Improv Teachers & Students

My last blog entries were from the early part of the San Francisco Improv Festival, where I was photographing performers. I went back for a couple more days of shooting portraits and got some great stuff, but then I got slammed with a series of major jobs, and had no time to sort through much less blog about my SFIF portraits.

I’m happy to report that things are slowly getting back under control, and I’ve had some time to go through my images.

Some of the improvisors shown below are the people who first got me excited about shooting at the Fest. They are people who I have taken improv workshops with myself and/or seen performing on stage. They are some of the best. They came to headline some nights at the Fest, and I was lucky enough to have a few minutes of their time back stage to make portraits for my Improvisors series.

Without further ado, here is the product of the second half of my week at SFIF!

David Razowsky is a a veteran, based in L.A. I took a workshop with him two years ago that helped me break through to a new level in my own performing. I have experienced him as a great teacher, who can be unvarnished with both praise and criticism. My kind of guy. He’s also a phenomenal performer, as he proved yet again during SFIF. He performed a two-person show with local Bay Area improvisor Rachel Hamilton, who I also had the opportunity to photograph.

David is unafraid to dial any emotion up to eleven, as evidenced here:

I have to say, though, that despite his deep well of impish energy, my experience just talking with him is more as a calm, sophisticated and supremely confident man:

Now here is Rachel, preferring dialed-up-to-eleven over calm and sophisticated:

And of course a couple of images of them acting silly together (my first multi-person Improvisors portrait):

One of my best group experiences with improv was at the first ever Improv Summer Camp in 2011. It was an old-school sleep-away camp with cabins filled with bunk beds, nature activities, and a whole bunch of improv workshops, all taking place in a beautiful ocean-side location on the central California coast. Camp ImprovUtopia, as it’s called, is the brainchild of founder and director Nick Armstrong.

It had been a while since Camp, so it was great to see Nick again at SFIF, performing with not one but two L.A.-based troupes that were invited to the Fest!

A face I’ve seen Nick make more than a few times:

Nick role-playing as his father:

On my final day at SFIF, I came in with fingers crossed that I would be able to catch the great Susan Messing of Annoyance Theater in Chicago. She was teaching a morning workshop and then performing as the closing night headliner. To my delight, she appeared on set after her workshop and gave generously of her time.

All improvisors are personalities, but Susan is a personality among personalities. She did not disappoint in front of the camera. This is my favorite image, showing her characteristic intensity (and also displaying a novel way of flipping the bird!):

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any better, David Razowsky showed up to teach his afternoon workshop, and old friends were reunited:

Speaking of workshops, one of my goals while photographing at SFIF was to catch workshop participants–people from all over the Bay Area improv scene–who I might not have found otherwise.

I had some great volunteers, and got fantastic portraits. Here are my favorites:

All in all, the San Francisco Improv Festival was a huge success. I was able to meet and photograph so many great people, and spend time with some of the greats. It is a real perk of being a photographer that, if you pursue work that inspires you, you really get to enjoy what you do. My Improvisors project is limited in scope for now, but it’s coming along great and I hope to grow it and create a gallery exhibition and/or book at some point down the road.

Thanks again to Jamie, Chris, Cassidy & Jill for helping to facilitate my work at SFIF!