laugh, play, and learn all weekend from some of the most talented people in our field 


So Many Amazing Instructors

in Just One Weekend!

Okay, 2020. We can't have our 10th anniversary Improv Festivus in person? FINE!!! YES AND we'll have a virtual festival with more incredible improv instructors than we could even fit on one stage!

This year, your registration to Improv Festivus will give you the opportunity to sign up for as many Master Class level improv workshops that you can possibly fit in! You get the opportunity to learn from so many different and talented improvisers - scroll below for all the bios, and then be sure to come back to this page for information on all the specific workshops very soon!


Denzel Belin (he/him/his) is a director, writer, actor, producer, and improviser currently based in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Denzel has directed for Uprising Theater Company, Phoenix Theater, Freshwater Theater, Gadfly Theater, and Minnesota Fringe. He is a longstanding cast member and writer at The Brave New Workshop and writes for The Nordly and AWF Magazine. Denzel teaches improv for HUGE Theater, Blackout Improv, and freelances as an improv coach. 


Jill Bernard (she/her) has been performing with ComedySportz-Twin Cities since 1993, and is a founding member of HUGE Theater in Minneapolis. Her one-woman improv piece, Drum Machine, has been featured in over forty improv festivals. She has taught and performed improv in more than 22 countries and in over forty of the United States! Her books, "Jill Bernard's Small Cute Book of Improv" and "Jill & Patrick's Small Book of Improv for Business" are standards for improvisers around the world!


Joe has been an Internationally Touring Teacher, Performer and Director for more than 25 years. He is one of the co-founders of Annoyance Theater, was a teacher at The Second City Training Center & Conservatory for 12 years and was a performer, teacher and/or Director of Corporate Training at iO Chicago for more than 30 years. He is half of one of the first Improvisational Duos, BASSPROV and has somewhere around 20 wonderful Duo partners from around the world with whom he plays in different ways and formats. He has taught at pretty much every major improv/impro Festival in the U.S. & Canada in the last 30 years.


Mandy Butler is a member of the General Company at Dad’s Garage Theatre and has been an active improviser in Nashville, Richmond, Atlanta, Savannah, and Greenville. She has taught at improv festivals and studios in the United States, Istanbul, and Iraqi Kurdistan. She currently leads the improv program at Newberry College, where she is a tenured Associate Professor of Speech & Theatre and the Director of Performance. 


Tara DeFrancisco is a veteran performer of 6000+ shows on multiple world-renowned stages, including The Second City, ComedySportz, and iO Chicago. Tara is internationally known for her performances in “HERE, the (improvised) Musical” and as a founder of The Improv Retreat. She is the Co-Founder, Artistic Director, instructor & mainstage performer for beloved The Nest Theatre in Colombus, OH and is currently an adjunct professor virtually to Ohio University in Athens, OH. She believes that the tenets of improvisation & vulnerability of comedy are transformational and life-changing.


Maria Konopken is a native to the beautiful city of Phoenix, Arizona, and is a performer, writer, producer, and director in Chicago. She is a graduate of iO Chicago, Torch Theatre, and Annoyance Theatre, and a three time ALTA Award nominee for her Solo Show, My Body is Perfect, Storytelling, and Migdalia Cruz Mentorship Award. Maria performs as a storyteller, and poet throughout the country, as well as with Matt Damon Improv, and the show, Burlesque is More. She is also a co –producer of the web series, Pre-Existing, and a co-writer/co-star/co-director of the web series, In-Diana: a workplace comedy.  


As a professional improviser for over 18 years, Courtney has designed and led team building workshops and provided entertainment for numerous Fortune 500 companies. Since 2001, she has been a performer and educator with CSz Worldwide. Courtney hails from San Francisco and holds over a 15 years of experience in communication & public relations. She is the Owner and General Manager of CSz Boston, as well as the owner of The Rozzie Square Theater.


