Meet the Troupes Performing at PIF13

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What: The 13th Annual Phoenix Improv Festival

When: April 17-19, 2014

Where: The Herberger Theatre Center, Stage West

Website:, currently using The Indexer team to better themselves online.


Troupes Performing at the 13th Annual Phoenix Improv Festival

Unicorn Warpath – Phoenix, Ariz.
Formed in 2010, Unicorn Warpath is a house troupe at the Torch Theatre, where they headline a monthly show. Troupe members have diverse backgrounds, careers, and ages, but came together because of their shared love of longform improv. Each member’s unique perspective adds to the richly textured scenarios that they create together. Members of Unicorn Warpath met through classes and their participation at the Torch Theater in Phoenix, Ariz. They have performed at a variety of venues in the Phoenix metropolitan area, ranging from bars to stores to large theaters. They performed at Albuquerque’s Duke City Improv Festival twice and have graced the stage at the Phoenix Improv Festival in 2011, 2012 and 2013.

Dutchman – Phoenix, Ariz.
Torch Theatre and Phoenix Improv Festival co-founder Mack Duncan and Liz Hutchman began performing together way back when as part of the musical troupe The Remainders. Since beginning their collaboration as Dutchman in 2010, they have played frequently around Phoenix, Ariz. and have appeared in the Phoenix Improv Festival.

EXiT 185 – Casa Grande, Ariz.
EXiT 185 Improv Comedy is the first and only improv comedy troupe in Pinal County, Arizona. Developed over years of workshop and classroom improv training provided by director Ken Ferguson, EXiT 185 Improv Comedy is dedicated to the art of improvisational acting in the spirit of short-form improv comedy at first, such as the popular television show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and then with further development through longform improvisational techniques and training. Comprised of local residents who have committed countless hours of practice and discipline to bringing quality, family-friendly entertainment to the community, EXiT 185 Improv Comedy strives to push the art of improvisation.

Salmon Shane – Phoenix, Ariz.
Torch Theatre co-founders Sam Haldiman and Shane Shannon build a foundation to their show with several short, high-energy character scenes with high stakes. Those scenes are used to create a show that explores ridiculous situations through strong emotional character point of view.

Mail Order Bride – Phoenix, Ariz.
Mail Order Bride was the first all-female improvisation group in Phoenix. Started in October of 2006, the Brides found their voice while creating bonds through friendship and life experiences. Mail Order Bride has constantly challenged their creativity, putting together a calendar every year and creating genre show themes such as the White Trash Pool Party and Soap Opera. The members of Mail Order Bride became great all around performers out of exploration of improv in this group and the style of performance that escapes when they perform together is unique. It’s risk-taking, bold, emotional and all backed by strong commitment and interesting characters.

Judd – Phoenix, Ariz.
Judd came together in 2010 when a group of Phoenix improvisers wanted to add music to their shows. The group has performed at several locations in the Valley outside of their home stage at The Torch Theatre, including the National Comedy Theatre in Mesa, Copper Blues, Space 55 and on stage at the Herberger Theater in the Phoenix Improv Festival 11 in 2012. The group’s improvisers are all avid singers and/or musicians, while the accompanist is also a skilled improviser himself. This versatility allows the group to create songs that are not only fun to hear, but also make sense within the scene and the show.

Robot Destroyers from Planet Earth – Phoenix, Ariz.
A longform improv power duo, bringing comedy to the sad people of our home planet of Earth. RDFPE enjoys delivering high stakes status play, fun characters and dynamic visuals to their shows. They have thrilled and chilled audiences in multiple venues in Arizona and Mexico, and hope to thrill and chill audiences sometime in the near yet frightening future!

Light Rail Pirates – Phoenix, Ariz.
The Light Rail Pirates (LRP) all formed out of a short form group in 2006 to pursue longform performances. They started their journey with the complex format of The Deconstruction. The work they did early on strengthened them into a force to reckon with. They possess strong skills in character work, relationships and high energy play with a strong understanding of the bigger picture. LRP has created forms of their own such as Postal, Abraham Lincoln, Rantonrougue and Swap Meet. They do not hold back on stage and today they have a wonderful mix of skills with a sense of focus. Their shows really deliver a series of belly laughs that will leave you smiling.

The Displacers – Phoenix, Ariz.
Torch Theatre based troupe The Displacers performs the longform format Harold.

