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8th Floor and more to maintain ‘constant craziness’ in annual Bellwether Improv Fest

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Then fourth-year in biomedical engineering Stephen Doughten sits on stage as other Fishbowl Improv members look on at the Bellwether Improv Festival Nov. 8 at the Ohio Union. Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

Then fourth-year in biomedical engineering Stephen Doughten sits on stage as other Fishbowl Improv members look on at the Bellwether Improv Festival Nov. 8 at the Ohio Union.
Credit: Mark Batke / Photo editor

One of Ohio State’s improvisation groups hopes to bring a weekend full of laughter for the low price of: free.

OSU’s 8th Floor Improv is set to host a comedy improvisation festival this weekend for the sixth consecutive year.

Bellwether Improv Festival, formerly known as Improvfest before 2010, is a festival that celebrates the art of improvisational acting and comedy. This year’s festival is set to feature performances from universities around the nation including Harvard University, University of Illinois, Columbia University and Indiana University, and performances by professional troupes from New York City and Chicago.

Vice president of 8th Floor Improv John Ross, a fourth-year in marketing, said the energy at Bellwether, hosted in the Ohio Union’s US Bank Conference Theater, is always high and electric.

“The biggest thing about Bellwether is the constant craziness on stage. As soon as you walk in the theater, it’s crowded,” Ross said. “There’s a lot of energy and laughs in the room. Everyone is just having a good time.”

Improvfest was a competition-based event, but Bellwether focuses more on showcasing the improvisation styles of all the attending comedy troupes while creating a network between institutions.

Third-year in theatre Jordan Tolford, who is also a member of 8th Floor Improv, said he enjoys the air of friendly competition between teams at Bellwether.

“We don’t necessarily want to do better than other schools,” Tolford said, “but seeing how well other schools perform gets me excited and pushes me to do my best.”

Ross agreed that performers strive toward the best of their improvisation abilities at the festival.

“Everyone kind of wants to put up their best effort because we have so many different people coming together,” Ross said. “And we want to show everyone, ‘This is what’s going on.’”

Although the venue is a theater setting, the festival is an open-house style, and no one is pressured to stay for the entire six-hour duration. Ross said audience members come and go as they please, and estimates the theater holds around 200 people at all times during performances.

For the performers at Bellwether, the festival hosts more than laughter and a warm atmosphere as cast members have the chance to learn new skills from professionals.

Lisa Navarro, a third-year in business operations management and business director of 8th Floor Improv, said she feels fortunate for the opportunity to gain insight from actors who have polished the craft of improvisation.

Image used on the Bellwether Improv Festival's T-shirts and posters Credit: Courtesy of Jack McClain

Image used on the Bellwether Improv Festival’s T-shirts and posters
Credit: Courtesy of Jack McClain

“The professionals that come are really active and give us tips — these professionals actually teach us workshops and give us professional advice,” she said.

After a few acts by college teams and 8th Floor alumni, the nights cycle to performances by professional teams from New York City and Chicago. Ross said he enjoys watching professional teams perform because of their mastery of the art form.

Tolford said he is proud of 8th Floor’s accomplishment in organizing a successful festival every year. Tolford and Navarro jokingly compared the atmosphere and its personal importance to a “wedding reception.”

“It’s awesome to me to know how much work is put into it and see it be such a laid-back and friendly environment,” Tolford said.

Bellwether Improv Festival is set to take place Friday and Saturday night at 6 p.m. Doors open both nights at 5:30 p.m.

A full schedule of the events is available on the event’s Facebook page.

“No matter what kind of comedy you are into, you will get inspiration from this festival,” Navarro said.

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