Lauren performs, teaches, and does corporate team building through improv with companies like Disney, Nestlé, Yahoo, Google, Sony and more. She has improvised with ComedySportz, SAK Comedy Lab, Improv Olympic, UCB, Opening Night the Improvised Musical, and multiple Theatre Sports locations. Disney's Comedy Warehouse and ACME. You may have seen her mug on TV on MADtv (regular cast member), True Blood, How I Met your Mother, Vegas, Jessie, Imagination Movers, The Sarah Silverman Program, Girlfriends, World Cup Comedy, and more. Lauren has most recently performed with 9-1-1 (Fox), Show Offs - Improvised Musicals on BYUtv, and Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ on BYUtv.


David Razowsky is the respected former artistic director of The Second City Los Angeles, and the host of the podcast ADD Comedy with Dave Razowsky. He is based in Los Angeles, and his travels across the world in 2015 alone brought him to over a dozen states plus Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, and the UK. At Second City David worked with Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Rachel Dratch, Chris Farley, among others, and directed numerous revues. He is a consultant for Dreamworks, a teacher for Steppenwolf Theater, adjunct faculty for California State University, and he directed two productions for Amsterdam’s Boom Chicago Theatre. 


Allison is a current writer for The Second City Writers Room and a recent writing/performing member of the Second City Touring Company. Allison has performed with iO Harold teams, Whirled News Tonight, Second City, and Annoyance. Allison is a founding member of the Chicago improv staple and all WOC ensemble Matt Damon Improv and is the creator/head writer for their web-series “In-Diana”. Allison has been featured in numerous Chicago showcases including NBC's Breakout Comedy Festival, JFL, SNL, and Comedy Central showcases at iO Theater. 


Aretha Amelia Sills is a Los Angeles-based writer and teacher of improvisational theater and creative writing. The granddaughter of Viola Spolin, she studied theater games for many years with her father, director Paul Sills (creator/director of The Second City and Story Theater), and has conducted workshops for numerous colleges and theater programs. She is the Associate Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works, has worked with Tony- and Emmy-Award winning actors and has trained faculty from Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, LAUSD, CETA, and many other institutions and schools.


Shannon Stott is an improvisor based in Austin, TX. She has been performing and teaching Improv and its benefits to theater students and corporate clients since 2001. Shannon utilizes improv as a tool to change lives both on and off the stage, encouraging her students to carry these tools out of their theaters and into their workplaces and homes.

She has recently launched the new endeavor "Shannon Stott Improv: On and Off the Stage"


Paul Vaillancourt has been teaching and performing improv across the country for more than 25 years. He founded the iO West where he was a teacher, director, and performer in hundreds of shows. Paul is a sought-after improv coach, producer, writer, and consultant working with many TV networks including Fox, MTV, VH1, Oxygen, History, and Bravo. He is the author of “The Triangle of the Scene: a simple, practical, powerful method for approaching improvisation” (available on Amazon) and the host of Improv Tips on YouTube at


Kelly Vrooman is an actor/writer whose most recent short film, Rekindled, played in 12 Oscar-qualifying festivals and took home 15 awards. Her original sketch comedy videos, featured on Facebook Watch, have over 100 million views. She is a Kennedy Center Irene Ryan acting scholarship nominee and winner of the Kids Screen Award for Best TV Host for her work hosting THE SUNNY SIDE UP SHOW. Kelly also wrote for and starred in THE CHICA SHOW on Sprout/Universal Kids. In 2016, Kelly's improv duo LAURELLY (with Lauren Pritchard) broke the record for most wins at the improv Cagematch at iOWest with 69 straight weeks.


2020 Workshop Schedule

Below is the currently planned  Improv Festivus master schedule of workshops! Bookmark this page, and then be sure to register so you can claim a spot in your favorite workshops when they all go online!


Please note that workshops and times may be subject to change.