JaxN Reed – Phoenix, Ariz.
Torch Theatre co-founder Jacque Arend and Stacey Reed Hanlon started improvising together in 2005 and continue to work together in ensembles such as Mail Order Bride and Light Rail Pirates. In 2009 they formed JaxN Reed to focus on the amazing stage chemistry they developed during that time. They focus on bringing a great variety of interesting characters and grounded relationships. JaxN Reed brings the audience on a trip through a small lens of the world, discovering how relationships and people intertwine and connect.

Street Lightning – Los Angeles, Calif.
Street Lightning improvises like a David Mamet play colliding with Who Framed Roger Rabbit, but with better-drawn female characters. Troupe mates Mark David Christenson and Ryan Hitchcock met at the Los Angeles Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre in 2010 and a year later embarked on the improv odyssey that is Street Lightning. Street Lightning’s shows are loose and fun, influenced by the “game” philosophy of UCB, where they are both active with other troupes. Street Lightning has played all around Los Angeles — including major theatres like UCB, iO West and The Second City — and at The Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington. Ryan is a Los Angeles native; Dave is originally from the Salt Lake City area.

Tandem – Rock Island, Ill.
Leslie Mitchell and Jeff De Leon are Tandem, a longform duo bound and determined to make the world a slightly better place through improvisation — or just a little bit funnier, at the very least. With more than 30 years of improv shows between them, De Leon and Mitchell bring a plethora of strong characters alongside a sickeningly vast knowledge range of sports, cinema and pop culture.

Mister Town City – Los Angeles, Calif.
Mister Town City is a Harold team based at the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB) Theatre in Los Angeles. Mister Town City also performs other longform formats such as La Ronde, The Arcadia and The Convention at indie improv venues around Los Angeles. Members of Mister Town City can be seen outside of the UCB, performing on stage with Story Pirates or in Amsterdam with Boom Chicago, on TV in various shows and commercials, or hosting the long-running L.A. indie improv shows Tuesday Night Thunder, The Manifesto Show and Sketchbar.

Galapagos – Phoenix, Ariz.
Having performed countless forms and styles of shows across North America since 2003, Galapagos’s performances are now liquid metal shaped by the suggestion and the group mind. One of the founding groups of The Torch Theatre in Phoenix, they place full commitment, exploring the absurd as a team, and having a blast above all — especially when it involves hijinks like mixing lofty artistic ideals with shameless pop culture tropes. Galapagos is Bill Binder, Jose Gonzalez, Jon Jahrmarkt, Mark Jordan and Shane Shannon.

Michael Keaton – Minneapolis, Minn.
Michael Keaton features the combined talents of Butch Roy and Hannah Wydeven of HUGE Improv Theater in Minneapolis. They perform together in Michale Keaton, as well as with groups such as The Minneapples, Five Man Job, Show X and Poivre. Roy and Wydeven give control over the number and length of scenes to the tech booth, allowing scenes to dive down the rabbit hole or capture just a single moment — they will show you things that cannot be unseen and take you to places that cannot be un-taken. Imagine a fairy named Trundle that has been trapped in a cage by a young boy that has stolen her wings because he wants a magical friend … that is Michael Keaton.

Switch Committee – Chicago, Ill.
The boys of Switch enjoy hanging out, talking about “guy stuff” and slapping each other around. These real-life tendencies have directly impacted their improvised form; a modified Living Room that opens with honest discussion stemming from audience suggestion. From there, nothing is off limits. The boys play fast and physical; climbing on each other, using each other as objects and giant fight scenes are common in shows. Nothing is ignored as they constantly push the scenes and each other throughout the show. There is no time for rest when Switch performs because their edits are soft and transformational, using the physical position, line or idea in the current scene to jump-start the next. It is with trust and love that Switch plays and by the end of the show, the boys will be exhausted and covered in sweat and the audience will have experienced a full, physical and outlandish piece of improvisational art.

Switch has been performing for 2 years, performing over 200 shows together. They spent a year in the Chicago barprov scene before being spotted by Charna Halpern, founder of the iO, and given an unprecedented two-night run (Saturdays and Thursdays) at the world famous iO Chicago Theater. Switch Committee currently headlines Thursday night at the iO Cabaret Theater.

Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed – Tucson, Ariz.
Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed was created by Dana Cianciotto in May 2002 as an outlet for actors, comedians and performers in the Tucson area. Cianciotto hoped to bring together a unique group of people from different backgrounds with different levels of experience to create a well-rounded and eclectic performance troupe. Emulating the improv greats, Not Burnt Out Just Unscrewed has grown from an experiment into a phenomenon, and looks forward to providing southern Arizona with many more years of entertainment.

