The Phoenix Improv Festival is trying out virtual reality for its 21st year this weekend.
The digitally spaced event will take place on Friday, June 24 and Saturday, June 25.
Phoenix Improv Festival producer Bill Binder said he wanted to boost his visibility after using Zoom last year.
“We did online shows with Zoom, and some people did really good shows with it, but it didn’t feel like a festival as much as a show,” Binder said.
“Instead of giving a series of links to watch a Zoom meeting, we created a digital environment. It’s going to feel a bit more personal than a Zoom meeting and it’s something we wanted to do to bring artists together.
He said he hopes this year’s digital venue will have an in-person sensation. It’s only available to those who have VR set up, but others can still enjoy it.
“Audience members who have a VR setup can actually immerse themselves in it, but audience members who don’t can still watch it on their computer screens for a sort of 2D version of it- ci,” said Binder, who has been with the festival since its first year, 2002.
As in previous years, the 2022 festival will feature approximately 75 artists taking the stage in their hometowns across the country. Most shows will take place in the evening.
Among the performers are the National Ensemble, a group of improv artists from across North America who collaborate to create a long-running show. Actor and teacher Tezz Yancey will produce this show.
With over 20 years of experience, Yancey has had a decorated career. He made his Broadway debut at age 14, headlined his own shows in Las Vegas, produced several recording and film score projects, and is a film and television actor in Hollywood.
“Over the past few years, we’ve brought in a lot of artists from the Improv Olympic mindset, which is a very character and relationship-based theory of improvisation,” Binder said.
“He’s going to bring this; kind of scenario based and more playful. Specifically for the show, he’s going to build that with the audience. We wanted someone like Tezz, who has experience building ensembles and bringing together their specific strengths.
The digital space of the Phoenix Improv Festival includes three stages of approximately 35 “seats” each. Binder said more stages and/or seats can be added to meet demand.
“The good thing is, unlike a real venue, if we sell more tickets than that, we have built-in flexibility,” Binder said.
“We can adjust the number of seats depending on the tickets we sell.”
The festival has received positive feedback from Zoom shows. He hopes for the same this year.
“We love sharing improv with the world and we’re really excited to introduce this digital space and in-person experience,” Binder said. “Hopefully this is the start of more festivals and theaters doing it this way.
“A festival like this is a huge, huge
tray of samples of different types of
how artful it can be, and you can see them all at once. We really like being able to showcase that.
Phoenix Improv Festival