Taking Stock: TCIF11



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 fairplaymn@gmail.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.


A Very Feminist Valentine’s Day


FairPlay MN is pleased to present A Very Feminist Valentine’s Day! This comedy show will feature an incredible cast of performers and content representative of and dedicated to creating equitable space for women-trans-femme improvisers in the twin cities.

February 10, 2017
Show @ 10:30p // Doors will open shortly beforehand
Tickets sold at the door for a minimum suggested donation of $10+. If you can’t afford the suggested donation, you will not be turned away. If you can afford more, we welcome it!

All funds will be donated to local organizations that support women, trans and queer communities – specific organizations to be announced shortly.

Jenn Schaal
Taj Ruler
Lauren Anderson
Gregory Parks
Meghan Wolff
Mary Kane
Rita Boersma
Ben Wagner
Janay Henry
Jen Van Kaam
Denzel Belin
Beth K. Gibbs
Lucas Vonasek
Kory LaQuess Pullam
Katy Kessler
Anna Tobin
Damian Johnson
Doug Nethercott
Will Roberts
Madhu Bangalore
Erin Sheppard
Tyler Mills
Becky Wilkinson Hauser
Liz Council
James Rone
Hannah Wydeven
Gubby Kubik
Sophie Brossard
Sally Foster
Lizzie Gardner
Sarah Busch
Karina Strom
… and more!

Meet the Leadership Team: Sally

fairplay-leadership_sallyThe FairPlay leadership team is made up of 5 people who volunteer their time to lead and organize the many FairPlay members. Learn more about who they are by getting to know one of our leaders: Sally. A chronic documenter, Sally can usually be found knee deep in spreadsheets. One part calculator, one part bath bomb and one part sass, she rounds out our leadership team!

Why did you want to be a part of the leadership team?

Over the years that Fairplay has existed, I have watched the community evolve in so many positive ways – I have watched us all ask ourselves and each other difficult questions and seen us each be confronted with our own shortcomings as we examine how we all contribute to the systemic issue of sexism. While so much of the change has been good, I have also seen the ugly side of asking the difficult questions. I have seen the fire of confrontation and accusations spread; and I recognize that in many ways, Fairplay lit that initial spark. I have watched people I care deeply about be dragged through the mud, and I have watched the Fairplay leadership team carry on despite this, even as the emotional toll wore them down and out.

I have also witnessed and experienced first hand the real and tangible difference that an organization like this can make in empowering women to confront the unfair standards that we are held to by our male counterparts, and often times, by ourselves.

At its core, I wanted to be a part of the leadership team because I thought it was a good idea to have a fresh perspective both on the organizational/logistical aspects and on the role of the group itself. I wanted to bring new energy into the group, and I did not want to be an armchair advocate in the community.

What experiences have you had that you feel prepare you for your role on the Fairplay leadership team?

Defining how I am “qualified” for this is so subjective – we each have different ideas as to what level of experiences really makes a personal qualified to do anything, and while Fairplay has never claimed to be “qualified” to take on this role, I understand that by doing so we are inherently claiming we do, in some ways. As far as informal training goes, I am a woman who has lived in a patriarchal society since birth. There’s really no better qualification for wanting better for ourselves and other women, and I hope that Fairplay has played a part in inspiring confidence that we are each worth speaking up for.

As far as formal training goes, I served on the staff of a non-profit organization whose sole purpose was empowering youth aged 14-24 for three years. I was then elected to chair the organization for two consecutive years. The organization – Summer’s End – was the only organization of its kind to our knowledge. It was run by youth, for youth. I have seen a lot of the same principles of that community apply here. In my role as chair, I created the sexual harassment and formal “harshing” policy. I have extensive training in mediation, conflict resolution, and specifically on communication in consensus based communities/discussions. I have also worked in law and finance since college, so I tend to approach things from a very analytical point of view.

What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I love my job as a fraud investigator for a major bank. I spend a lot of my time focusing on social justice and equality; I recently successfully pitched a project to install gender neutral restrooms at my workplace which was accepted and will eventually be implemented nationwide. I produce multiple shows for local comedy theaters and I also work on a show called Minnesota Tonight, which I really love because it’s a satirical news show that focuses entirely on issues impacting our state. When I’m at home, I love to read, play videogames, hang with my cats and pup, eat at restaurants in the ‘burbs, and watch HGTV.

3 Dumb words you like the sound of:

Yogurt, elephant, oregano.

Where can we see you perform?

Currently, only in my living room.

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

One. You. Because you are enough.