Apollo 12 – Phoenix, Ariz.
A founding troupe of The Torch Theatre — and one of the longest-running improv troupes in Phoenix — Apollo 12 attempts to play to the top of their game as well as the audience’s intelligence. Delving deep into literature, mythology and pop culture, Apollo 12 builds up ideas intellectually and then gleefully rips down those ideas bit by bit with a ruthless sense of playfulness. Apollo 12’s line-up includes Bill Binder, Arturo Ruiz, Mack Duncan, Jon Jahrmarkt and local author Rick Larsen.

Jester’Z – Scottsdale, Ariz.
Comprised of professional actors, comedians and stand up comics, The Jester’Z have provided instant comedy for audiences of all ages, since 2001. Taking improv to the highest level of professionalism, the Jester’Z perform four shows weekly at their theater in Scottsdale, as well as travel around Arizona and across the U.S. entertaining corporate clients with their scene-based short-form comedy.

MuChuChu – Phoenix, Ariz./Los Angeles, Calif.
Jacque Arend and Xchel Hernandez Zendejas have shared the stage since 2005, building an amazing chemistry and trust in a variety of shows and projects. MuChuChu was born due to a last-minute substitution before a 2012 Cagematch show at the Torch Theatre. MuChuChu performs a highly challenging two-person Harold, playing with high energy, strong commitment and tons of risk taking.

Specter – Boston, Mass.
Specter’s goal for every set is to produce a unique show that feels different from any other Harold the audience has ever seen. Their shows are not beholden to any one format, instead aiming to let the suggestion and opening inform the rest of the show’s structure, content, and pacing. They push making connections early, looking for through lines, sync points and patterns regardless of what Harold “beat” they are in. Specter is high energy, quick supportive and always original.

Pawn Takes Queen – Cedar City, Utah
Pawn Takes Queen is a long-form improv comedy team consisting of TJ Penrod, Wendy Penrod and Ryan “Rev” McLean. Over the course of 25-30 minutes, a suggestion is woven into a single scene rich with detail, relationship, and hilarity. In more than five years performing together, PTQ has played in Los Angeles, Phoenix, Salt Lake City and most of southern Utah.

King Ten – Los Angeles, Calif.
Now celebrating their 10th year, King Ten is iO West’s longest running and most critically acclaimed house team. Audiences pack the house every Wednesday night to watch King Ten perform iO West’s signature piece, The Harold, and to enjoy the original, ambitious and hilarious style of play this ensemble is known for. Individually these veteran improvisers have appeared in national television series, commercials and feature films, as well as taught classes, workshops and coached teams at iO West. Their show is not to be missed. King Ten has toured the country and has been an official selection in many Improv Festivals including: The Los Angeles Improv Comedy Festival, The Phoenix Improv Festival, Out of Bounds Comedy Festival in Austin, Texas and The San Francisco Improv Festival, to name a few. National Comedy Theatre Phoenix, Main Stage Players – Mesa, Ariz. National Comedy Theatre’s Main Stage Players presents improvised comedy performances every Friday and Saturday night at their home theater in Mesa. The Competitive Comedy Show features two teams of comedians performing in scenes and games vying for audience approval. Umlautilde – Phoenix, Ariz./Chicago, Ill. Umlautilde’s shows range from the absurdly ridiculous to the sublime and grounded. Primarily performing an improvised one-act play — which they sometimes bend, twist and shatter — Umlautilde explores characters brought together by fate. Bob Fisher is a veteran improvisor, beginning about 25 years ago in Chicago and performing with Cardiff Giant, Bang Bang, The Second City’s TourCo and The Annoyance Theater. Jose Gonzalez started improvising about 12 years ago in Phoenix with Galapagos, Dangerville, and The Torch Theatre. They started improvising as Umlautilde in 2008 and haven’t stopped. Umlautilde has appeared in the Chicago Improv Festival (2013), Out of Bounds Comedy Festival (2012), UCB-NY’s Del Close Marathon (2010-2012) and the Phoenix Improv Festival (2009-2013).

Honey – New York, N.Y.
Honey was an official selection of the Inaugural 2013 District Improv Festival, 2013 Detroit Improv Festival, 2013 Baltimore Improv Festival, 2013 Phoenix Improv Festival, 2012 Detroit Improv Festival and the 2012 Fall Back Festival in Rochester, N.Y. Nick Armstrong of IO West described Honey as the “perfect example of group mind on stage.”



