The Founders of Improv Theater

As readers of this blog know, I am a practitioner and fan of improv. Last year I started a portrait project that documents the many faces of the improv community. Last month I had the extraordinary opportunity to make portraits of many of the early pioneers of improvisational theater at an event in San Francisco.

I first met Jamie Wright and Sam Shaw when they were producing the San Francisco Improv Festival. They are also film-makers, and are working on a documentary about The Committee—a groundbreaking improv theater founded in 1963. I won’t try to re-hash the full history of The Committee in this blog post, but in short, it was composed of some of the boldest and most talented performers ever gathered, who were WAY ahead of their time in terms of improv, comedy, and theater in general. (For more information on The Committee, and on Jamie & Sam’s documentary, visit the film’s website.)

The 50th Anniversary of The Committee was in April 2013, and Jamie & Sam put together a reunion event, gathering almost every living member of the group, plus fans and family members. They invited me to be involved—both to document the reunion, and to make portraits for my Improvisors project.

I will share some of my formal portraits in an upcoming blog post. In the meantime, here are some photos from the festivities.

Many former Committee members clearly hadn’t seen each other in years (or decades), and the reunions were heartwarming to see. These people shared some great history.

Reliving memories of youth clearly brought out the inner child in everyone.

Lots of vintage posters and memorabilia were on display at the event, and Committee members re-discovered younger versions of themselves.

The reception was followed by a presentation and a teaser preview of The Committee documentary film. Things wrapped up with speeches by the co-founders of The Committee, Alan Myerson and Latifah Taormina, and an honorary certificate presentation by State Senator Mark Leno.

Kudos to Jamie & Sam (pictured on far left and far right, above) for putting on a terrific event that was fun for me to witness and precious to the honorees who were in attendance.