Bay Area Improviser Survey Results: Experience with Theatres and Festivals

This is part five 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
Part Three: Performance venue, frequency, and nights
Part Four: Cost of Shows

Which improv theatres/producers have you WATCHED shows at/by?

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: 103

Endgames (San Francisco): 76 (73.8%)
Leela (San Francisco): 73 (70.9%)
Un-Scripted Theater Company (San Francisco): 65 (63.1%)
BATS (San Francisco): 60 (58.3%)
Other [non-SF Barprov] independent production at Piano Fight (San Francisco): 52 (50.5%)
Moment Improv Theatre (San Francisco): 42 (40.8%)
SF Barprov (San Francisco): 42 (40.8%)
Pan Theater (Oakland): 40 (38.8%)
All Out Comedy Theater (Oakland): 32 (31.1%)
Other independent production at another theatre: 29 (28.2%)
American Improv Theater (San Jose): 26 (25.2%)
Made Up Theatre (Fremont): 17 (16.5%)
Feelgood Enterprises (Rachel Hamilton) (San Francisco): 16 (15.5%)
Synergy Theater (East Bay): 10 (9.7%)
Oaktown Improv (Oakland): 1 (1%)

Write-in responses:

  • Plethos Production (of Castro Valley) included an improv set in their variety show in Hayward
  • Comedy Sportz in San Jose.
  • Suburban Thunder Improv Company (based out of San Ramon)
  • Speechless, Rag Tag Improv, The Iron Stage, Andy & Jerry are The Trifecta, SFImprov Fest
  • The Second City and iO, both in Hollywood
  • Sketchfest
  • Pianofight. Killing My Lobster.

(Some of these are outside the Bay Area, aren’t improv, or are covered in questions to follow, but I’m including them anyway)

Analysis: Number of Theatres/Producers Checked by Individuals

I went through each answer to count how many options each respondent checked off, and so the following results show that.

1: 4 (3 people have only seen Endgames shows, 1 person has only seen Made Up Theatre shows)
2: 11
3: 7
4: 19
5: 11
6: 13
7: 9
8+: 29

The reason I bothered to take the time to look at this is because sometimes it seems there’s a perception that people don’t get around much to seeing a variety of theatre’s shows. This shows that more than 50% of respondents have been to at least 6 different theatres’/producers’ shows, and almost 80% have been to at least 4.

Which improv theatres/producers have you PERFORMED shows at?

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: 102

Endgames (San Francisco): 60 (58.8%)
Leela (San Francisco): 50 (49%)
SF Barprov (San Francisco): 36 (35.3%)
Moment Improv Theatre (San Francisco): 32 (31.4%)
Other independent production at another theatre [non-Piano Fight]: 30 (29.4%)
Other [non-SF Barprov] independent production at Piano Fight (San Francisco): 29 (28.4%)
BATS (San Francisco): 26 (25.5%)
Un-Scripted Theater Company (San Francisco): 25 (24.5%)
Pan Theater (Oakland): 24 (23.5%)
All Out Comedy Theater (Oakland): 19 (18.6%)
American Improv Theater (San Jose): 18 (17.6%)
Feelgood Enterprises (Rachel Hamilton) (San Francisco): 7 (6.9%)
Made Up Theatre (Fremont): 5 (4.9%)
Synergy Theater (East Bay): 5 (4.9%)
Oaktown Improv (Oakland): 1 (1%)

Write-in responses:

  • I did a small run of cagematch shows with Chiv Club in Concord. Small theater (might’ve previously been a bank?) I believe it’s called B8 theater.
  • Rather not say–too identifying
  • Stuff in LA & NY
  • Suburban Thunder Improv Company
  • [An answer that seemed too identifying for me to include]
  • MAIA, WJ

Analysis: Number of Theatres/Producers Checked by Individuals

I went through each answer to count how many options each respondent checked off, and so the following results show that.

1: 16 (see detail below)
2: 25
3: 15
4: 13
5: 10
6: 8
7: 6
8+: 8

Number of Improvisers who only performed at one SF Bay Area theatre/company, at each selection:
Endgames: 5
Leela: 4
BATS: 3
Moment: 1
Un-Scripted: 1
American Improv Theater: 1
Pan Theater: 1

Throughout your improv learnings, which improv theatres/companies have you TAKEN CLASSES at?

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: 102

Endgames (San Francisco): 47 (46.1%)
Leela (San Francisco): 44 (43.1%)
BATS (San Francisco): 29 (28.4%)
Moment Improv Theatre (San Francisco): 21 (20.6%)
Pan Theater (Oakland): 20 (19.6%)
Un-Scripted Theater Company (San Francisco): 15 (14.7%)
Feelgood Enterprises (Rachel Hamilton) (San Francisco): 15 (14.7%)
All Out Comedy Theater (Oakland): 12 (11.8%)
Synergy Theater (East Bay): 6 (5.9%)
Made Up Theatre (Fremont): 4 (3.9%)
American Improv Theater (San Jose): 4 (3.9%)
Berkeley Rep: 4 (3.9%)
Full Spectrum Improvisation: 3 (2.9%)
Oaktown Improv (Oakland): 0 (0%)

Write-in responses:

  • Colossus Improv
  • Comedy Sportz San Jose
  • Magnet, UCB, Annoyance
  • Festival workshops, Second City, IO Chicago, IO West, Annoyance
  • San Francisco Playback Theater
  • UCB
  • Rather not say–too identifying
  • Second City & UCB
  • Studio ACT
  • One off Harold class by Colossus Improv (David Furfero) in Oakland
  • Taken workshops outside of the Bay Area (Chicago)
  • Schools in LA
  • Second City, Annoyance, iO
  • Owen Walker (Berkeley)
  • Single classes
  • East coast improv classes
  • Leela Drop-in
  • The Second City, Hollywood
  • Improv4.com

(Some of these are outside the Bay Area, but I’m including them even though I wasn’t intending this question to cover schools outside of here. I therefore expect there to be a lot more improvisers who’ve taken classes outside the Bay Area that didn’t include those schools in their answer here.)