Friday, December 18, 2020


with Denzel Belin

Friday 12/18 • 12:00pm - 2:00pm EST

This workshop will be a chance to warm up, play, and explore the digital improv realm with feedback and notes to help it be as strong as it can be. Scenework will be the priority of the class along with sharing tips learned from The Theater of Public Policy’s successful full-digital season.


with Mandy Butler

Friday 12/18 • 12:00pm - 2:00pm EST

Worried you have to give up the funny to get the substance? Want to develop compelling relationships onstage, but are afraid things will get “too dramatic” or *GASP!* boring? Do you think that performing connected and engaging longform is out of your reach? This workshop will help you learn how to get out of your head by putting all of your attention on your “other." The work in this session will lead you to discover that 1) There is never nothing. 2) If all of your attention is on your partner, you don’t have the headspace to be self-conscious. 3) You need only be engaged to be engaging…and my personal favorite: 4) PHONY ISN’T FUNNY! Come on out and discover improv’s best kept secret: You're at your funniest when you're reacting honestly to your partner!


with Jill Bernard

Friday 12/18 • 2:30pm - 5:30pm EST

No partner needed, we will match participants with a duo partner and work together with expert direction from improv legend Jill Bernard -- then debut in an online showcase at 7:00pm EST!


with Tara DeFrancisco

Friday 12/18 • 3:00pm - 5:00pm EST

Tara is known for pushing students to be true to the decisions they've already made until they strike the beautiful connectedness between characters. The enrichment of scenework that follows confident connection is the thing we all need to lean into together to make engaging, one-time-only type shows, dramatic or comedic. This course focuses on the ways to call forward the most important part of the scene - the participants.

Saturday, December 19, 2020


with Joe Bill

Saturday 12/19 • 10:00am - 12:00pm EST

In this workshop we'll play in the world of where personal stories in monologue and character monologues meet. I'll give you some best practices in delivering a quick personal story, off the cuff and in the moment and then take those skills and apply them to monologues that and improvised character might deliver, in any improvised context (Game, Story and/or Scene). I believe that the most compelling character monologues have at least a thread of truth drawn from your own personal life experience(s), even in the silliest circumstances or in a quick game where you only might deliver a 15-20 second story. I look forward to showing you how this is true. 


with Tara DeFrancisco

Saturday 12/19 • 10:00am - 12:00pm EST

Designed specifically to celebrate and lift the underamplified voice and take a look at our development in the performance world, and begin to untether the things that can hold us back by stepping into our light. Taught by a queer woman+ with disability - over 65, BIPOC, non-binary friends also welcome).


with Maria Konopken

Saturday 12/19 • 12:00pm - 3:00pm EST

Often when we get a suggestion, we rely on its literal meaning, rather than stepping outside our comfort zone of discovery. In this workshop, we will work on creating a world filled with strong characters and scenes that focus on getting to the meat of the scene and its specifics.


with Paul Vaillancourt

Saturday 12/19 • 12:00pm - 3:00pm EST

In this class, appropriate for beginners and experienced improvisers alike, veteran improviser and improv teacher Paul Vaillancourt will teach you the approach known as the Triangle of the Scene. By using this approach, improvisers will become more connected to their character, their partner, and the environment around them. They will learn how to powerfully wield this trio of tools to build better, more grounded, and, ultimately, funnier scenes. This class is built on the belief that the foundation of any great improv scene is not saying funny things or acting crazy but, rather, the relationship between the characters in the scene and that everything else, the dialog, the plot, the premise, even the environment of the scene is connected to and grows out of that relationship. That belief makes the skills one learns in the class equally applicable to a wide variety of venues from the fast and loose environment of the improv stage to the more intimate gaze of the TV and movie camera. Whether you’ve never taken an improv class before or you’ve been improvising for a while and want to reconnect with the essential basics of improv, this is the class for you.


with Courtney Pong

Saturday 12/19 • 1:00pm - 3:00pm EST

If you: 

  • Love making improv accessible to non-performers

  • Enjoy creating and refining curriculum

  • Are working on building your presence as the Expert/Go To/Strategic Advisor in your field

Then this is a class to nerd out over. Grab tools you can hit the ground running with in no time. In this 2-hour session, we’ll have a walkthrough demo of an Applied Improv-focused workshop I currently shop around and give insight into why it’s getting snapped up; Share specific and actionable best practices on how to distinguish your applied improv offerings from your artistic improv offerings; and bubble up tactics and how to differentiate yourself in your city/market.


