Bay Area Improviser Survey Results: Performance venue, frequency, and nights

This is part three of the survey blog series. These results are associated with the statistics shared in part one. It is important to remind you that this survey was answered by people in the SF Bay Area improv community (performers, teachers, producers, and students alike) and as such opinions here may vary greatly from the general public who may be interested in watching an improv show purely as an audience member.

Part Two: Attitudes towards watching and performing improv

Which of these theatre offerings make an impact on your decision to perform and/or attend shows there?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 95

Specific location (i.e. the neighbourhood it is located in): 74 (77.9%)
Public transport accessible (BART): 61 (64.2%)
Public transport accessible (bus/muni): 35 (36.8%)
BYO drinks allowed: 19 (20%)
Alcoholic drinks available to purchase: 17 (17.9%)
Lighting/tech options: 14 (14.7%)
Non-alcoholic drinks available to purchase: 8 (8.4%)
Food available to purchase: 5 (5.3%)

Write-in responses:

  • Discount ticket options, ease of and/or price of parking
  • How the show is promoted and supported by the theatre
  • None of the above. TBH if a group I like is playing in someone’s backyard and I had time to go and wanted to see them perform, I’m down.
  • Uniqueness of the theater space. After a while all of the black box theaters seem to offer the same experience. The sixth floor Phoenix Theater (almost in the round), the former configuration of the Alcove Theater, and the now closed Dark Room all offered a different venue experience than most other places.
  • accessible nearby parking
  • just good, inclusive, non-cliquey community
  • If I have time I will go
  • If I feel safe walking alone in the neighborhood – there are several venues that women specifically express concern or nervousness about being in the neighborhood
  • Price of tickets
  • Parking available
  • What does lighting/tech options mean?*
  • Reputation and style of theatre
  • Expected audience size / popularity of the venue
  • Quality of the stage space. Quality of sight lines for audience. Separate, safe, comfortable green room or back stage area to prep.

* To answer this question, I’m making an assumption that this person has only been to improv shows that have a tech person that handles basic lighting, like lights up and lights down, and maybe intro music. So what I meant with this option is having a tech person who has the ability to use more complicated lighting. Some improv shows might require lights of different colors, or a spotlight for monologues. And the tech side of this is that there are also improv shows that can use music in interesting ways, and they’d need the ability to do that in the theatre they use. Or, potentially, maybe they have even more complicated tech that requires a wifi Internet connection because they introduce features in the show that require the Internet. (I saw a show at the Alaska State Improv Festival that involved a solo improviser doing all the voice and sound effects from the first 25-30 minutes of a movie on Netflix that was chosen by an audience member, so that’s a good example of that).

If the specific location/address impacts your decision, what encourages you to go to a venue?

This was a purely write-in question. All responses are listed below.
Responses: 43

  • How close it is to my apartment.
  • ease of and/or price of parking, parking availability, nearby food/hangout afterwards options
  • Easy to get to
  • Parking nearby
  • Easily accessible via public trans and/or easy parking available
  • Easy to get to either from public transit or driving. Traffic isn’t a huge problem.
  • Ok. I think I’d have to be REALLY into a group to go down to SJ to see someone perform. Unless it’s part of festival and I can see a few groups. But otherwise I don’t think I’d make the trek on any old Saturday to see a random show. Too lazy for that drive for a 50/50 payout.
  • Reputation, convenience
  • Safety in a familiar location
  • See Other section above (I jumped the gun). [This was the “Uniqueness of the theater space. After a while all of the black box theaters seem to offer the same experience. The sixth floor Phoenix Theater (almost in the round), the former configuration of the Alcove Theater, and the now closed Dark Room all offered a different venue experience than most other places.” answer above]
  • It’s not hard to get to
  • transit-friendly
  • Friends, rare out of town show by skilled and different performers.
  • Safety of neighborhood
    Ease of finding the location.
    Easily accessible by transit or parking options
  • Transport, including public transit and parking.
  • Feels safe. Can easily walk or park in a safe area to get to the location.
  • Ease of getting there
  • Being able to get home easily after the show, (due to having to get up early most mornings).
  • accessible nearby parking, hangout food place afterwards like a ‘post show’ gathering
  • proximity to home, cleanliness/safety of neighborhood, ease of finding parking
  • Close to other events/bars/clubs etc….
  • Close to my home
  • Safety of neighborhood, parking.
  • Convenience of public transit or parking.
  • Ease of access to venue and to parking.
  • Close and safe. Plenty of parking.
  • Parking
  • if it’s in SF (where I live) it’s easier to get to
  • Nicer neighborhood, area that I know
  • Convenient
  • Able to hang out before/after the show.
  • It’s close to where I am
  • Public transit accessibility and/or being in the mission
  • Depends on who is performing
  • Safety and convenience to get there
  • Safety
  • If it’s close or easily accessible, or has a good reputation as a fun or cool venue
  • Prefer Earlier Show; safe neighborhood to be in.
  • Length of commute, proximity to cheap food
  • Easy, cheap or free parking or easy access by public transit.
  • Familiarity
  • Proximity to home / travel time. Anything in SF works bc I live there.
  • Near where I live or on muni line

