Four brilliant improvisers will discuss gender within the world of improv. Drawing from their own experiences and knowledge, they'll speak about the ways we can ensure we create inclusive and welcoming spaces for all.
Ally Beardsley is an improviser currently in Los Angeles. They have been on many UCB Harold Night teams and also spent 3 years in Amsterdam performing nightly at Boom Chicago. They've taught improv classes to investment bankers and teen Croatian soap opera stars. Ally's also been in hundreds of online sketch videos for CollegeHumor and hosted a roundtable podcast about the queer experience called Tales From the Closet. Their untitled, upcoming podcast this Spring will also be about queer life... seems like they have a lot to work out?
Mara Joy is a queer trans improviser based in Edinburgh, Scotland. She is a member of the Scottish Comedy Award-winning Spontaneous Players and performs in the two person show Me Plus One, an unstructured twoprov show with a different guest each time. She has performed at ten Edinburgh Fringe Festivals, the Birmingham Improv Festival, the Copenhagen International Improv Festival and headlined Zeal: the Pride Improv Festival.
Stephen Davidson is the Artistic Director of The Improvised Play, Improvable, QI: Queer Improv, Carmen: A gender-swapped Film Noir Fantasy, and of Zeal: The Pride Improv Festival. Stephen is the author of two books about improv, Play Like an Ally and Improvising Gender. Stephen teaches improv through Improvable, with the Free London Improv Project, and Hoopla Improv. He has taught and performed all over the world.
The highlight of Taliah’s improv career would have to be as director of The Improverts, Edinburgh Fringe Festival’s longest running improvised comedy show. Alongside her improv, she’s also a stand-up comic and was the director of Bedlam Fringe’s Late Night 2019, a late night alternative comedy show. While the theatres are hibernating, she’s pursuing her career as a software developer but lies ready to pounce back onto the stage.
IN CONVERSATION: JON CARR AND STEPHANIE RAE
Together, Jon Carr and Stephanie Rae are two of the most influential people in improv. Jon was recently appointed Executive Producer of The Second City, one of the most prolific comedy theatres in the world. Stephanie is the Director of The Black Improv Alliance which works on amplifying Black voices.
Join them as they discuss the lessons theatres and groups can learn from each other, look to the future of improv post-pandemic and answer your questions.
Jon Carr is executive producer of The Second City. Prior to joining them, he was artistic director for Dad’s Garage Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. A seasoned improviser, performer, and award-winning playwright with nearly 20 years of industry experience, Jon has been part of Atlanta’s creative community for more than 15 years, where, among his many creative accomplishments, he held the position of audience development manager at Alliance Theatre and founded United Atlanta Improv to help improv theatres around the city come together through collaborative works. With his Dad’s Garage improv group “Dark Side of the Room,” Jon has worked with the Center for Civil and Human Rights, performing across North America. His original play Black Nerd was awarded the 2018 Suzi Bass Award for Best Original Play. Originally from Los Angeles, he holds a degree in marketing and business administration from Georgia State University. He looks forward to making homeschooled kids like himself proud.
Stephanie has been studying traditional and musical improv for the last eleven years. After falling in love with the form at the Washington Improv Theater, she moved to Miami, founded Negative Four Months, and created hit shows including Law & Disorder and The Laughter Games. She later joined the Society Circus Players, performing monthly in Coral Gables and in festivals including Miami Improv, Palm Beach, Countdown, and UCB's Del Close Marathon - in which she conceived and directed a Boyz II Men themed improv show. Stephanie has taught weekly classes for Red Carpet Kids and workshops for teens and adults from around the world. These days, she directs the Black Improv Alliance, performing with Wakanda vs. EVERYBODY, HBCUnity, and The International Players Club. She also has a law degree - but mostly uses it to win arguments online.
Neurodiverse Discussion About Improv
Join Jess, Jessica and Velvet for personal stories around engaging in improvisation on stage, in workshops, and within the community, as neurodivergent humans. They will share some recommendations on making it easier for neurodiverse people to disclose and engage in your community. At the end, time willing, we may field questions from the chat.
Jessica Arjet is an Improvisor, Teacher, Director, Actor and Producer in Austin, Texas. She brings a joy and enthusiasm to all of her work born of a deep passion for people and for the art of improvisation and theater. Jessica is a co-owner of the Hideout Theatre in Austin, Texas. The Hideout performs many of the standard types of improv, but they specialize in delightfully improvise full length plays.
Jess is an improviser based in Glossop, England. She is the co-founder of Glossop Improv along with Sekki Tabasuares and has been performing and teaching improv for 15 years. Jess loves long pauses, moments of dawning realisation and helping others find the joy. Being an improviser with multiple sclerosis (MS) led Jess to set up Brain Fog Improv – a space for improvisers with unseen conditions to share, learn and connect.
Velvet Wells is a Black, autistic, queer, velvet voiced entertainer and facilitator from Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a graduate of the Second City Toronto Training Centre (Musical Improvisation Conservatory) and The Improv Place (Masterclass in Teaching). Additionally, Velvet studied under international facilitators including Katy Schutte and Chris Mead, John Gebretatose, Ken Hall, Tara DeFrancisco and Rance Rizzutto, Natasha Boomer, Patti Styles, and Mick Napier. Velvet has facilitated in-person workshops for Toronto Theatresports (Toronto), Theatre on the Edge (Waterloo) and Black and Funny Festival (Minneapolis), and in 2020, started offering independent workshops online.
How can we ensure improv is accessible to all? Join Santina Muha, Drew Spears and Ryan Strunk as they talk about their own experiences, the steps theatres and groups can make to champion inclusion and answer your questions.
Santina Muha is a writer, actress, improviser, storyteller, comic, Jersey girl currently living and performing in Los Angeles. Billy Merritt branded her "NJ Queen, LA Princess" and that's pretty friggin' accurate. She has been studying at UCB since January 2013 & is a proud member of the UCB Diversity Scholarship committee. Currently she is a regular contributor to UCB shows, as host of "Rollin' with my Homies" and co-host of "Aunt Tina & Deena Celebrate", among others. In her first year at UCB Santina wrote & performed her first one woman show, "That Girl in the Wheelchair," of which strangers have been unknowingly giving her material for most of her life (directed by Pam Murphy). She was also a member of the Harold team "Landlord." Santina performed standup in season 2 of the UCB Show for Seeso, recurred as a "Santina the PA" in season 5 of Comedy Bang! Bang!, and has been monologist for Assscat! several times. You can see her recurring on the Netflix sitcom "One Day at a Time," as well as in Gus Van Sant's latest "Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot" opposite Joaquin Phoenix.
Drew Spears is a comedian, writer and actor based in Los Angeles. He hosts the weekly live comedy show Freeway: A Comedy Show, the comedy book club show Cook Blub and co-hosts the podcast This Podcast Is Self Care. His writing has been featured in Entertainment Weekly, TBS, and a graveyard of comedy streaming websites. He has appeared in ads for companies as varied as Amazon and Woodchuck Hard Cider. Drew is currently developing a stage show on disability, and can be seen performing with Cardinal Redbird is So LA at UCB-Franklin as well as standup and sketch shows across Los Angeles.
Ryan grew up in Nebraska, where he was fortunate to receive excellent instruction in Braille, technology, and orientation and mobility from a young age. A graduate of the university of Nebraska, Ryan's focus on education and his passion for equality have been at the forefront of his career choices since. He has worked as a political fundraiser, a Braille and technology instructor, and a coordinator of Braille literacy programming. Currently he works for Target Corp. as an accessibility consultant. Ryan's hobbies include improv comedy, public speaking, and music.