With International Women’s Day just around the corner, Ottawa improv comedy company, EFT (Experimental Farm Theatre) have planned their sophomore event entitled, SHElarious II…celebrating women in various realms of the comedy spectrum. All proceeds will go to Cornerstone Housing For Women, a community charitable organization dedicated to improving the lives of homeless women.
The evening will showcase a diversity of comedic female talent all from the Ottawa area, which will feature 3 stand-up comedians, Karen MacDonald, Nyota Nakihimba, and Dianne Skoll; a solo sketch by Deborah Ring; and musical acts, Tina Wallace, and Rhythm & Burgundy (Allison Harris, Kristine Shadid). The second half of the show will consist of improv comedy, which will be performed by a cast of 10 ladies who are all current students of EFT. I spoke with Co-artistic Director, Dani Alon, and Business Director, Val Perelshtein about how the show will be mapped out:
The first half of the show is more of a variety show, and the second half is the storytelling and improv by a cast of ladies who are all current students. They’ll be performing an ‘Armando‘, which is a form of improv that starts with a suggestion or a word from the audience, and that inspires a story that the monologist tells and a scene is created. From there, it goes back and forth from the troupe to the monologist in the development of the story and scenes. We like taking different improv concepts like this, and presenting them in a way that the audience can enjoy. We want SHElarious to be a showcase for women at different levels of their comedy careers, to give them exposure in this city.
The Experimental Farm Theatre, which started in 2014, is an Ottawa-based comedy company that performs shows and teaches improv classes. In the beginning, what started out as a series of workshop sessions quickly snowballed into the creation of actual classes:
When we started out, we had a couple of improv teams we’d assembled and ran rigorous weekly rehearsals. Then, starting Jan. 2015, we started running a series of workshops and those turned into classes that we started by July of last year. We now have a 4-level program. We also hold weekly improv jams on Thursday nights for those who want to see what kind of improv we do. They’re on a pay-what-you-can basis, and we use the money to fund the room, and donate the difference to the community.
It’s been plain to see that the comedy landscape in Ottawa is on the climb, with events such as the Ottawa Improv Festival and the current stand-up clubs like Yuk Yuk’s, Absolute Comedy, and newer venues such as LIVE! On Elgin, which are now beginning to offer more diverse forms of comedy. Both Val and Dani, who are familiar with the broad scope of comedy in Montreal and Toronto, see Ottawa as a budding opportunity for improv:
The scene here in Ottawa is very exciting – it’s exploding and we have all sorts of people coming to our weekly jam. They come from acting, from writing, from different disciplines. All these artistic voices are here just blooming and it’s very inspiring. It’s exciting also to see a path to performing growing in Ottawa. There’s been a lot of opportunities recently in branching out. Ottawa doesn’t have a stand alone improv theatre, but we have shows being hosted now regularly, such as our flagship monthly show at Pressed Café, and a troupe that performs a short term “Game Show” improv every second Monday of the month at LIVE! On Elgin…anyone in the audience can play.
Last year, the first SHElarious was created as a way of paying homage to International Women’s Day, by showcasing some of Ottawa’s women in comedy, while giving back to the community by raising money for a women‘s social outreach program. This year, the event will be hosted by Toronto’s, Brie Watson, an improv, stand-up, and sketch comedian. She currently teaches as part of Second City’s education program. She will also be giving a Comedy Sketch Writing For Women Workshop this Sun., Mar. 6 from 11am-2pm at Arts Court on the Market.
At EFT, we’re carving out a community where you take the classes, you learn, you make friends, and then you’ll perform. Troupes have already been created – one called “Trevor” was put together early on from a class. We became friends, and the chemistry and vibe just clicked. There’s another troupe now that’s just being born, also out of the first levels. So it’s starting – they’re sprouting…like a farm, if you will.
Learn more about Experimental Farm Theatre on their website.
SHElarious II is happening on Sunday, March 6, 2016 at Pressed Cafe (750 Gladstone Ave). Doors at 7pm, Suggested cover is $7 or PWYC.