Columbus improv guide
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If you think a 'Whose Line is it Anyway' rerun is as good as improv gets in this town, think again
By Dwayne Steward
An actor without a script is much like a rock climber without a rope or a trapeze artist without a net. It's not for the faint of heart. However, it's a fear that improv actors face every time they take the stage.
"Improv acting is a brilliantly simple technique that combines affirmation, new information and action," said Carolyn Harding, owner and founder of Cinublue Productions, a Columbus-based improv school responsible for turning out most of the improv troupes currently performing in the city.
"It's basically about affirming your partner and adding information, so the scene goes forward," she said. "The point is to make each other look brilliant."
It's a lesson members of the Columbus improv scene have taken to heart, with those in the city's quickly growing genre banding together to keep improv a viable option locally.
"When I got here in 1992 the only troupe that was here was the Midwest Comedy Tool & Die," said Chris Lane, MadLab Theatre's former artistic director and founder of their improv troupe Full Frontal Nudity.
Tool & Die was one of the only options for quality improv in Columbus throughout the late ‘80s and part of the ‘90s, said Jeff Gage, 48, one of the groups' founding members who now teaches his own improv class at the Funny Bone Comedy Club.
Lane formed FFN in 1993, but as sketch comedy troupe. It wasn't until 2005 that the group became a full-fledged improv troupe.
Harding, who started Cinublue in 1990, joined forces with Lane in 2003 because of his training with the infamous Second City (he graduated from their now defunct Cleveland branch in 2001). Together they've been pumping out troupes with staying power since 2005.
Harding taught the basics of short-form (short scenes that are often game-based or derived from audience suggestions) and long-form (a series of interconnected scenes that form a full play, but is still completely improvised), before Lane took over the class a year and a half later to prepare them for live performances.
"The goal was to take them from nothing and get them on the stage," Harding said.
Now after 15 years of rebuilding the improv scene in Columbus, she's taken a sabbatical, leaving Cinublue down for the count until she decides her next steps professionally.
But we've got a feeling the torch has already been passed. Click through the gallery for a detailed look at the movers and shakers taking the Columbus improv scene to the next level.