIG during Artscape weekend than during a full month of shows in 2018.

Artscape 2019 attendance was higher than two full months of shows in 2017 and more than 8 months of shows in 2016.

BIG University

BIG University teaches improv classes for adults, classes and workshops for kids and teens, and an Annual Improv Summer camp. They are as resident artists with Young Audiences of Maryland (YAMD) performing in assemblies and teacher residencies in schools across Maryland.


Baltimore Improv Group currently serves as one of the largest arts education venues in the area outside of a university space.

The Baltimore Improv Group offers workshops for kids (ages 8-12 years old) and teens (ages 13-17 years old). Special programming, includes month-long Teen Improv Intensives and BIG Summer Camp are offered at various points throughout the year.

Baltimore Improv group is a Teaching Artists with the Young Audiences of Maryland and the Maryland State Art’s Council and can come to schools for assemblies and residency programs! Contact BIG’s Education Director and visit Young Audiences of Maryland for more information!

Corproate Training

BIG members provide corporate training, educational workshops, and private performances using improv comedy. Workshops are shaped for all types of organizations and groups of any size.

Improvisers teach lessons in Improvisation and how to applying improv principles in the workplace.

BIG has worked with Blue Cross Blue Shield, ​Brown-Forman Corporation, Business Volunteers United, Evolve Communications, Johns Hopkins University, Johns Hopkins Medical School, Legg Mason, T. Rowe Price, and Transamerica. They also focus on education with Bet Yeladim Preschool (Training for Teachers), Bill & Melinda Gates Institute for Population & Reproductive Health, Harford County CC, Johns Hopkins (ORA) office, Loyola University, McDonough School, Park School, St. Paul’s School and World Trade Center Institute

Staff

  • Terry Withers, Managing Director
  • Jennifer Withers, Artistic Director
  • Michael Hartwell, Education Director

Instructors

  • Nathaniel Tyson
  • Julia Gerhardt
  • Justin Brashear
  • Kathryn Carlsen
  • Tavish Forsyth
  • Kelly Lloyd
  • Maggie Phenecie
  • Baltazar Benavides
  • Julia Hall
  • Alan J. McCombs
  • Kim Scarfe
  • Ti Coleman
  • Michael Harris
  • Andy McIntyre
  • John Windmueller
  • Michael Hartwell
  • Terry Withers
  • Jennifer Withers
  • Kate Zelensky

Contact Information

info@bigimprov.org

Venue

The BIG Theater

The BIG Theater opened in October 2017 in Station North. The theater offers 3,000 square feet of space for shows; classes and workshops for adults, kids and teens; a podcast studio. BIG shows include improv comedy, stand-up, sketch, and more.

The name pays homage to Baltimore Improv Group's name for the past 14 years. Part of this history is building community engagement with affordable arts programming in Baltimore since 2004.

The new theater will bring everything under one roof. The theater houses comedy shows focusing on special events, holidays, dance parties, burlesque, and other events as submitted by the community and public.


The U-HAHA

In May of 2019, BIG created a mobile theater reaching neighborhoods around the city. After renting a large U-Haul with a sign to the side of reading “U-HAHA”, volunteers convert the truck into a theater as part of their mission to spread improv throughout Baltimore.

Baltimore Improv Group continued as program partner of LOL@Artscape in 2018 and 2019. featuring comedic stand up shows, improv performances and comedy activities.

In July 2019, The U-HAHA was outside of The BIG Theater on North Charles holding free continuous shows throughout Artscape.

Former Venue(s)

  • Fells Point Corner Theatre
  • Mobtown Theater
  • The Patterson
  • The Strand
  • The Mercury Theater
  • The Single Carrot Theater

Jams and Open Mics

BIG also offers jams and opportunities to get stage time with the larger improv community.

Impropourri

Join the Baltimore Improv Group for “Impropourri!” It’s Baltimore’s only bring-your-own troupe show. It’s a performance opportunity open to everyone (improv AND sketch comedy) and it smells like old flowers in your grandma’s dresser drawer!

Drop your team name in the hat to perform with your improv troupe, sketch troupe, practice group, or bunch of randos you met outside. All experience levels welcome.

Extra Credit

BIG presents a free Improv Jam! The fun will start right after a regularly scheduled Harold Night show. The jam is geared towards improv students of any level getting some extra (credit) stage time! No need to sign up in advance, just come to the previous show and don't leave the building! Check the schedule for when we have Extra Credit available.

Club 1727

Open musical-improv practice at The BIG Theater. Learn musical improv games and song formats in a fun and supportive environment. No music background or musical improv experience necessary. Accompaniment by Brian E. Young on the keyboard and ukulele. Bring your voice, musical instruments, and learn the joy of making up songs in the moment at the speed of fun.

XJAM

XJAM is an improv jam for women, transgender, non-binary, and gender nonconforming performers. If you're an improv newbie or a seasoned performer, come on out and play! You don’t need to sign up ahead of time, and you won’t know who you’re playing with until you get on stage. We start with a big group warm up. Then, hosts will call out for a number of people and will give them a unique format, input or challenge. They'll have 5 or 10 minutes to play, depending on the number of people to attend, and then we’ll do it again with a different group! If you have a format you’d like to try, you will take the reins and host that set. We’ll end with a big montage for anyone who didn’t get a chance to play.

Stand Up Open Mic

This is your chance to get up and tell jokes- no experience necessary. This is part one of a two-part show. Come to this open mic and try out five minutes or less of material. At the next show, we will select a few performers to do their set.... and then do improv off of it!


Baltimore Improv Festival

The Baltimore Improv Festival showcases a variety of local, regional, and nationally-known improv groups in shows and workshops in Baltimore. Proceeds from performance ticket sales will fund BIG's artistic mission, compensate guest instructors, and will also help cover the cost of future Baltimore Improv Festivals.

Notable past acts include The Cast in 2017 and Fuck That Shit (A Comedy Team) in 2018. Both The Cast and Fuck That Shit returned in 2019 along with Asian AF.

BIG teams performed at the Del Close Marathon, NYC Improv Festival, Chicago Improv Festival, Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in Austin, the Atlanta Improv Festival, the North Carolina Comedy Arts Festival (formerly Dirty South), the Philadelphia Improv Festival, the DC Comedy Fest, and Duofest. BIG produces 100+ public and private performances in and around Baltimore, as well as teaching classes and workshops for kids, teens and adults throughout the year.

External Links