Yesterday I had the opportunity to meet with two of the guys behind Washington Improv Theater to discuss how we can work with them for the upcoming 40th Anniversary of the Arts Management program. Turns out, WIT does more than just perform hilarious, off-the-cuff political satire in DC. They also facilitate trainings, retreats, and other team-building meetings, bringing their improv techniques into a corporate setting. Not only does this generate a good deal of revenue for them (their other major funders include DCCAH and the Cafritz Foundation – they are also Cultural DC residents at Source), it also serves as an excellent example of arts programming that cuts across traditional industry boundaries.
I think their history is also a great example of a lean start-up in the performing arts sector. They started as an ad-hoc performance troupe in the eighties that evolves into a “consensus-based collective” throughout the following decade. In the late nineties, they hire an artistic director and formalize their structure, holding residencies with various theater companies, finally landing at Source Theater and securing major funding streams from DCCAH and Cafritz. Throughout all these transitions, they continued to produce work, teach classes, experiment with new formats and styles, and seek audience input into their product. Today, they are an established non-profit, with staff and a board of directors, but they continue to adapt, seeking new revenue streams and responding to both the needs/interests of their current community and new audiences.
And let’s face it, I’m a sucker for radical political jargon, so they had me at their tagline: “The revolution will be improvised.”