Ahh, Indio. The armpit of Southern California. An excruciatingly hot destination that most people only know as the location of the annual Coachella music festival – the yearly opportunity for college kids to drink heavily and freak out on LSD. So much fun. But there’s more to Indio than a couple of music events. There’s also an improv festival.
This is a new undertaking. The first annual Coachella Valley Improv/Comedy Festival is being held at the Indio Performing Arts Center all weekend long. I don’t know a whole lot about it, despite being a VIP Performer. It seems to be put on by some locals who were formerly deeply involved in the Chicago scene. Like back in the Mick Nichols/Elaine May/Del Close days. These people were there from the very beginning. And now they live in Indio.
I came out to the festival for the day as part of All Models, an improv team that I briefly joined, but that no longer really exists. Still our video submission got us into the fest, so away we went – myself, Teresa Decher, Chris Raby, and Andrew Shannon. The drive out was deserts and windmills for miles. It is always trippy to be reminded that life outside of LA is so different from what’s going on in the (admittedly widespread) city. Long story short – there’s not much. Every once in the a while the cinematic sprawl is punctuated by outlet malls or casinos, but it is tough to understand how one ends up in such a place.
It takes roughly two and a half hours to get from LA to the Indio Performing Arts Center, but once we got there things got pretty cool. The IPAC is a really cool venue, with smaller theaters spread around the building. As “VIP Performers” (that still makes no sense to me) we got a little swag and headed into the green room to await our set.
The set went… well. Often my live performances are hindered by my forgetting to have fun on stage. I am usually too concerned with doing smart improv that will impress my peers; in the ensuing chaos I forget that I actually enjoy the activity. But today, I had fun. Maybe it’s because I would never see most of the audience again, but I prefer to think it’s because I am maturing as a performer. No one burst my bubble.
Logistics prevented us from staying too long after our set, but we did hang around to watch Fancy Football and Kanyay! West (a fellow UCB-derived team). But all too soon it was time to leave. Two and a half hours later I found myself back in the Gelson’s parking lot.
The Coachella Valley Improv/Comedy Festival was a fun, nurturing environment, with a small, but vocal audience. I’m sure the organizers will improve on their methods over next 365 days. And if that’s the case, then the members of formerly-All Models would be lucky to play.