House shows draw improv comedy from all over for a two day long festival
Eau Claire has always been a city of confluence, and the local basement show scene is no different. At Vivian, one of Eau Claire’s DIY basement venues, improv comedy from all over the country joined together over two nights with local music and artists.
Sitting on the cold basement floor, the show started on Friday night with Chris Fair’s (Chicago) improvisational “Laser Comedy” act. He sketched ambidextrously using lasers behind a glow in the dark screen based on an audience suggestion. As the sketches would fade from sight he would draw the next scene on top of it. Next up was Madison’s Atlas Improv Troupe After being ushered into the side room of Vivian, local musicians Gage Armstrong and Max Martinson performed two improvisational, reverb driven jams switching instruments between the songs. After a short break, Backline Theater (Omaha) took the stage as a five-member troupe focused on shorter sketches, with scenes not lasting more than a couple minutes. Up next was a joint act between Glassworks improv (EC) and From Justin to Kelly (NYC). These two groups performed as “The Peoples Party” and entertained the growing crowd at Vivian. From Justin to Kelly member Justin Peters considers Eau Claire a second home, performing improv “at least seven or eight times” in the city.
After they were done, a two person act called “George and Newman” combining members of other improv groups, Chris George and Matt Newman. You couldn’t tell that the two had never performed together before as they played off each other resulting in huge laughs. Closing the night was Equanimity, a two person act all the way from Tampa Bay.
The Saturday night show began with the premiere of Jesse Johnson’s new documentary “The Playhouse” showcasing one of the Eau Claire’s earlier DIY basement venues run by the Glassworks improv guys. Next up was Chris Georges’s “I am the Show” in which he improvised over the 1982 classic animated film “The Secret of Nihm”. Once that was over acts from the previous night performed again. Non-improv acts of the night included Ray Bergquist doing a dance performance and local band Idle Empress jamming out to close the two day long improv summit.
The Improv Summit at Vivian was just one of the many events Eau Claire has to offer that brings together the very best of art and music from all over the country. This confluence of ideas, whether it is a national music festival or a comedy show in a basement on Main Street, is one of the greatest things about living here. You’ll be hard pressed to find a weekend where there isn’t live music or art going on anywhere in town, and that is definitely something to appreciate about Eau Claire.