What is The Phoenix Improv Festival?
The Phoenix Improv Festival is a three-day event, packed with shows, workshops and networking for improvisers and those who appreciate the art of improvisation. The festival strives to bring the best improvisational entertainment to the Valley, while raising awareness about this rapidly growing art form.

The festival showcases improvisational comedy troupes from around the country, whose shows come in all shapes and sizes. There are short-form troupes that perform improv games, thoughtful and experimental troupes that perform longer scene-based work, and even fully improvised musicals and movies.

The Phoenix Improv Festival debuted in 2002, and in its inaugural year featured three local Phoenix troupes. Previous festivals featured troupes from around the country, including performers from Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, Austin, Salt Lake City, Miami and Detroit, as well as troupes from all over the state of Arizona.

Alumni performers have included Jack McBrayer (30 Rock), Craig Cackowski (Community, Drunk History), Stephnie Weir (Mad TV), Matthew Lillard (Scream, Scooby-Doo), Tj Jagodowski and Peter Grosz (Sonic Commercials), Dan Bakkedahl (Legit, The Heat), Mark Sutton and Joe Bill (Chicago’s Annoyance Theater and The Second City).


What is improv comedy and what’s it doing in Phoenix?
To improvise is to completely make something up on the spot, whether it be a song, a character, or in some cases, an entire play or movie. Improvisers create entire scenarios and shows from audience suggestion. Nothing is predetermined, and the performers must support each other’s reality through a course of scene work. Improvisation is also often incorporated into the broader study of acting technique and character development.

Improv troupes in Phoenix perform a variety of forms, and the number of troupes in the Phoenix area has grown exponentially over the past few years. There are short-form troupes, which follow a series of games, much like the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” and there are longform troupes that follow one theme or set of characters for the course of the entire show.


Who produces the Festival?
The Phoenix Improv Festival is produced by CareFree Write Productions (CFWP), a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Founded in 2000 by Mack Duncan, CFWP began as a small, independent production company. In 2002, Duncan partnered with Bill Binder and formalized the mission of CFWP. The company now produces and promotes performance events primarily, but not limited to, improvisational theatre.

CFWP serves as a support network for developing local artists, an educational resource for the community, and an integral part of Phoenix’s growing cultural movement. As part of its mission, CFWP also operates The Torch Theatre, Longform Improv Theatre and Training Center located at 4721 N. Central Ave. in Phoenix. To learn more about The Torch Theatre, visit


What is the mission of the Phoenix Improv Festival?
The Phoenix Improv Festival strives for:
Commitment to Local Artists: The festival is dedicated to fostering the artistry of local performance. In addition to exposing local artists to the best improv from around the country, the festival also hosts workshops for local performers taught by some of the most celebrated improv teachers in America. Past festivals have included workshops by directors for The Second City, iO and the Annoyance Theater. The Arizona Showcase night, where improv troupes from around the Valley get to showcase their talent on a bigger stage, is critical to this goal.

Commitment to Excellence: Every year the Phoenix Improv Festival submission committee handpicks the most groundbreaking, entertaining and accomplished performances from typically 50-100 improv troupe submissions. Each year, more troupes apply to become a part of this festival, which speaks not only the increasing interest in the Phoenix festival, but to the expanding talent base this art form is commanding.

Commitment to Values: In addition to being an exciting and unique brand of theater, improvisation also promotes values and useful skills that can help people in the workplace, in their relationships and in the community. The cornerstones of improvisational theater are active listening and teamwork. Other skills enhanced by the study of improvisation, such as public speaking, confrontation of fears, confidence and spontaneity can be extremely advantageous in many areas of life. In fact, several corporations hire improvisation instructors to enhance productivity and workplace morale. Relationship counselors have also been known to use improvisation as a method of teaching skills such as listening, agreeing and achieving common goals.


Where can I find information on tickets and show times?
Tickets will be available through the Herberger Theatre Box Office, (602) 252-8497 or in person, online at or A separate release will be issued once tickets officially go on sale. Schedules will be posted on If you are not a member of the press and would like to be notified when tickets go on sale, please sign up for our mailing list at the festival website.

Ticket pricing is as follows for the 2014 Phoenix Improv Festival:
$10 Thursday, 7 p.m. Showcase
$15 Friday, 7 p.m.
$10 Saturday, 5 p.m. Matinee
$15 Saturday, 7 p.m.

Discounts: Friday and Saturday night tickets are only $12 for seniors, students and military with valid ID.