The Ventura Improv Company will soon say farewell to its downtown Ventura venue, a location it has held since the mid-1990s. But fear not, improvisational theater lovers: The show will definitely go on — just in a more flexible format. The last engagement at 34 N. Palm St. is Jan. 14, but outside performances are already planned for the beginning of February. “We’ve lined up two shows a month right away, one at NAMBA and one at Bell Arts,” says Tom Mueller, who co-founded Ventura Improv with Artistic Director Gary Best in 1989. “And we’ll be doing other shows as well.” The company seems to be barely missing a beat as it transitions to a mobile operating model.
To hear Best and Mueller speak, the loss of a permanent venue has only reinvigorated the 20-member-strong company. “As a group we came to this conclusion,” recalls Mueller. “And everyone’s mojo got percolating a little bit more.”
“The number of shows we had to do every month just to pay rent, we just didn’t have the manpower,” adds Best. “It just seemed like the right choice.” In addition to the high cost of keeping a venue going month after month, the efforts involved in managing the space were taking away from the company’s mission. “We were spending too much time on uncreative endeavors,” says Mueller, noting that putting on 8-10 shows a month was taking its toll. “It was taking away from the rewarding part of improv. Our mission is to explore improvisational theater — not run a professional theater.”
While both acknowledge that closing up shop in the Improv’s longtime home will be bittersweet, Mueller and Best say they feel liberated by the overall experience. The performance schedule has been cut in half — down to 3-4 shows a month — leaving more time for workshops, and for members to pursue other interests. “I want to travel, and have the availability to do the occasional play,” says Best, who will remain artistic director. Classes will continue as well, and organizers are already considering their options.
All in all, Best and Mueller see this as a positive development. “I think it’s going to be a move forward for us,” says Mueller. “We can enjoy improv without worrying about those bills.”
As Best puts it: “We can do shows around town, and it will be a new adventure.”
Catch Ventura Improv’s final performances on Jan. 13 and 14 at 34 N. Palm St., Ventura. For future shows, workshops and other information, call 643-5701 or visit http://venturaimprov.com.