The Phoenix Improv Festival is trying out virtual reality for its 21st year.
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 says.
“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 says 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,” says 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 performers of the Improv Olympic mindset, which is a very character- and relationship-oriented theory of improvisation,” Binder says.
“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 says more stages and/or seats can be added to meet demand.
“What’s nice, unlike a real venue, is that if we sell more tickets than that, we have built-in flexibility,” Binder says.
“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 says. “Hopefully this is the start of more festivals and theaters doing it this way.
“A festival like this is a huge, huge platter of samples of different kinds of art that it can be, and you get to see them all at once. We really love being able to showcase that.
Phoenix Improv Festival