The Twin Cities Improv Festival (TCIF) is a five-day improv celebration that includes workshops and performances. This will be the eleventh year of the festival and it will be held at HUGE Theater. Our goal in creating this document and graphic is to provide a snapshot in time of where TCIF is in terms of diversity, and is reflective of the final list of performers provided to us by TCIF. We did not take into account the process of creating the festival, but rather focused on the final product.
Last year, Fair Play MN assessed the gender and racial disparities in the festival — this year, we conducted the same assessment. Out of the 60 performers on Friday and Saturday nights (prime-time slots for the festival), 53% of those performers are women and 35% of those performers are people of color. Out of seven instructors, three are women and three are people of color.
In comparison to last year’s TCIFX, the total number of individual women performing increased by 20 and the total number of individual people of color performing increased by 15. Last year, there was a smaller pool of women performing multiple times. However, this year, not only is there a larger number of individual women and POC performing, but in many cases, each of those individual performers is seen on stage in multiple shows.
In addition to this, TCIFX had eight teachers who were all white males. There were no women or people of color. This year, out of seven teachers, only one is a white male.
What does this data mean?
Fair Play MN came into existence in early 2016 in order to call out gender representation disparities in our community and create a call for action. This process has meant confronting underlying tensions in improv and comedy in general, and has been both a painful and exciting process for our entire community. We have asked performers of every identity to deeply analyze our preconceived patriarchal notions of hierarchy in performance spaces. From TCIF10 to TCIF11 we have watched the conversation about “good improv” change from being defined by tenure to being defined by whether it brings something new and powerful to the stage.
Over the last year we as a community have woken up from a long sleep and we are hungry for something new. Fair Play MN is now a part of a larger drive toward equity, and many other individuals and groups have stepped up to create new spaces for other folks to play. For example, BlackOut Improv played a major role in increasing the number of POC participating in the improv community. In addition to the POC jam there are now Women/Trans/Femme/Genderqueer classes, a Queer Improv jam, new classes for seniors, a 40+ improv jam, and an improv jam for teens. We have seen a major increase in participation and feeling of agency. Theaters have opened their doors to these folks and made space for more opportunities. TCIF11 represents our desire to be better.
How can we as a community continue this progress?
- We recognize the amount of progress seen this year at TCIF11 and want the regularly scheduled shows in our community to be reflective of the same levels of representation.
- There is information not presented in this data that is still vital to understanding our community. We are lacking data on LGBTQIA+ identities, age disparities, economic disparities and others. We urge the community to look deeper at this data and encourage a discussion around these points.
- We want these numbers to continue being an important reflection of our community growth.
“It took me quite a long time to develop a voice, and now that I have it, I am not going to be silent.” —Madeleine Albright
Notes regarding this data:
- The TCIF (Twin Cities Improv Festival) team sent Fair Play MN the data regarding performers in this years festival. Using the names of individuals performing in the festival, Fair Play MN compiled the above statistics.
- On the graphic we created, the percentages reflect just the makeup of the individual performers on Friday and Saturday nights — both an assessment of men and women as well as an assessment of POC vs. white people.
- Performers were identified as a man, woman, or person of color based on how they identify and how they present. We want to acknowledge that gender is fluid and the gender identity of individuals may be represented incorrectly, may not fall into this binary, or may have changed since this initial count. We also want to acknowledge that there is a wide spectrum of racial identities and there may be incorrect identifications of race as well. We presented the information in this way in order to make a complex issue more visible and understandable. If you have concerns over this issue or want to offer a correction, please email email@example.com
- All performers were only counted once. Several people appear more than once in the festival, but they were only included in these statistics once. If we had counted the number of times people appeared on stage, the numbers would be 59 performances by men, 31 by women, 10 by people of color.
- Stevie Ray’s, BNW and CSZ have rotating casts. These numbers are based on the names they sent for cast lists. Those may be subject to last minute changes.