If the specific location/address impacts your decision, what discourages you to go to a venue?

This was a purely write-in question. All responses are listed below.
Responses: 44

  • difficulty of parking, no BART, no nearby food/hangout afterwards options
  • Too long of a commute
  • Length of commute from east bay
  • Far from public transport and little parking
  • If the theatre is uncomfortable/run down
  • Traffic/commute to venue is stressful.
  • See above. I’d be discouraged if the venue is too far away.
  • Uncomfortable neighborhood, hard to get to, unprofessional interior (ie: folding chairs)
  • Crappy part of town
  • Distance I have to travel to get there, if I have to drive or pay for parking
  • Uncomfortable seats, limited bathrooms, shows routinely start late, doors to theater open late in sketchy part of town, generally poor theater maintenance.
  • Far from public transportation
  • Hard to reach by BART, sketchy neighborhood, accessibility
  • Off BART, limited skill of performers, formats I’ve seen many times.
  • Shady neighborhood
    Too far from transit or parking is real limited
  • Hard to park or walk to safely.
  • Difficulty of getting there.
  • no reasonable public transit or parking
  • Unsafe part of town, a less populated part of a city etc..
  • Far away
  • Distance from transit, safety issues
  • Safety of neighborhood, lack of parking.
  • Being uncomfortable in that part of town.
  • Too much distance.
  • Too far away. Dangerous. No parking or far from BART
  • No parking
  • if it’s far away from me, or is at an early or late time
  • Bad neighborhood, unfamiliar
  • Inconvenient
  • Hard to get to, no options to hang out before/after the show
  • Being far away from BART inside SF
  • Seedy parts of town.
  • Shady neighborhood, difficult to reach via public transportation
  • Some areas feel dangerous for women, LGBT, non-binary, or even POC – there are experiences of being harassed, hurt, violated, followed, threatened or having personal boundaries violated. As improv is so CIS White Male and they often don’t have to deal with those sorts of threats or awareness that safety is a constant and exhausting aspect of other people’s existence and takes away from and audience or performer experience (and energy)
  • Accessibility
  • The opposite of above: far, inaccessible, bad reputation
  • Unsafe walk-in there from parking or train.
  • Dangerous neighborhood
  • Traffic/time to drive, poor or unsafe parking choices (“bad” neighborhood).
  • Having to drive/commute far
  • Tenderloin / safety
  • Unsafe bike parking.
  • If the show is late and there is not an easy, safe, and relatively fast way for me to get home afterward, I might not attend.
  • Not near where I live or not easy parking

In an ideal world, where there was no limit to cost/time and location/travel distance, how often would you like to WATCH an improv show?

This was a single choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 95

5-7 times a week: 6 (6.3%)
2-4 times a week: 33 (34.7%)
once a week: 28 (29.5%)
2-3 times a month: 18 (18.9%)
once a month: 5 (5.3%)
Less than once a month: 2 (2.1%)

Write-in responses:

  • Once a week, but again, my answer to this is based on my current performance schedule
  • It depends on how often I’m performing and have space/time to do so
  • As often as possible

In an ideal world, where there was no limit to cost/time and location/travel distance, how often would you like to PERFORM in an improv show?

