By: Meghan O'Keefe
The Del Close Marathon not only showcases the best improv New York City has to offer, but also the best from the rest of the country. ImprovBoston will be represented by three teams this year. I spoke with Artistic Director and Mainstage Cast Member, Will Luera, about the theater’s history with the Del Close Marathon and why a Cambridge, Massachusetts theater is called "ImprovBoston."
Will, you've been involved with ImprovBoston since 1997. What brought you to the theater?
I graduated from Boston College in 1997 and my plan was to move back to Chicago or NYC. Before the move, I decided to take some improv classes in the area and I saw an ad for Marjorie Burren, an ImprovBoston alum. I took two levels and by the end of the second level she said I should audition for ImprovBoston. Luckily, they were having auditions a couple of months after classes and I got in! I left IB in 1999 to start my own improv company, Blue Screen Theater, and a year later I was hired again to be the Artistic Director of ImprovBoston.
How do you think ImprovBoston's approach to improv comedy differs from other theaters such as Second City, the UCB, the PIT, etc?
I am a big fan of Organic free-form improvisation. No structure, no form and sometimes no input. We teach our actors that every moment in a show, scene, offer can be deconstructed and can lead to another scene. We teach our actors tools on ways to deconstruct a scene and organically transition to a new one. I truly believe that every show can be entirely unique if you tune in to the sensibilities of the actors and the audience. We go with where the show takes you.
My biggest influence earlier in my career was Burn Manhattan. We did a workshop with them in 1999 and it completely shifted my perspective on improvisation and they're ultimately responsible for the Artistic vision of ImprovBoston today.
This year's marathon features three teams from ImprovBoston (ImprovBoston Mainstage, Marjean & Plan B). What should audience members expect from each of these three shows?
The ImprovBoston Mainstage will feature the style I just described. We have had three amazing years at DCM and we're looking forward to going back. Plan B and Marjean are Chicago-style Harold teams. Both are very talented Harold ensembles and would make Del proud.
How did your involvement with the Del Close Marathon begin?
Our first marathon was in 1999 when I took the old Sitcom Boston troupe. This was back when the festival was only 24 hours and in one space. I remember seeing the original UCB 4 all of the time as well as other - now famous - comedians.
Do you have a favorite Del Close Marathon memory?
My favorite memory was probably two years ago when I was in five different shows across three stages. I submitted all of the shows and they were all accepted. It was great to be so involved in the marathon and to get to perform so much. I also have fond memories of audience members who try to sit through the whole thing. That's just so wonderfully awesome.
ImprovBoston seems to have grown in the past few years. You've moved to a larger theater, organized a variety of festivals and have a growing presence on the national stage. What's next for the ImprovBoston community?
Artistically, I have a few things that I'm trying to focus on for this next season. I would expect more work to come out from our film team and to see us organize more scripted comedy projects. Our sketch department has grown significantly but I would also like to expand into 10-minute, one-act and full-length plays as well as screenwriting and writing for television.
Inquiring minds want to know--why is the theater called ImprovBoston if it is located in the city of Cambridge, MA?
Yes... great question! I think it's kind of how like the New York Jets actually play in Jersey. Actually, in the very early days of ImprovBoston, the group used to perform in and around Boston. Eventually, they landed a regular gig in Cambridge and soon after came a permanent home in Inman Square, Cambridge. Thus, we are stuck with the geographically incorrect description!
ImprovBoston Mainstage will be performing at the UCB Theatre, Saturday at 3 pm. Marjean will be performing at Hudson Guild Theatre Friday at 11:30 pm and Plan B at the Hudson Guild Theatre Saturday at 9:30 pm.