Partners in Improv
Now in its 3rd year of existence, Formosa Improv Group 福爾摩沙即興組合(FIG) continues to provide exciting improv workshops for the community, as well as monthly performances. Besides the performers and the audience, one of the essential elements to the success of any performance group is the cooperating venue. FIG is honoured to have an enduring partnership with Two Three Comedy, as well as revitalising its collaboration with The Red Room in Taipei. This piece focuses on on the evolution of the relationship with these two venues and how each individual performance space offers a unique experience for audiences.
The Face of FIG: The Venue Director
One of FIG’s most important roles within the group is that of the Venue Director. This role is an elected position who sits on FIG’s board of directors for a year and whose job it is to liaison with the group’s collaborating venues. As FIG is still a relatively young improvised group, completing its 3rd full year of existence in August of 2021, there have only been two members who have held this position up until this time.
The main responsibilities of the venue coordinator include tasks associated with venue use (rental, signing in, logistics, etc.), maintaining venue partnerships, communication with venue partners, seeking new venue collaborations and performance opportunities. As the responsibilities seem to grown in significance, scope, and detail over time, the role itself provides a sense of achievement, as well as the weight of accountability.
FIG has been fortunate to have incredibly dedicated individuals working completely voluntarily within the group who are not only passionate about improv, but also devoted to strengthening the connections with its venues as well. As one of the main goals of the group is to help build community, part of this goal also includes helping to support locations such as Two Three Comedy and Red Room. Both of these venues continue to play a role in supporting FIG, and FIG intends to do the same.
The Red Room: FIG’s Debut Performance Space Rises from the Ashes
FIG’s debut performance took place in Red Room’s former space in September of 2018. As these were the early days of the group, FIG was testing the waters with different spaces that ranged from public spaces at metro stations to the bar space at Oldie Goodie. The synergy of positive energy and a common commitment to creating a safe space for artistic energies in the community made The Red Room a perfect first home for FIG.
“FIG was formed and created by several members of the thespian community, and chiefly introduced to Red Room by Michi Fu, Red Room was the first venue to host and support FIGs initial programs in the early days.”-Manav S. Mehta, owner and general manager of The Red Room Rendezvous, member of the board of directors for Red Room Association, and lead event coordinator.
After the Red Room was forced to relocate from the Taiwan Air Force Innovation Base, the non-profit underwent an 11 month period of nomadic existence to keep its thriving artistic community alive. They have recently found a new home where the Red Room still manages to keep true to its non-profit community-based artistic roots and foundation, while at the same time expanding and scaling up to include a for profit vegan restaurant and bar under the title Red Room Rendezvous. (For more details about the Red Room and Red Room Rendezvous, please refer to the Taipei Times article below).
Red Room finds new stage - Taipei Times
This year almost became the first since 2009 that the Red Room went without its signature Stage Time and Wine open mic…
Now that the Red Room has another stable home, tasty food, and thirst-quenching beverages and cocktails, FIG is excited to get on board and reach out to the venue and audience who welcomed the group with open arms at its inception. FIG will be performing at the Red Room Rendezvous for a show on March 21st as the group continues to stretch its artistic legs and push boundaries by branching out once again.
“The crowd at the Red Room is quite diverse and comes from different backgrounds. They always give us unexpected suggestions. “-Phoebe Cheng
“This is a way to challenge ourselves, since the type of audience and environment in a performance may inadvertently affect the content and overall atmosphere of the performance.”-Andrei Veja
Two Three Comedy: A Dedicated Stage for FIG to Shine
When FIG learned the news that the Red Room would be leaving its former location at the end of 2019, the upstart group had to be quick on its toes to find a new space. One of the most important aspects of creating a community is living up to the expectations of the participants by being able to provide a consistent presence. It would have been a huge loss for both FIG and for the the improv community to stop workshops and shows simply due to the fact that the venue had to shut down. Luckily this was one of those times where stars aligned. Just as the former Red Room had to temporarily close its doors, Two Three Comedy was a new spotlight on the performance scene.
“Reaching out to FIG was my first priority as English language program director at Two Three. I had a long familiarity with improv and many of the performers in FIG, having founded Two Three with Meg Anderson who ran Sweet Danger Improv, FIG’s predecessor, in Taipei. At the time FIG was without a weekly space for open jams and shows — I wanted to get FIG into the space at the start of the project to expand what was offered at the club. With FIG on board early it put Two Three on the map as not just a stand up comedy venue, but as a hub for all English live performance in Taipei.”-Two Three Comedy Co-Founder and English Program Director, Sam Yarbs
FIG wasted no time in grabbing the opportunity to work with an exciting new venue. Equipped with a raised stage, as well as a side area that could be used for performance, a proper green room, a full bar, lights and microphones, the new location seemed too good to be true. For FIG’s debut performance, the group tested out a new murder mystery format and brought in a packed house with standing room only and latecomers being refused at the door. This was a totally different audience consisting of new faces, new expectations, and new possibilities. The venue itself could hold more than 100 people, had events each night of the week, regularly sold out its shows with famed Taiwanese headline comedian, Brian Tseng 曾博恩，had a great bar and an owner who wanted FIG to be a part of its story.
FIG’s relationship has evolved into one where the group considers the venue a second home, not only for FIG events, but also for branching out into other areas with different performance models, bringing in diverse audiences to the rather tightly-knit artist and performer world of Taipei. In addition to the weekly Monday improv workshops and monthly shows, many of the group’s members have taken part in other theatre performance activities such as Stage Fight, Taipei Story Slam, and the stand-up comedy open mic events that occur on Monday evenings directly after the improv workshops. One of FIG’s alumni has even started an “Ecstatic Dance” event that takes place just before the Monday evening workshops. FIG members continue to contribute to Two Three Comedy and bring in a distinct vibe.
“What jumps immediately to mind is that FIG is truly bi-lingual. Our stand up and theatre shows usually are mono-lingual, even though we have extensive English and Chinese content, these worlds exist separately. FIG truly brings this together, and with that brings a different group of patrons into the space than any other performance we offer. Also, FIG has a level of accessibility that other performances lack. Open mics, theater auditions — these are more intimidating than an open jam with FIG. In many ways FIG is a gateway drug to wider opportunities to perform live at Two Three!”-Sam Yarbs
Room for Growth
Now that FIG has a thriving partnership with Two Three Comedy and is looking to revitalise its connection with Red Room from the show on March 21st, the sky is really the limit for the dazzling band of improvisers. One of the greatest joys of being in the performance group is seeing how the relationship with the performance community evolves, and how FIG can help contribute to the growth and wealth of performance opportunities and venues that need nurturing in Taipei. Both the Red Room and Two Three have a lot on store for 2021 and beyond, as does FIG. As all three entities are excited about new potential partnerships, they are each very approachable and welcome outreach from the community should anyone seek to collaborate, perform, or just stop by for a drink!
We are always looking for new partners, and we are happy to work with anyone planning an event, big or small! I am always ready to chat — so don’t hesitate to hit me up!-Sam Yarbs, Two Three Comedy
Grab a bite, sip on a bevvy, stay for the right reasons and live to transform each other’s experiences through the culture of listening.-Manav S. Mehta, Red Room Rendezvous
FIG emits a very positive and genuine energy in its events, and with improv being a relatively uncommon performance medium in Taipei, FIG can expose curious audiences to one of the purest forms of performance art. The best way to get in contact would be through social media, specifically Formosa Improv Group’s Facebook page.-Andrei Veja, FIG