This was a single choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 96

5-7 times a week: 7 (7.3%)
2-4 times a week: 30 (31.3%)
once a week: 28 (29.2%)
2-3 times a month: 18 (18.8%)
once a month: 7 (7.3%)
Less than once a month: 3 (3.1%)

Write-in responses:

  • I’m happy with the amount of times I perform per week (2x on average)
  • 1-2 times a week
  • twice a week with different groups that don’t cross pollinate

What night(s) of the week are you most likely to be able to WATCH an improv show?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 90

Monday: 17 (18.9%)
Tuesday: 34 (37.8%)
Wednesday: 37 (41.1%)
Thursday: 40 (44.4%)
Friday: 65 (72.2%)
Saturday: 66 (73.3%)
Sunday: 28 (31.1%)

Write-in responses

  • I produce shows on Friday/Saturday night- so watching those shows. But anything outside of the shows I produce, I would go on Thursday night
  • It varies, but I’m usually open almost anytime
  • I’d totally watch a show that was on a day not listed above.

What night(s) of the week are you most likely to be able to PERFORM at an improv show?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 91

Monday: 25 (27.5%)
Tuesday: 40 (44%)
Wednesday: 37 (40.7%)
Thursday: 47 (51.6%)
Friday: 65 (71.4%)
Saturday: 73 (80.2%)
Sunday: 37 (40.7%)

Write-in responses

  • One group I’m currently in is pretty much limited to Saturday and Sunday nights due to the work schedule of a member.
  • I will prioritize performing over other obligations
  • It varies, but I’m usually open almost anytime
  • Saturday first preference over Friday because that way I’m relaxed and not rushing in from after work.

What night(s) of the week are you most likely to be able to attend an improv jam (if you’re open to attending jams)?

This was a multiple choice question, with optional write-in answers. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 77

Monday: 25 (32.5%)
Tuesday: 38 (49.4%)
Wednesday: 37 (48.1%)
Thursday: 40 (51.9%)
Friday: 36 (46.8%)
Saturday: 36 (46.8%)
Sunday: 41 (53.2%)

Write-in responses

  • I’m currently limited to public transportation or driver service, so time of day and location are more important than day of the week or I have to consider transportation costs.
  • Thursday, Friday and Saturday have a lot of shows. I don’t think we should have jams at that time.

Some things to think about

I didn’t ask a question that specifically relates to this thought in the survey, but through conversations I’ve had with numerous improvisers, the impression I get is that other improvisers make up the bulk of improv audiences, and most improv shows are generally more entertaining to people who’ve done improv rather than the general public (unlike other live shows, such as bands/musicians, burlesque, scripted theatre, stand-up comedy, storytelling, and so on). When I look at some of the results above, especially when considering the nights people are available for shows, it seems difficult to keep up a primarily improviser packed audience if people are able to perform as much as they’d like. And the pie chart answers above are based on not having limitations – the previous blog entry on this subject showed a host of reasons why people can’t watch or perform in shows as often as they’d like.

I bring this up not because I necessarily have a solution (I personally think the type of improv production will impact what general audience members will attend), but more because I want to make sure other improvisers are thinking about it. I get that not all improvisers are also producers of the shows they’re in, but I do think more of us should be thinking about these things whether we want to or not. We should be thinking about what else we can do to attract audiences of non-improvisers or improv students. Especially if we’re not willing to give up performances in order to go watch other improv shows (though I personally see a lot of benefits to watching other improv shows – but then I’m on the side of watching more improv than I perform).

Up Next

Part 4 will cover “Cost of shows”
Part 5 will cover “Experience with Theatres and Festivals”
Part 6 will cover “Technology and Marketing, and Last Words”

I’ve been sharing this blog series primarily because I’m interested in the data and I know a lot of people in our community are also. I want to encourage us all to keep thinking about all of these things. It is time intensive to put everything together, and whilst I like making this data publicly accessible, if you’ve been enjoying this series, please consider taking a look at the various ways you can support me as a way of saying thank you. Also, feel free to share these blog posts around on social media! My reach only goes so far on my own.

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