FairPlay’s Year in Review: 2016

2016 was a year of growth and change for FairPlay. In February, FairPlay was built on the collective passion of almost 100 women-trans-femme improvisors to give purpose and direction to their pain, frustration, joy, and hope for the future of our improv community. We formed a leadership team in April and identified our group’s mission – to claim equitable space for all women-trans-femme improvisers – and goals:

  1. Create an improv community that is accessible, inclusive, and equitable to all, regardless of gender identity.
  2. Shift the improv community’s culture away from its traditional male-dominated roots and towards a culture that is responsive to the diversity in the improv community and where individual identities are celebrated, not merely tolerated.
  3. Identify, call attention to, and condemn instances of sexism, sexual harassment, and sexual assault in the Twin Cities improv community.
  4. Make room for women-trans-femme improvisors as leaders in the improv community.
  5. Disseminate practical tools to teams, coaches, and theaters to provide guidance for how to create more equitable spaces.

In 2016, as awareness grew, the FairPlay Leadership Team responded to many requests for advice and advocacy. These requests came from survivors of sexual harassment and assault, improvisors seeking to make their groups more inclusive, and women-trans-femme improvisors navigating complex environments. We reached out to local improv venues to identify points of contact for gender equity concerns, and received great support and interest from venues. We published several documents, including “Sexism and Misogyny in the Twin Cities Improv Community;” “Calls to Action to Theaters, Improvisors, and Teachers/Coaches/Directors;” TCIFX equity analysis; and boundary guidelines.

In the past year, we have encountered a lot of feedback, support, pushback, and sometimes outright hostility in response to our work. In many ways, this is all part of creating cultural change. Growth can be difficult, even painful. We have made mistakes, and learned from those mistakes. We have made difficult and important choices because we knew someone had to take action. Despite the challenges we have faced this year, we remain committed to claiming equitable space for women-trans-femme improvisors in the Twin Cities. We remain open to hearing from the community about your concerns, fears, and hopes. As a community-driven organization, we strive to remain connected to the community that we care about enough to hold to high standards.

Recently, public conversations about some of the decisions made by the FairPlay Leadership Team have demonstrated to us the need for more transparency in our work. Because our original, urgent task was to provide support to women who had experienced sexual harassment and assault in the community, protecting the privacy of those who sought our help was our top priority. While that hasn’t changed, we now recognize that the need for privacy means that much of our work takes place outside of the public eye. In order to establish greater transparency between FairPlay and the larger Twin Cities improv community, we want to provide a few clarifications, as well as our commitment to addressing those concerns:

  • We are not in the business of reviewing/rating shows, but when concerns about content are raised, we will follow our established procedures. Click here to learn more about those procedures.
  • We have not and will not use any power we have as individuals to punish anyone for disagreeing with the actions of the FairPlay Leadership Team.
  • Because we are still individual people who have human feelings, we may sometimes step back as we recover from some situations. We will, however, always make sure that the boundaries between actions as individuals and actions as the FairPlay Leadership Team are clear.
  • Our goal in reaching out to individuals or groups is ALWAYS to open up a productive dialogue. We will make every effort to ensure that this intention is always very clearly communicated.
  • We understand that cultural change is difficult and it takes time. We have never claimed to have all the answers, but we’re ready to show up and try to make our community the best it can be. Please join the conversation to help us move forward. Opportunities include:
    • Attending our public meeting on January 15th (open to all genders).
    • Attending our bi-monthly FairPlay meetings (open to women-trans-femme improvisors).
    • Submitting questions, concerns, feedback, etc. to our email address: fairplaymn@gmail.com or via our website: fairplaymn.com.

In 2017, we aim to continue to grow, evolve, learn, and find our place in this community. We will further engage the Twin Cities improv community in moving towards greater gender equity. The FairPlay Public Meeting on January 15th is an opportunity for members of the community to participate in challenging but necessary conversations about creating an improv community that is accessible, inclusive, and equitable to all, regardless of gender identity. Click here to learn more about the FairPlay Public Meeting on January 15th.

Our sincere hope is that 2017 is a year of progress, accountability, and equity for the Twin Cities improv community. We are ready to show up and work to make that happen, and we hope to see you there.