Analysis: Number of Theatres/Companies Checked by Individuals

I went through each answer to count how many options each respondent checked off, and so the following results show that.

1: 45 (detail below)
2: 19
3: 15
4: 6
5: 5
6: 2
7: 2
8+: 3

Number of Improvisers who only studied at one SF Bay Area theatre/company, at each selection:
Endgames: 20
Leela: 12
BATS: 7
Feelgood Enterprises: 2
Pan Theater: 2
American Improv Theater: 1
Berkeley Rep: 1
(N.B. Some of these improvisers may have also studied outside the Bay Area)

Which of these Bay Area Improv/Comedy Festivals have you attended as an audience member?

This was a multiple choice question. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 96

San Francisco Improv Festival: 78 (81.3%)
SF Sketchfest: 78 (81.3%)
Femprovisor Fest: 49 (51%)
San Jose Improv Festival: 21 (21.9%)
West Coast Musical Improv Festival: 20 (20.8%)
Sonoma Laughfest: 4 (4.1%)

Which of these Bay Area Improv/Comedy Festivals have you attended as a performer?

This was a multiple choice question. The choices below will be listed by popularity rather than the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 48

San Francisco Improv Festival: 33 (68.8%)
SF Sketchfest: 27 (56.3%)
San Jose Improv Festival: 20 (41.7%)
Femprovisor Fest: 17 (35.4%)
West Coast Musical Improv Festival: 9 (18.8%)
Sonoma Laughfest: 2 (4.2%)

Have you traveled outside of the Bay Area to attend an improv and/or comedy festival as a performer?

This was a single choice question. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 102

Yes: 49 (48%)
No: 53 (52%)

Have you traveled outside of the Bay Area to attend an improv and/or comedy festival as an audience member?

This was a single choice question. The choices below are listed by the order they appeared in the survey.
Responses: 101

Yes: 28 (27.7%)
No: 73 (72.3%)

Analysis of Festival Attendees Outside the Bay Area

Improvisers who’ve traveled to perform AND just sit in the audience: 18
Improvisers who’ve just traveled to perform: 31
Improvisers who’ve just traveled to sit in the audience: 10

Some things to think about

Whilst the answers above don’t indicate how often improvisers get around to watch and/or perform at theatres outside their usual home base, it is encouraging to see that there is interest in not isolating our tastes and performance spaces. It makes sense that improvisers tend to take classes from fewer spaces in the Bay Area due to the higher financial obligation involved with that, and whilst I didn’t ask about taking classes outside the Bay Area, I don’t think it’s uncommon for improvisers to start classes here and then decide to study outside the Bay Area for a while, or the reverse – study improv outside the Bay Area, and then move here and find a new improv base.

Bay Area Improv Festivals Approaching!

The West Coast Musical Improv Festival is less than three weeks away on July 19-22 at Un-Scripted Theater, so check out their website for their show schedule and workshops. I’d like to personally recommend Seattle’s hip-hop improv show “A Tribe Called Yes,” which I saw at festivals in Honolulu and Seattle, happening at 9pm Saturday July 21st. They’re also teaching two workshops. Get your tickets for that soon, because the festival just announced that Saturday tickets are selling fast!

The San Francisco Improv Festival will be at PianoFight September 19-23. They haven’t released the full line up or schedule on their website yet, but they did send the line up out to their email list today. You can look forward to seeing American Immigrants (SF), Andrew and Mithra (SF), B & B (Portland), Bingewatch (SF), CAMP (Seattle), Chivalry Club (SF), Community Theatre 3000 (Orange County), Dystopia! the Musical (originated by Michael Yichao at Jet City Improv, Seattle), Eightball (LA), Extreme Championship Improv (UK), Hardy Boys (San Diego), Harlequin (Austin), History Made Up (Des Moines), Jetzo (LA), Landry & Summers (LA), Leela’s Dream Sequence (SF), Linoleum City (LA), Liss n’ Sams (SF), Odell and DeJong (SF), Prudence and Pervis, the Purdy Twins (LA), Rachel Hamilton (SF), RagTag Improv (SF), Red Door (LA), Rollin’ In Riches (LA), Rusty Nails (SF), Sad Boys (San Diego), So You Want a Job (SF), Solid Gold Duets (Chicago/LA), Speechless (SF), Swipe Right (SF), The Nancy Boys (Portland), The Recchia (SF), and The Trifecta (SF). For schedule and ticket announcements, keep an eye out on their Facebook page for now.

I’m especially looking forward to SFIF this year because it’s the first time I’ll be performing there, after three years of submitting. I mention that last part because when I finish this blog series, I’m planning on writing about how to cope with negative feelings when you don’t get into a festival, and how you can use that as motivation to keep trying.

Up Next

Part 6 will cover “Technology and Marketing, and Last Words” (look out for this one after July 17th… I’ll be on vacation until then)

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