Baltimore Improv Group
The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) is the largest improv theater in Baltimore, MD.
- 1 Overview and History
- 2 Staff
- 3 Instructors
- 4 Venue
- 5 Jams and Open Mics
- 6 Baltimore Improv Festival
- 7 Current House Troupes
- 8 External Links
Overview and History
The Baltimore Improv Group (BIG) began in 2004. Mike Subelsky founded the company after moving from San Diego to Maryland. Determined to bring improv to Baltimore, Mike biked around town and hung up flyers. 4 people responded and became the first members of the Baltimore Improv Group. 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 new BIG Theater in Station North opened.
The theater as of 2018 offers it's shows for free.
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
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 your child’s school for assemblies and residency programs! Contact BIG’s Education Director and visit Young Audiences of Maryland for more information!
- Terry Withers, Managing Director
- Jennifer Withers, Artistic Director
- Michael Hartwell, Education Director
- 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
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.
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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
Current House Troupes
- Bears Only
- Old City
- Plan B
- Training for Prom
- Harold Night: Originally known as The Conservatory, the show and program celebrates the longform improv form.
- THICK Mints
- Rat Protest
- Important Screws
Shows and Projects
- After School Grandma
- Casually Dope
- Fade to Black
- Fag Hag
- Ghost Party
- Local Spot
- Heather With Strangers
- One of Us Is Drunk: The audience gets to guess who was drunk
- Queerprov: LGBT mash-up
Former House Troupes
- Ice Cream Social
- Mister Licorice
- Moving Walkways
- Population: Six
- The Conservatory