Folk Lordz (Ben Gorodetsky & Todd Houseman) perform as part of this year's Vancouver Improv Fest.
Folk Lordz (Ben Gorodetsky & Todd Houseman) perform as part of this year's Vancouver Improv Fest.

The laughs go online as the Vancouver Improv Festival, one of North America’s longest-running improv festivals, goes virtual this year due to the pandemic.

“It was a tough decision whether to postpone the festival this year or to continue with an online format,” says Vancouver Improv Festival organizer Amy Shostak in a media release. “We looked to our core values and decided it’s our responsibility to support this art form and to support local, national, and international improv artists by finding a new way to proceed with the festival.”

Running from September 30 to October 4, the event will feature shows streaming live on the Vancouver Improv Fest YouTube channel, student workshops via Zoom, and a panel discussion on the decolonization of the improv stage and supporting BIPOC voices.

“In an art form that is spontaneous and can speak to the moment, it’s time to talk about centring BIPOC and other marginalized people on our stages. Our audiences need to see themselves represented more often, and we need to share varied perspectives on the world,” says Shostak.

Alongside the workshops and panel discussions that cover everything from mind-reading for improvisers and decolonizing improv are three public shows.

Kicking things off on October 1 is the return of the Festival Ensemble. Directed by Austin, Texas-based improviser Shannon Stoff, this year’s ensemble features improvisers from Vancouver, Winnipeg, and the United Kingdom performing together on the virtual stage. An encore performance will take place on October 3.

On October 2, Ben Gorodetsky and Todd Houseman perform in an evening of improvised cultural storytelling as Folk Lordz. Based on a suggestion gathered via social media, the duo will weave together a unique, site-specific, improv show.

The 2020 Vancouver Improv Fest takes place from September 30 to October 4. Visit vancouverimprovfest.com for tickets and information.