|Founded||Cambridge, Massachusetts, U.S. (January 1, 1982 )|
|Headquarters||40 Prospect Street
|Key people||Zach Ward
Dana Jay Bein
ImprovBoston is a nonprofit improvisational theater, based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It offers shows five nights per week at its theater in Central Square and training programs in improvisation, stand-up comedy and sketchwriting.
Founding and the Early Years (1982-1993)
In 1982, Ellen Holbrook, a former student of Second City, put together the first incarnation of ImprovBoston along with Nicholas Emanuel and Katy Bolger. Ellen had encouragement of former members of The Proposition, an earlier improv-comedy troupe, and also guidance from David Shepherd, the founder of the Compass Players. At first, Holbrook organized several loosely knit bands of improvisers into teams that competed in an “Improv Olympics” at Reilly’s Beef and Pub near Government Center, though this venue was later changed to Satch's near Copley Square and even later to Ryles Jazz Club at Inman Square. As the shows grew in popularity, the group's name was changed to 'ImprovBoston' and a lease was acquired to the Back Alley Theater near Inman in 1993.
Back Alley Theater (1993-2007)
Under the artistic direction of Nancy Howland Walker, the ImprovBoston Mainstage cast performed late night weekend shows for several years, eventually expanding to prime time slots. Walker was just as instrumental in obtaining the New England franchise of Theatersports, which eventually became a regular Thursday night show at the theater. During Walker's tenure, the cast grew from five to well over 20 members. Larry Pizza became Artistic Director in 1995 and, in 1997, the artistic leadership again transferred, this time to Ron Jones, a former cast member from the early 1990s. It was under Jones' leadership that the theater began to extend its reach to further aspects of improvisation, creating new formats and shows beyond the traditional shortform game format the theater used for their Friday and Saturday night shows.
Luera Era and New Theater (2000-Present)
In 2000, former cast member Will Luera returned to ImprovBoston as the new Artistic Director, bringing with him several show concepts and forms he had established under the banner of Bluescreen Productions (a different improv theater he had established in [Davis Square]). This merger saw a third cast added to the ImprovBoston line-up, as ImprovBoston was granted the rights to Keith Johnstone's Micetro format. The theater's cast was again expanded in 2005 when the ensemble "Wrong Kind of Funny" was brought in to what eventually formed IB's Family Show. In February 2008, ImprovBoston moved to a new venue in Cambridge's Central Square, where it continues to operate today.
Luera has since been responsible for the theater's most aggressive expansion, as several new shows, concepts, and formats were established and kept the theater doors open five nights per week. The Hump on Wednesday nights (improv fringe), The Great and Secret Comedy Show late Thursdays (stand-up comedy hosted by the Walsh Brothers), bi-monthly Showcase Shows in the early Friday night slot (newly-created and designed improv shows in various genres or formats), and the Sgt. Culpepper Improvisational Jamboree on Sunday nights (two short shows featuring independent and college troupes from around the area, followed by an audience-participation "Open Jam").
In the years that have followed, ImprovBoston has established new annual productions including GoreFest (a scripted horror musical every October that involves copious amounts of fake blood and special effects), The ImprovBoston Holiday Spectacular (a holiday-themed sketch show), the Comedy Beanpot (an improv tournament hosted by ImprovBoston that involves college troupes from around the New England area) and "Geek Week" (a week-long run of fantasy, science fiction and history-related comedy shows).
The current management staff includes Zach Ward as Managing Director and Mike Descoteaux as Artistic Director.
No longer strictly a theater of improvisation, ImprovBoston now hosts weekly shows, classes and workshops involving all facets of the art of comedy.
In 2010, the theatre created an audio department with the intention of producing weekly free podcasts among other audio-only endeavors under the banner of "ImprovBoston Radio". This resulted in the flagship Podcast, and also Fireside Improv, a more instruction-oriented look at the comedic form with a panel of improv pupil, professor and philosopher.