On Saturday, Louisville’s oldest improv group will join forces with Louisville’s newest improv group, as well guests from Nashville, to offer Louisvillians looking for laughs the first L&N Improv Festival. Back to back shows at 8 and 10 p.m. will showcase the combined efforts of four groups.
The 8 p.m. show features sets from Lung Farm, Louisville’s newest improv group; Louisville Improvisors, the longest running group in town; and Field and Jill Mothershed of Music City Improv with Luke Watson of LOL Nashville, forming a kind of Nashville super group.
The 10 p.m. show will feature a collaboration between the Louisville Improvisors and the folks from Nashville. The Derby City/Music City super group will perform under the salacious name “Narcotic Farmers.”
Insider spoke with Brian Hinds of Louisville Improvisors and Jessica Hines of Lung Farm to get the lowdown and hear about the past and future of their organizations.
Lung Farm is a three-person group featuring Hines and local performers Jon Becraft and Gracie Taylor. Taylor has performed with Stage One and the Walden Alumni Company, and Becraft has performed with The Bard’s Town Theatre and is the creator of Louisville Championship Arm Wrestling.
The new group will focus on long-form improv. To figure out how they got their name, drink several beers at Hilltop Tavern and say “long form” repeatedly. While the group is new, its members have a history.
“Jon, Gracie and I all went to Hanover College together, Jon is two years older than I was, and Gracie is a year younger than me,” explains Hines. “At different times, (we) were part of Evil Petting Zoo, the on-campus improv group.”
Those long collegiate hours of honing not only their individual skills but also their ability to work together should pay off for the group — and for audience members.
“One of the main components of improv, you learn very early on, is the importance of group mind,” says Hines. “It’s about listening to the other people in your group, knowing when to give back.” Hines thinks Lung Farm is definitely ready to work together. “We’re very aware (of) even things as subtle as body language or the way someone says something. We catch on very quickly.”
Not content to rest on their former training, the trio has been meeting since October to fine tune their group mind. Hines says their long-standing friendships also help the group grow through constructive criticism. “We’re not afraid to hurt each other’s feelings,” she says. “One thing you have to be able to do when you’re practicing for improv, you have to be able to take criticism and really put it into play.”
The L&N Improv Festival marks Lung Farm’s first public appearance, though the group is already in talks to take on a semi-regular show at Germantown night spot Kaiju.
The Louisville Improvisors have had an impressive year. Last summer, they presented laugh-til-I-nearly-threw-up performances at Kentucky Shakespeare.
“It’s a blast,” says Louisville Improvisor Hinds, who adds, “We’re doing four shows (for Kentucky Shakespeare) next June.”
In the fall, the Improvisors premiered “Single Shots,” the first of what they hope will become a yearly one-person show festival. Hinds says the group is purposefully trying new things and hoping to expand their output in scope and variety. He says these new formats are somewhat inspired by the group’s success with their shows in Central Park: “I think (this was) prompted by our involvement last year with Kentucky Shakespeare.”
The group also is gearing up for a probable return of Improvapalooza, their yearly Improv Festival that features groups from Louisville and around the nation. Improvalooza was shelved while the Improvisors helped start a local theater festival, but the group is ready to bring it back. Hinds mentions the national groups that came to Louisville — “The Black Version from L.A. came with guys like Cedric Yarborough, names came and did the last Improvapalooza.”
With possible regular Kaiju appearances from Lung Farm, and Louisville Improvisors’ regular Bard’s Town shows and their excellent podcast, 2016 is already shaping up to be a great year for improv in Louisville.
The L&N Improv Festival runs Saturday, Jan. 16, at The Bard’s Town. Tickets are $10 for the 8 p.m. show and $5 for the 10 p.m. show.