Boundaries Guidelines

One of the issues presented most frequently in the improv community regards the structure of a boundaries discussion. We have had several requests for a clear and defined method around discussing personal and group boundaries. In order to address this topic, we met with a small group of interested folks, came up with some basic ideas, and then tested these ideas with several groups of improvisers. From there, we created the “levels of intimacy” and “Boundaries conversation guidelines” posters as well as a detailed brochure.  All of these are downloadable, and FairPlay offers the following recommendations for use:

  1. Theater venues should print the two posters and hang them in a visible place where performers can reference them. In addition they should print several copies of the brochure and/or make the brochure easy to download on the performer page of their website.
  2. Theater venues should alert new teams performing in their venues to these boundary guidelines and recommend new teams use them before putting their show up on stage.
  3. Directed shows within a theater should be required to use these guidelines before and after rehearsals and shows to create an expected and accepted vocabulary and tradition of conversation in the venue.
  4. Teachers should use these boundaries guidelines and alert their students to the existence of these materials. Teachers should stay on Level A intimacy in their classrooms and use these materials to reinforce appropriate behavior with students.
  5. Teams should use these guidelines to start a conversation with their team regarding boundaries, and come up with a consistent practice of checking in before and after rehearsals and shows.
  6. Individuals should bring these materials to their team, teachers, directors if they notice that these guidelines are not being used/followed, or the group has not yet been introduced to these practices
  7. All questions regarding the use of the materials can be sent to us at fairplaymn@gmail.com. Especially if you have constructive feedback to improve these guidelines and make them more useful for the community.

Please feel free to use these posters and brochure to help create and maintain a safe and healthy community.

Downloadable Conversation Guidelines Brochure


Meet the Leadership Team: Gubby

10805803_10152426380842805_5709003479189802109_nThe FairPlay leadership team is made up of 5 people who volunteer their time to lead and organize the many FairPlay members. Learn more about who they are by getting to know one of our leaders; Gubby. You can find Gubby performing in a multitude of shows, spreading her talent all over this city. She is a force to be reckoned with and is demonstrating what it looks like to be performer who is unapologetically queer and feminist.

Why did you want to be part of the leadership team?

After Beth Stelling posted about her abusive relationship with a fellow comedian and Chicago women opened up about sexual harassment and abuse in their improv scene, a group of Twin Cities women also met up in person and talked about how we felt as female improvisers. We talked about things that had happened to us during our improv careers, on and offstage. That night I heard brave stories from friends and acquaintances that were moving and sad, and all I wanted to do was change it. To make it stop. To have our community understand what was happening and that it wasn’t was supposed to be happening.

What are you most excited about in regards to FairPlayMN in the improv community?

I am so excited about FairPlay in the improv community because I can already see changes happening. Men are checking in after shows and groups of improvisers are discussing physical boundaries before going on stage. This is so encouraging to me because I feel that this brings everyone in the community and the group closer together.

What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I spend a lot of my time working and improving my career as a Teacher of Deaf/Hard of Hearing Learners. There are a lot of elements that I love, like working with children, disability justice, and American Sign Language, but it’s also a lot of paperwork and emailing. I also spend my time cooking and watching reality tv!

3 dumb words you like the sound of.

Bolognese, Ueberraschung, Tarp

Where can we see you perform?

Look out for me at KINGS, Super Good, and Show X!

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

A clown car of improvisers. In a silent film. With Bjork playing in the background.

Meet The Leadership Team: Sarah

13217114_10154254940013982_299953965092121340_oThe FairPlay leadership team is made up of 5 people who volunteer their time to lead and organize the many FairPlay members. Learn more about who they are by getting to know one of our leaders; Sarah. Sarah is a relatively new addition to our improv community, after returning to the Twin Cities. Sarah has previous experience in social justice work and leadership, and she brings a thoughtful and patient presence to the team.


Why did you want to be part of the leadership team?

I grew up in the more charming of the Twin Cities, and I’ve been doing improv since I was listening to A*Teens, but coming back to the Twin Cities after a year and a half away I was nervous about reconnecting with the improv community here. A friend suggested that I get involved with the Cities’ emerging conversation regarding gender equity in improv, and I am SO glad that she did. I started attending meetings of what is now FairPlayMN and what I found was a group of incredibly passionate women who loved improv so much that they were prepared to hold our community to higher standards. I decided if I was going to really be a part of this community, then I had to be a part of making it an inclusive and equitable place for everyone.

What are you most excited about in regards to FairPlayMN in the improv community?

I’ve had some of the most challenging conversations of my life since joining FairPlay – and I couldn’t be more excited about it. It’s always hard to disrupt the status quo, to begin having conversations about things that have been ignored for too long. But hearing the feedback from people who are inspired, challenged, shocked, humbled, or all of the above by the stories shared in this space and the work we’ve done has been an amazing experience.

What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I’m usually reading at least one fantasy novel and one romance novel at any given time. I’m on a quest to perfect my Netflix recommendations. And occasionally I’m lucky enough to be chosen to read the same board book 15 times to my niece.

