The Improvised Shakespeare Company
The Improvised Shakespeare Company is a longform improv company founded in 2005 that is dedicated to improvising full-length plays in the style of William Shakespeare. Based out of the iO Theater in Chicago, its influence and popularity are virtually unrivaled in the improv world.
The entirely improvised shows occurs in two acts. The ensemble solicits a suggestion in the form of a title for a Shakespearean play that has never been written. Shows are often bookended with a monologue. The dialogue is performed in Elizabethan English, and attempts to mirror the iambic pentameter of Shakespearean text. The performers make heavy use of literary devices, and are often credited with improvising bona fide poetry in each show.
The ensemble plays fast and loose. There is very little dead air in these performances, and they are usually filled with singing, dancing, and occasional lewd references. The ensemble especially excels in group ownership, as improvisers will trade playing the same character quite frequently. Unlike almost every widely loved improv show, they also deliberately attempt to create narrative. Upright Citizens Brigade Theater clearly advises performers to avoid telling a story in favor of focusing on Game, and even the famously slow-paced TJ and Dave attest that intentionally striving for a story is less preferable than simply following the moment.
Alongside TJ and Dave and ASSSSCAT, the Improvised Shakespeare Company is often called the most successful improv show in the history of the art form. It has been profiled up in the New York Times and lists the following awards on its website:
- 2015 Best of LA - Best Transplanted Improv Group - LA Weekly
- 2014 Del Awards - Best Non-Harold Show - iO Theatre
- 2012 INNY Awards - Best in Long Form - Improvisation News New York
- 2011 INNY Awards - Most Innovative Show - Improvisation News New York
- 2010 Ensemble of the Year - Chicago Improv Festival
- 2009 Best of Chicago – Best Improv Group - Chicago Reader
- 2008 NY Nightlife Awards – Best Comedic Performance by a Group - New York Nightlife Awards
- 2008 Best Improv Troupe - The Chicago Examiner
In January 2013, the ensemble was joined by Patrick Stewart for a performance. He has since returned to play with them several times.
As of January 2016, the all-male cast includes:
- Joey Bland
- Ross Bryant
- Joe Burton
- Andy Carey
- Brendan Dowling
- Randal Harr
- Greg Hess
- Thomas Middleditch
- Asher Perlman
- Blain Swen, founder
- Ric Walker
- Steve Waltien
- Martin Wilson
- Matt Young