Shooting Stars at the SF Improv Festival

One of my great passions over the past several years has been improv theater. I took an introductory class on a whim in 2009 and was immediately hooked. Almost everything I’ve ever done (including photography) has involved doing something different every day, as well as a healthy dose of problem-solving. Improv takes doing new things and problem solving to the extreme, with the who/what/where/when/why in a scene all having to be figured out on the fly, and no two scenes are alike. It’s a terrific challenge, and incredibly fun once you shed those regular life habits of caution and planning, and really just live in the moment. It is also great for team-building. I have met and worked with some great people in the improv community.

From my first days doing improv, I realized that improvisors would make amazing portrait subjects. There is no special wardrobe in improv, no props, no sets, and certainly no script. The only way that improvisors can set a scene is with improvised dialog and their ability to be expressive with their face and body. This expressive repertoire is a gold mine for a portrait photographer like me.

After a couple of years of thinking about it, I finally got off my butt this Summer and started shooting portraits for a series I simply call Improvisors. I have had several photo shoots at my studio this Summer, where improvisors from all over the Bay Area have dropped in to participate. Some samples from this project have made it into a new and growing portfolio on my website (www.samwillardphoto.com).

Upon starting this project, I immediately knew I wanted to shoot the performers at the San Francisco Improv Festival, which takes place every year during the month of August. My improv troupe had the opportunity to perform at the Fest in 2011, and it draws incredible local and national talent every year.

In early July, I started a dialog with the producers of the SFIF, and set the wheels in motion. I am pleased to say the the Fest is going on right now, and I have been on location at the Eureka Theater in San Francisco, making portraits of some of the headliners.

Shooting at the SFIF has exceeded even my highest hopes. For example, on Friday night I had the pleasure of photographing members of True Fiction Magazine, made up of some of the Bay Area’s most established and well-regarded improvisors. Here are my portraits of Friday night’s cast, which consisted of Barbara Scott, Ben Johnson, Rafe Chase, Regina Saisi & Joshua Raoul Brody:

The SFIF runs through August 25th. Although I cannot be at the Fest every night, I hope to return several times this week to photograph performers, and I promise to post more portraits here on the blog!