• bengibb

Indie Opportunities at Union Comedy Theatre

Okay this is our first programming announcement so idk get out your calendar or something.

I get into more details and some system analysis below but in case you don't care about any of that here's the tl;dr:

  • Flotilla will be our weekly Indie Team show. It will be on Tuesday and have 3 slots.

  • Naffy will run a weekly Thursday show and continue to have an opening Indie Team.

So that's 4 show slots for Indie Teams every week, 208 per year, or 0.00000661 per second.


Now for for the nerdy stuff...


Indie Teams are a vital, yet underutilized part of the Boston improv ecosystem.


With the increasing awareness and popularity of improv, the Boston performer community continues to grow. Demand for stage time has far-eclipsed the fulfillment capability of existing institutions, and while it remains fairly easy to spend 1-2 years training in classes, this experience both comes at a premium and insufficiently replicates the pressures of live performance and the self-reliance it requires. With theaters effectively at capacity and incoming talent vastly outnumbering outgoing talent, the gap between classroom and stage has widened significantly over the last several years. Bridging that gap is the Indie Scene.


Consisting of a wide spectrum of performers of all experience levels, Independent Teams are the largest demographic of the Boston improv community after students. Unfortunately, their performance opportunities are sparse. Most truly independent improv shows are irregular (once a month) and theater shows that cater to Indie Teams are crowded and often book months in advance. At the moment there are only three shows in the city where an Indie Team can perform more than once a month (two of them independently-produced) and none where a team can perform more than two weeks in a row. This low volume of live experience means creative growth is slow. Furthermore, this lopsided rehearsal:performance ratio often causes individual improvisers seeking more stage time to join multiple teams in order to increase their chances of booking a show. This both exacerbates the crowding issue and hinders the growth potential of teams that are now competing for a given performer's energy and attention.


We're hoping that by providing some high quality opportunities to Indie Teams we can curb some of these issues and help the Indie Scene continue to be an important piece of the Boston improv pie (it's not a real pie the pie is a metaphor).


What makes an opportunity high quality?

Longer, more regular runs.


Performing consistently is hands down the best way for a team to improve. Recognizing this, our goal is to provide Indie Teams with performance opportunities that are more frequent, last longer, and reward effort and execution.


How's it going to work?

Though they'll operate separately, both Flotilla and Naffy are designed with the other in mind:


Flotilla (Tuesday)

A three-tiered show with two 15-minute slots and one 25-minute slot. The opening 15-min slot will be offered on a one-off basis. The middle slot will be offered to two teams per month, each getting two shows on an alternate basis (5th weeks will be an additional one-off). The closing slot will be offered to one team for the entire month.


Naffy (Thursday)

Based on their success producing a long-running weekly show and as the current Flotilla closer, Naffy will get an indefinite weekly run but will also offer an opening slot available to 3 teams on a rotating basis for 12 weeks.


A 3-month schedule for these shows might look something like this:

Our intention is to provide a spectrum of offerings of varying length and regularity to satisfy the needs of Indie Teams of all levels and to maintain a booking schedule that works for both short- and medium-term commitments. Tier 1 and 2 Flotilla slots will book on a monthly basis (6 available slots) and Flotilla closers and Naffy openers will book every 3 months (6 available slots). Teams will be scheduled with an eye toward potential, performance, and growth and any given team may be rescheduled more or less frequently than another based on producer discretion.


Structurally, we hope to strike a healthy balance between opportunity availability and opportunity value by generally linking experience with level of commitment. In other words, greener teams will get shorter runs more often, while seasoned teams will get fewer longer runs. In this way we hope to reward high performing teams with more regular stage time while also leaving room for newer teams to get the reps they need to improve.


What's the catch?

This will be an imperfect system. More existing teams than available slots means plenty of interested teams will get rejected. A tiered system means some teams will perform more than others. We'll do our best to make these opportunities as accessible as possible, but if we're as successful as we expect to be in creating a high quality experience for Indie Teams there will always be more interest than availability.


Ultimately we recognize that there will never be enough stage time to completely satisfy everyone, especially us. It's still just one stage with around 18 available show hours per week - not nearly what it would take to serve all institutional needs, let alone meet all performer demand. But we also recognize that we will exist as only a small portion of a much larger system, and as the Boston improv community continues to grow and evolve, new opportunities will arise to satisfy demand Union Comedy can't meet and nurture creative potential Union Comedy is neglecting, just as we arose. Passionate improvisers will always find ways to perform, with or without our help.


In the meantime we hope our presence in Boston can add value to an already-valuable scene, and we're looking forward to growing and evolving along with all of you.

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