3 dumb words you like the sound of.

Blubber. Doodle. Marmalade.

Where can we see you perform?

At the moment I’m working on getting my feet planted at my new day job but I’ve previously been known to perform with The Unfinished Projects.

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

None. Because the lightbulb isn’t a lightbulb, it’s Donald Trump’s toupe. And it’s not an electrical socket, it’s a glazed donut.

Meet The Leadership Team: Hannah


The FairPlay leadership team is made up of 5 people who volunteer their time to lead and organize the many FairPlay members. Learn more about who they are by getting to know one of our leaders; Hannah. An improviser for a decade in the cities, Hannah has her hands in a lot of different projects.


Why did you want to be part of the leadership team?

I have always been involved in social justice work. I am interested in purposeful creation of safe spaces, and giving people access to normally privileged opportunities. I think it is incredibly important to elevate the voices and stories that are not being told. Improv is normally white, male, cis and hetero. I want to be part of expanding what is normal in the improv community, and I am thrilled to be doing that work alongside four other incredible people who are equally passionate about equity for women.

What are you most excited about in regards to FairPlayMN in the improv community?

Right now we are seeing a lot of people questioning their own biases. Many people have come forward to us and said that the work that FairPlay is doing has woken them up to some of their own personal prejudices. I am also excited that FairPlay has a blossoming relationship with Blackout Improv. Through an awareness of intersectionality, we hope to find better ways to increase representation and dismantle the systems of oppression that make comedy and improv specifically an unsafe place for marginalized folks.

What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I own a small business so I work a lot. I lift weights and compete in olympic weightlifting often. It’s great fun and makes me feel capable and confident as hell. I also love to spend time with my hubs and my dog petey, who is kind of famous.

3 dumb words you like the sound of:

Curmudgeon, doppelganger, tinge

Where can we see you perform?

Show X – Mondays, 8 pm @ HUGE Theater. Shrieking Harpies at the Twin Cities Horror Festival on the following dates/times:

Fri, Oct 25 @ 5:30pm
Sat, Oct 26 @ 8:30pm
Sun, Oct 27 @ 10pm
Wed, Oct 30 @ 11:30pm
Sat, Nov 2 @ 2:30pm

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

I think most of us would just ask Molly Chase if she could help.

Meet The Leadership Team: Lizzie







The FairPlay leadership team is made up of 5 people who volunteer their time to lead and organize the many FairPlay members. Learn more about who they are by getting to know one of our leaders; Lizzie. Lizzie is an active member in the improv community and can be seen all over town performing, teaching and directing.


Why did you want to be part of the leadership team?

I wanted to be more active in changing the mentality surrounding the improv scene to create a more equitable playing ground for female identified improvisors. I decided I couldn’t complain about the state of things for women if I didn’t actually put my money where my mouth is; and while the work is difficult, it is also highly rewarding to see the amount of progress and conversation we have already achieved through this endeavor.

What are you most excited about in regards to FairPlayMN in the improv community?

I’m so energized by the conversation that’s come from this about how we can change the mentality of these spaces to give women and people of color a legitimate seat at the table.  There is a wonderful discussion constantly happening now in the hallowed theaters I love, and more and more, women are feeling like they can be heard and have their thoughts be taken seriously. I’m so excited by the shift in the classroom to making improv class a safe, respectful space and also giving theaters the ability to provide a better basis not only for their students but for those teaching. Productive conversation is at play now, and the more we speak, the better the state of things will become.


What do you like to do when you’re not improvising?

I love to teach and coach improv! It’s one of my favorite things to do, and it’s so rewarding and nurturing not only to help others make huge discoveries but also to continue to make them myself.  I also love hanging out with my husband and friends, and especially my dog Charlie. I love going to concerts and watching improv and getting in ridiculous arguments about movies. I also enjoy playing video games. A lot.

3 dumb words you like the sound of.

Derf. (sound of my dog barking)  YAS. Plumage.

Where can we see you perform?

Shrieking Harpies at the Twin Cities Horror Festival on the following dates/times:

Fri, Oct 25 @ 5:30pm
Sat, Oct 26 @ 8:30pm
Sun, Oct 27 @ 10pm
Wed, Oct 30 @ 11:30pm
Sat, Nov 2 @ 2:30pm

How many improvisers does it take to screw in a lightbulb?

6. One to name the location, one to become the stool, one to become the lightbulb, one to explain how best to screw it in, one to accuse the other of intellectual theft and one to light the room on fire.