This month the Amsterdam Improv Marathon is being held on the 19th May and will run for 12 hours showcasing a whopping 40 acts that will perform improv in either English or Dutch! The event is held across two stages the ‘YES Stage’ which runs between the times 12-midnight with Six different blocks of shows and the ‘AND Stage’ which is open 2-22 and has 4 different blocks of shows.
We spoke to the co-founder of the Marathon, Isaac Simon to find out more about it and what they have in store….
Hello Isaac! tell us a little bit about yourself and your improv experience?
Salutations Phoenix Remix! I am a long time improviser from Boston, now living and improvising in Amsterdam. My first brush with improv was when I was in high school. I was one of two leads in a one act by David Ives, and to get the part right, our director told the other lead and I to improvise to bolster our onstage chemistry. That was my favourite part of the process. Cut to over a decade later, and I am still happily improvising.
Before co-founding Tag Out Theatre, I was the assistant director of the Barcelona Improv Group, a cast member of ImprovJones in Boston, a guest player for amazing Amsterdam groups and a voracious student of the art (this last one hasn’t changed). As a performer and a teacher, I am most inspired by free form, and am hoping to inspire every improviser I come across to play organically, empathetically, curiously, and mostly for fun. I might even love teaching more than performing, though my love of improv is grandiose enough to be generally all encompassing.
Tell us about your company Tag Out Theatre?
Tag Out Theatre is a small creative outfit that works to open up new stages in Amsterdam, giving new and veteran ensembles the chance to play and learn together. We started with weekly workshops and a monthly show with a dedicated cast, and have since altered the model to focus more on creating more performance opportunities for not only our own improvisers but improvisers from all over Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and the world. We now do a monthly indie night for a variety of teams and musical guests, a biweekly collaboration show with Boom Chicago, and of course the Amsterdam Improv Marathon.
You are one of the founders of the Amsterdam Improv Marathon – tell us how it came about?
The Amsterdam Improv Marathon started like nearly all festival style events; we thought, “wouldn’t it be fun and awesome to cram an enormous amount of improvisers into one day of awesomeness?” We were very much inspired by the Del Close Marathon and other events like it in the states and Canada, and knew that it would be a new initiative in Amsterdam. We really wanted to make our mark on the international improv community, with a special focus on uniting the up and coming talent in the Netherlands with top notch performers from all over the world.
When did the Marathon begin and how have you seen it grow over time?
The Marathon is in its second year, after a super successful debut in 2017. Last year we had one stage, with over 20 acts, and this year we’ve pretty much doubled everything. We rented a bigger venue, have set up two stages, and have 40 acts on the bill this time around. As well, more countries are being represented, and we’re even doing performance slots in Dutch.
What are some your favourite things about the Marathon and Why?
Personally, I love the non stop adrenaline. Once noon rolls around, everything kicks into high gear and it doesn’t stop for 12 straight hours. It’s this great equalizer, the rush of the thing. Everyone is pushed into this high octane improv experience and finds themselves working vigorously to make it a success.
What are some of the most challenging things about organising a Marathon?
For me the most difficult thing is finalizing the programme. Part of why I was so excited to get this off the ground initially was to give as many people the chance to perform as possible. As we grow, more people apply, and sometimes you have to make heartbreaking decisions. I’ve gained so much respect for every single festival producer who successfully maintains solid, friendly relationships with improvisers at home and abroad while having to make tough decisions about programming.
Tell us about some of the acts that you have playing this year?
All 40 acts bring something unique to the Marathon. We have everything, from quick fire comedy to tear jerking drama. To name a few, there is Puppet-X, and improvised puppet show, an improvised Neil Simon theatre piece by Frankfurt improvisers, easylaughs, a veteran expat team from Amsterdam, a new musical project directed by Boom Chicago’s own Sacha Hoedemaker, and Stranger Things Have Happened, a super fun and cinematic group from Groningen.
What have been your highlights from the past Marathon?
Last year, every team brought something unique and memorable to the Marathon. We were so impressed with the level of talent and playfulness throughout the day. I’d have to say my highlights were easylaughs pulling off improvised stand up on the Death Star, two mixer teams gelling as if they had played together their entire careers, and a specifically dark piece of solo improv by international superstar John Mabey. Also, the other organizer (Nora) and I joined a superstar cast for a musical finale in which I played a scandalized tree.
What are your plans for the marathon going into 2019?
If the 2018 edition goes well, then the plan is to continue to grow and diversify what we can do. Maybe even go for a full day marathon. This year we have two workshop groups playing together, so if that goes well, it stands to reason we’d do it again, but bigger!
If people want to find out more about the Marathon where can they visit?
Interested people can go to amsterdamimprovmarathon.com, tagouttheatre.com, and/or search both of those things on Facebook.
In three words why should people come to the Marathon?
All Day Improv!