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Improv festival planned for April will bring more than 30 troupes to Syracuse

Improv comedy is thriving all around Upstate New York, says improv enthusiast Joe Blum. The improve scene enjoys especially strong college troupes in Binghamton, Clinton, Oswego and Rochester with college troupes, semi-pro troupes in Ithaca and Albany and all-out pros in Rochester and Buffalo.

"There's all this talent everywhere. There are great venues, and there's an audience. But for all of that, there still isn't a real improv community," said Blum, a co-director of the Thumbs UPstate Improv Festival set for April 8 and 9 in Syracuse.

Blum, along with Syracuse improv veterans Ken Keech, Vanessa Rose and Mike Intaglietta, plan to solve the "no community" problem by uniting comedy improv troupes and increasing community awareness.

"The four of us have each lived in New York City or Los Angeles, two hotbeds of improvisational comedy," Intaglietta said. "We've seen how a vibrant community around improv works for the benefit of everyone. More people for improvisers to play with, more quality comedy for audiences to watch."

Improv is an increasingly popular form of comedy where performers create scenes based on audience suggestions. Syracuse is currently home to several high school troupes, Syracuse University's Zamboni Revolution, and troupes like Satan's Closet, Don't Feed the Actors, Oregon Fail, and Red House Live. There's even the Salt City Improv Theater located in ShoppingTown Mall.

Thumbs UPstate organizers hope to attract up to 30 troupes from Upstate New York to the St. Clare Theater, an underutilized venue in Syracuse's Northside.

"Northside UP is thrilled to help host the Thumbs UPstate Improv Festival," said Sara Caliva, a program manager with Northside UP. "We expect that the festival will benefit local merchants and further energize the emerging arts scene within the neighborhood."

The festival will consist of performances by attending groups, beginners workshops for those looking to try something new, advanced workshops in both short form and long form improv led by veteran improv educators.

A festival pass for both days, including performances and workshops, costs $10. Tickets to view the performances cost $5 each night; beginners' workshops cost $10 and include admission to the Saturday performances.

Visit upstateimprov.blogspot.com or e-mail thumbsupstate@gmail.com for more information. They're on Facebook, too.

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