Well, State College’s renowned improv company Happy Valley Improv is opening a theatre. Blue Brick Theatre will be our new home. The lease is signed. The stage (performance platform) is built. Lights are being installed. We passed our code inspection. Shit, as the kids say, is getting real.
Forgive me for swearing. But opening a small improv theatre is a little stressful. And, as I know all too well, it is hard to censor myself under pressure.
Have you clicked on the links in the paragraph above? Aren’t they fun? Did you know that, for the low, low price of $25,000,000,000,000 you can become a supporter? Just kidding. But we are auctioning off bricks to raise money. Invest a certain amount and you can get your name on one of the bricks. We are fundraising in June. Trying to generate some capital before we go to work. Spread the word. Tell Elon Musk. Somebody has to pay the electricity. And that somebody is us. Take my overhead, please.
Will running an improv theatre be lots of work? Probably. Thank God the other co-founders are younger than me. Other than Andrea. She’s super old. Just kidding. We’re like the same age. And she looks way younger than me. But James, pictured front and center above, doesn’t have children. So he can take the weekend shifts. And the weekday shifts. The morning shifts, too. No, all joking aside, I think we have a collective of people ready to share the responsibility of opening and operating the Blue Brick Theatre. Four founders. Nine company members. And all sorts of supporters in the community.
I have a full-time job as a professor. A family too. So I’ll have to learn how to contribute to running an improv theatre in a sustainable way. That’s fine. My life is full of lessons about sustaining energy. And certainly, an actual space to house our improv company is a natural outgrowth of our mission. Bringing improv theatre to the community. Creating a community out of improv theatre. Those things are connected to the things I care about, and a theatre space downtown State College will be a cool part of that work.
James, Nate, and I were interviewed on WTAJ last week. About our space. That interview is where the grainy picture at the top of this blog comes from. This segment was aired on the evening news. I was quoted as saying something like what I said in the paragraph above. Improv and community and whatnot. They ran this story about us in the newspaper as well.
Samson’s teacher saw the story in the paper. She told him as much the next day. And he told me as much when I picked him up from school.
I’m a regular local celebrity. Lots of fame. Very little fortune. But it sure is cool to see us gather some attention as we open the theatre.
The location made sense. Downtown State College. Right across from Penn State. The price was right. Rent wasn’t outrageous. Go big, as the kids say, or go home. We’ll offer improv classes. Improv workshops. Weekly shows. A youth program for teenagers. All sorts of things are in the works for 209 W Calder Way. Not the least of which is paying our bills.
Solomon and Samson have been down to the space a couple of times already. It’s empty now. We have lots of deep cleaning to do. And deep painting. And deep praying.
“It’s like a skating rink,” Solomon told me. The floors are very slippery. Him and Samson chase each other around. Skating in their socks. It’s adorable. And extremely dangerous.
The space really is cool. Exposed bricks. High ceilings. A grungy and artsy feel. It reminds me of my old blackbox classroom at Cooper High School. Or my makeshift blackbox classroom at Roseville High School. The Blue Brick Theatre, for me, is a nice outgrowth of my history teaching improv theatre. Work that has led me to this moment. And I’m hopeful this new theatre will provide a space for that work to continue into whatever moments come next.
I’m told a pandemic is the perfect time to open an improv theatre.
But seriously, vaccines are available to those who want them. One has to imagine that life will slowly start returning to normal. And, as we come out of the pandemic, operating a small improv theatre in downtown State College seems like the logical next step for Happy Valley Improv. I’ve been fortunate to find a group of people to share improv with.
I’d never have guessed that I’d spend six years in State College, PA. Getting tenured at THEEEE Pennsylvania State University (ALTOOOONA CAMPUS!). Helping to run an improv company. Raising my two young boys with my beautiful wife in the rolling hills of Central Pennsylvania. Fourteen months into a pandemic, and now we’re opening a theatre? Who’d have guessed it? But here we are.
I’ll keep doing my thing because that’s what I keep doing. And that thing now includes The Blue Brick Theatre. Well, okay. Somebody tell Elon Musk. We need some donors.