with Joe Bill

Saturday 12/19 • 3:15pm - 5:15pm EST

This workshop is simply about techniques and mindsets to quickly help characters connect with depth, in the first 30 seconds of a scene. It's based in the idea that, if by the end of the First 30 Seconds of a scene you're connected to the 3 internal HOW questions (How am I, How are you, How are we), then your characters will have greater emotional and psychological depth to draw from AND they'll exist in a more compelling reality for the audience, in any style of scenic improvisation.


with Kelly Vrooman

Saturday 12/19 • 3:15pm - 5:15pm EST

Want to know an industry secret? There's a whole world of hosting jobs looking for YOU. Hosted entertainment has never been more popular with branded content, reality, game shows, vlogging, DIY videos, Twitch, and more! Kelly Vrooman (190k Followers on Facebook) has made a successful living with her hosting personality across all platforms and now, she's coming to you with the secrets of this ever-growing industry! In this workshop, you'll learn the skills of a good host, how to build your online persona, market your passions, and create opportunities in the hosting/spokesperson world!

Sunday, December 20, 2020


with Shannon Stott

Sunday 12/20 • 2:30pm - 5:30pm EST

Do you know what your scene partner is thinking or feeling? What about your audience? This workshop blends improv and mind-reading techniques to give you a unique perspective into the wants of your scene partners and audience members. These tools will help you support and connect quickly and deeply with your partner in scenes. You will practice attuning to yourself in order to be more precise with your offers and create engaging scenes for your audiences.


with Aretha Sills

Sunday 12/20 • 2:30pm - 5:30pm EST

“Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves.” - Viola Spolin 

Viola Spolin’s Theater Games launched the American improvisational theater movement and changed the way acting is taught. Her work has influenced generations of actors and educators. Theater Games release the intuition through focus, spontaneity, and play, opening up new avenues of expression and communication in your creative work and in your daily life.

The workshop with sidecoach Aretha Sills will be an introduction to the groundbreaking exercises and theatrical concepts found in Spolin’s seminal book Improvisation for the Theater, with an emphasis on the history and philosophies of legendary improvisation innovators Spolin and Paul Sills, and on applying Spolin’s meditative, ensemble-building methods to your work.


with David Razowsky

Sunday 12/20 • 6:00pm - 8:00pm EST

Identifying emotions through shape is the basis for all of my improv teaching and performing. It starts your scenes off on firm ground. The focus of Pinpoint Point of View is to learn how to use shape – also known as “body language” – to determine your point of view, and to hold onto it. It is the single most important element of a strong and focused scene. My methodology is simple: Be emotionally aware. Period. The secret to great improvisation is having an open mind and an acute sense of awareness. Everything else is icing on the cake. This workshop – perfect for beginners or advanced improvisers – is designed to take you to the next artistic level. This four-part workshop series will teach you to: Recognize emotional connections. Establish strong points of view. Create scenes you’ve never seen. See the world in a different way. Come join us and see why actors have called this methodology “freeing,” “exhilarating,” “inspiring,” and “artistically refreshing.”


with Lauren Pritchard

Sunday 12/20 • 6:00pm - 8:00pm EST

Lords, ladies, wenches, and grave diggers, all are welcome here! Shakespeare was a master character creator, and invented hundreds of characters in his many plays. This Workshop will teach you to jump seamlessly and instantly into strong Shakespearian characters, to help your scenes narrative and make your other players look good! Physically, vocally, and emotionally transform in bold deliberate ways! Huzzah!


with Allison Reese-Shapiro

Sunday 12/20 • 6:00pm - 8:00pm EST

In this class, Chicago sketch comedy veteran and Second City alumni and staff writer, Allison Reese Shapiro will take you through the mechanics of good sketch comedy writing; from idea and character generation to exploring and exploiting the game of your scenes for optimal hilarity.