Improvisational acting festival to honor Manhattan native

K-State On The Spot Improv Club members Dan Spicer, freshman in psychology, Betsy Haddox, senior in landscape architecture, and Matt Roeder, senior in fine arts, performs an improv group number in Salsarita's on April 23, 2015. (Cassandra Nguyen | The Collegian)

K-State’s On the Spot improvisational comedy group will host a free festival on Friday and Saturday, featuring teams from the universities of Missouri, Missouri State, Iowa, Iowa State, Illinois Urbana-Champaign and Newman. On the Spot will also host The Reckoning, a professional improvisation team from the iO Theater in Chicago.

The weekend event, called DelFestopia, is the first ever intercollegiate improvisation festival to be held at K-State. It is named in honor of the late Del Close, a Manhattan native who also attended K-State before his professional comedy and improvisation career.

Friday’s performances will include teams from On the Spot as well as the other universities at 7:30 p.m. in Salsarita’s in the K-State Student Union. Saturday will feature On the Spot and The Reckoning at 7 p.m. in the Student Union’s Forum Hall.

On the Spot’s weekly Thursday night shows consist of long-form and short-form improvised comedy. Matt Roeder, senior in graphic design and president of On the Spot, said DelFestopia will primarily feature long-form improvisation, specifically the “Harold,” a form created by Close.

“That’s really an exciting thing,” Roeder said. “We are going to get a lot of recognition for K-State and sell K-State pride as well as progress ourselves as improvisers and teach the university a little bit about the art that we perform.”

There will also be free improvisational acting workshops taught by the Reckoning Saturday at 9:30 a.m. Registration can be done through the DelFestopia website.

“The workshops will include basic knowledge of improv and how to crack open a two person scene and learn how to think on your feet a little bit better on stage,” Roeder said.

In addition to the on-campus performances, On the Spot and the other teams will spend Saturday afternoon in the community, starting at 2 p.m.

“We’re going to walk down to the ‘Ville and maybe do some improv and then go to the Delta Sig house,” Roeder said. “We have a time capsule that we’ll put in the house and we’ll also do some improv on the lawn.”

According to the DelFestopia website, Close was born in the Delta Sigma Phi fraternity house when it used to be a hospital.

A March 18, 2013 Chicago Tribune article calls Close a “brilliant improvisation pioneer” who was a co-founder of the iO Theater (formerly known as the ImprovOlympic Theater). He taught many famous comedians, including Bill Murray and Chris Farley, as well as many past and current members of The Reckoning.

Roeder said the inspiration for holding DelFestopia actually came from The Reckoning when they performed at K-State three years ago. The group suggested the idea to On the Spot, saying they were missing out on a great opportunity.

“We are in the hometown of Del Close,” Roeder said, “So we’re going to take it pretty serious and want to honor what he did for the craft. We are going to be working on the “Harold” and working with students that actually learned from Del. They are going to be teaching us.”

The namesake of the festival is not the only difference between K-State’s and other colleges’ improvisation festivals. Roeder said that the first ever DelFestopia will provide opportunities to the campus community that other festivals do not.

“This is the first one,” Roeder said. “It’s a really big deal. Typically, there’s not a lot of interaction that the campus gets to have with the festival, which is really exciting for K-State because anybody is welcome and everything is free.”

Roeder said that in order for everything to be free, the Student Governing Association helped fund DelFestopia.

“We had tried multiple times to get different organizations involved, but things just didn’t work out,” Roeder said. “We went and presented SGA with our idea, which we had really well planned out. We have been dreaming about this for the past three years. I think SGA just saw our need for it, honestly, and we really thank them for that and thank them for giving us this opportunity to bring improv to our campus in a much larger scale than we could do on our own.”

Stephen Kucera, junior in music performance and accounting and senator from the College of Arts and Sciences, said the total amount provided for DelFestopia was $9,555. It was funded by student fees through the approximately $70,000 budget for the Allocations Committee.

“It was sort of like an all or nothing,” Kucera said. “They were not going to be able to bring The Reckoning, or they were going to be able to. It was a large sum, and it was rather surprising, but at the same time student government did have the money and we wanted to go ahead and put it to work for students this year instead of putting it into the reserves account which just sits there for it to be used, maybe, sometime in the future.”

Jordan Strickler, sophomore in music education and a member of On the Spot, said improvisation festivals function as opportunities to perform while also a form of networking for improvisers.

“These are really about generating and passing along different ideas, different ways to improv, and then also just the chance to interact with a professional improv team,” Strickler said. “It’s also an excellent way to generate experience and new ideas that help people grow and craft. And for a lot of people who are coming to this event, some of their end goals might be to become professional improvisers, so they get to see people who actually do it and pick their brains.”

In the future, Roeder and Strickler said they would like to see more community involvement with the festival and improvisational comedy in general. They would also like to see DelFestopia become an annual event.

“I would like to see this grow into something that the community really looks forward to and embraces and increases the awareness about improv as an art form and something that people look forward to going to,” Strickler said.

“The biggest goal is for everybody to have fun and learn more about improv,” Roeder said. “But a big goal of mine is that it continues. I mean, maybe in five years we have 20 schools here.”

Roeder said there is even a possibility DelFestopia will welcome more professional teams and students of Close’s, such as Eric Stonestreet, in the future.

“There’s so many unlimited possibilities,” Roeder said. “If the organization keeps going strong and keeps growing at the caliber that we’re growing, there’s some really amazing things that On the Spot can provide this campus in the future.”

Jason Tidd graduated from Kansas State University's Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communication in May 2017. He was the spring 2017 editor-in-chief, fall 2016 news editor and spring 2016 assistant news editor. While at K-State, Jason played baritone in the Pride of Wildcat Land marching band.