Partners in Improv

“Two Three comedy was born out of a collaboration between English language and Chinese language comedians and 23 Brewing Company, who owned 23 Public, our original venue. In December 2019 Two Three Comedy Club opened. We have been lucky to work with multiple performance groups, like FIG, and turn Two Three Comedy Club into a home base for English and Chinese language live performance.” Two Three Co-Founder and English Program Director, Sam Yarbs.

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.

FIG member and venue director from 2019–2020 Phoebe Cheng 鄭晴兒: “I used to work as a venue contact for my job, so it’s pretty satisfying that I can serve FIG with one of my strengths. This position also has its challenges, especially more recently with Covid-19 as different venues have their own set of rules and guidelines.”

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.

Current FIG performer and Venue Director, Andrei Veja (pictured on the right with Diana Liu on the left at a performance in Two Three Comedy) describes the greatest joy of being venue director as “seeing a logistically chaotic event go smoothly” while the greatest challenge being “finding new venues and establishing new partnerships that allow FIG to stay true to its core values.”

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.

Seen from the performers’ perspective at a packed house in the former Red Room, this shot is from a FIG show in October of 2018. “The crowd at Red Room tends to appreciate performances like improv more from the artistic aspect, and therefore seems to be more open to experimental improv forms, allowing FIG to explore characters and stories from a more genuine place.”-FIG Venue Director, Andrei Veja

“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.

Audiences coming to the Red Room can not only expect to see an excellent show, but also eat tasty, healthy, and freshly prepared vegan dishes. “The Red Room Rendezvous is a newly developed branch of the Red Room Brand, and is its first incarnation of a Restaurant , Bar , Event Space.”-Manav Mehta

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).

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.

“We want to draw upon a different kind of audience from what we normally get, and Red Room seems like a healthy contrast to what we’ve become accustomed to.”-Andrei Veja, seen here with Phoebe Cheng at a Red Room Performance.

“The crowd at the Red Room is quite diverse and comes from different backgrounds. They always give us unexpected suggestions. “-Phoebe Cheng

Owner and general manager of the Red Room, Manav Mehta, pictured in the middle as he plans the menu for The Red Room Rendezvous. “Red Room is and continues to be a not-for-profit organisation based in Taipei, curating programs & events that empower artists, foster community, and develop Taiwan’s art scene.” As for improv, Manav comments, “I improvise everyday, just not in this format. I’ve always been tickled by the idea and could definitely see myself on stage at some point in the future.”

“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

FIG makes its triumphant return to the Red Room on March 21st. Audiences can hope to see “a redefinition of what an improv show can be. Performers will make themselves more vulnerable than usual by exposing their genuine emotions.”-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.

Pictured here is one of the co-owners of Two Three Comedy and headliner stand-up comedian, Brian Tseng, 曾博恩。”With Two Three Comedy being a comedy venue, the crowd there tends to expect a comedy show, so they are sometimes pleasantly surprised when we make bolder choices or touch on more serious themes, but they are very supportive and bring a lot of energy.”-Andrei Veja

“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

Not afraid to push boundaries in any venue, FIG has felt more and more at home in Two Three Comedy. August is always the biggest show of the year as it is FIG’s anniversary show. This past year saw FIG cooperating with teams such as 迷鹿即興排練場 Milu Impro Rehearsal Space (Taipei based) and Skits and Giggles (Taichung Based). Sam is already anticipatingFIG’s 3rd year anniversary — as does the chance to continue working with FIG and developing more stand up/improv collaborative shows. Also, fingers crossed, late 2021 brings the possibility of resumed international travel — so seeing FIG bring in outside talent is really something to look forward to!”

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.

The team from Two Three Comedy with Co-Founder and English Language Program Director, Sam Yarbs featured in the middle. “I love improv and respect it deeply — enough so that I stay off the stage myself! I am always telling myself that I need to at least go to one of the Monday jams — so let’s say it’s a resolution for the year of the cow!”

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.

FIG’s Monday evening workshop attendees in a scenic moment on stage. For a more detailed introduction of the community workshops please click here.

“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

Monday evening workshops are free with the price of one drink. FIG shows are on the first Saturday of the month from 8pm and the tickets are priced at 400 TWD and include one drink.

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!

Sam presents a bottle of plum wine to FIG to celebrate the anniversary show.

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

FIG, the Red Room, and Two Three Comedy all continue to taken on new directions and grow stronger with the help of community support. Pictured here is one of the final community improv workshops at Red Room’s former space in late 2019. Current workshops are now held in Two Three Comedy.

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The Clock Stops

The Clock Stops

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American residing in Asia since 2004. Blogs focusing on life observations, improv, food, creating a learning organisation, management, and stretching time.