Bad Dog Improv Summit

This entry is cross-posted with blogTO.com. Everyone loves a summit. If by 'everyone', you mean scowling diplomats and folks really into the reduction of nuclear weapon stockpiles. But Toronto's Bad Dog Theatre has come up with an event with much broader appeal- instead of arguing about the number of ICBMs in Poland, the Bad Dog Improv Summit is all about funny.

The idea is simple: bring together top improv troupes from across North America for a four-day festival of improvised goodness. In its first year, the summit brings together Montreal's Without Annette, the Vancouver Theatresports League, Seattle's Unexpected Theatre, and of course, Toronto's own Bad Dog. The goal, as Bad Dog Artistic Director Marcel St. Pierre explains, is to share different ways of performing improv and exploring creative common ground.

"Each region has a different tradition and a different style of play, but the head-to-head competition, the misbehaviour - these are things that we all share, and these are the things we want to showcase," says St. Pierre.

I checked out the first night of the summit, a joint performance between some Bad Dog regulars and Without Annette. It was a Harold show, a form of long-form improv where the performers construct extended stories rather than quick scenes. As you would expect, it was funny. The summit is a showcase for the improv top guns of their respective cities, so comedy is more or less assured. But the really interesting thing is that different cities really do have different performance styles. Toronto seems to be more about 'big' performers and structured scenes, while the Montreal crew was subtler, favoured props, and had a more relaxed approach to scene construction.

The Bad Dog Improv Summit continues until June 28th. Tonight, the Vancouver Theatresports League and Unexpected Theatre will bring a little West Coast flavour. Tomorrow, all four teams get to strut their stuff. Things get competitive on Saturday night, with a four-way Theatresports battle royale. All shows start at 8PM at the Bad Dog Theatre (138 Danforth Ave.). And if you'd like to get in on all the improv summiting, a series of workshops will be offered each day until Saturday.

So, check it out. Good idea, good improv and a good time.