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Five years of funny with Improv ME

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BREWER – Some of the best improvisational comedy groups from all over the state of Maine are descending on the Next Generation Theatre in Brewer.

On Nov. 2 and 3, local improv troupe The Focus Group will once again be playing host to the Improv ME Festival. Sessions will take place at 8 p.m. on Nov. 2 and at 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Nov. 3.

Now in its fifth year, Improv ME is the largest annual assemblage of improv talent in the state of Maine. With three sessions over two days featuring seven different groups, audiences will get the chance to experience some of the best improv that Maine has to offer.

Admission to each session of the festival is $10. In addition, a limited number of All-Festival passes – good for admission to all three performance sessions – will be available for $25. The Producing Sponsor of the Improv ME Festival is Geaghan Bros. Brewing Company. The Media Sponsor is The Maine Edge.

(In the interest of full disclosure, in addition to The Maine Edge being the festival’s media sponsor for each of its five years, the author of this piece is a member of The Focus Group and one of the organizers of the Improv ME Festival.)

The Improv ME Festival was born of a desire to bring together Maine’s wealth of improv talent together in one place. Members of The Focus Group had participated in just such an assemblage in the troupe’s early years; they had done two years as part of the now-sadly-defunct Portland Improv Festival and had an extremely positive experience. Not long after word of PIF’s conclusion arrived, the desire to continue being part of that sort of event led to the idea to try and make a festival of their own happen – and The Focus Group jumped on it.

While previous incarnations of the festival have featured groups from New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island, this year’s a little different. For the first time, the Improv ME lineup consists entirely of Maine-based groups. The scene has exploded in recent years and Improv ME wanted to celebrate the growth of Maine improv.

And there you have it. If you’re looking to have a few laughs this weekend, there’s no better place to be than the Improv ME Festival. You won’t know what’s coming – and neither will the folks on stage – but rest assured, it’s going to be a good time.

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Participating groups

The Focus Group (Bangor/Brewer)

The Focus Group has been bringing their own brand of improv comedy to area audiences since 2009. Over the past decade, they have established themselves as a mainstay of the region’s artistic community. They offer their unique takes on standard improv formats while also occasionally inventing a few interesting improv twists of their own along the way.

Teachers Lounge Mafia (Farmington)

These folks out of western Maine are stalwarts of the improv scene. They’ve been bringing their brand of short-form goodness all over the state and beyond for years. They’ve also been very good friends to the Improv ME Festival, appearing in every iteration thus far. Teachers Lounge Mafia is one of those groups that, when they perform, if you aren’t laughing, it’s because you actively hate fun.

ImprovAcadia (Bar Harbor)

What more can be said about the incredible talents of ImprovAcadia? Since its founding by Jen Shepard and Larrance Fingerhut 15 years ago, ImprovAcadia has been bringing long-form-infused short-form (or short-form-infused long-form) improv comedy to audiences in Bar Harbor and beyond – including their new wintertime performance space on Main Street in Bangor. Simply put, they are the best that Maine has to offer.

Queen City Improv (Bangor)

Making their debut at this year’s festival is this new Bangor-based group. Queen City Improv is all about the short-form improv, bringing a diverse set of sensibilities to the stage and offering a show experience that is all their own. You might have seen them performing around town, but this is your first chance to see them on the Improv ME stage.

Mainely Improv (Poland Spring)

Another first-timer at the Improv ME Festival, Mainely Improv’s debut is something that has been a long time coming. These folks have been performing around the region in some way shape or form since 1995. That’s over two decades of area improvising; they’ve been doing what they do for a long time. And now you can see them at Improv ME.

Running With Scissors (Portland)

This Portland-based group is one of the most well-established in southern Maine, having performed near and far for years. After an inadvertent hiatus from last year’s festival, they’re back for the fifth installment. They're a particularly quick-witted bunch, throwing themselves into their short-form format and proving willing to go wherever it takes to track down a laugh or two.

The Fresnel Theater (Portland)

The Fresnel Theater crew might be one of the newer groups in Maine, but they’re no strangers to the improv stage. Founded by Matthew Russell and Krista Simonis, the Fresnel has brought worldwide improv phenomenon ComedySportz to Portland. Along with that notable format, the Fresnel Theater performs a variety of short- and long-form shows. They’re a welcome and valuable addition to the state’s scene.

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