Fridays are for Black Improv

January 31, 2021

It needs to be that easy – Fridays are for Black improv.

Highwire Improv is a Baltimore organization. For those of us who know us only online, Baltimore, Maryland is one of the Blackest cities in the United States, with a Black population of more than 60%. For anyone (online or not), you probably already know that improv has rarely represented that fact – at Highwire, in Baltimore, or really anywhere.

One thing we decided early on was that we had a responsibility to work towards changing this, and not incrementally though focus groups, or strategic planning, but with constant #action and #transparency.

Highwire Improv recognizes that as an artistic community within Baltimore, we have a specific responsibility to do right by the city of Baltimore, with a population that is over 60% Black. We have a responsibility to produce programming that is representative of that population, and create artistic spaces within which that population can flourish.

Highwire Improv anti-racism policy

Transparently, we failed to get this right in our first season, and we quickly realized that trying to tackle this problem on our own was going to take too long. Thankfully, the world is online and we have met some truly remarkable multi-hyphenate improvisers/teachers/organizers who were willing to partner with us to make a step change:

Fridays are for Black improv.

It was really important for us to not just improve representation, but to improve primetime representation, and even more, to improve the marketing and audience experience for Black improv. Seeing one Black troupe perform within a 2 hour block is different than knowing the whole night is going to be Black improv. A consistent night builds an expectation, and promotes the growth of support that comedy needs.

For Highwire Improv’s second season, Blue Cavell-Allette (with Maryland Improv Collective) and Stephanie Rae (with Black Improv Alliance) are curating and programming some of the best Black improv comedy you’ll ever see.

  • First Fridays are the Block Party, a showcase of Baltimore-area Black improvisers (with some sketch, stand-up, and who knows what else mixed in).
  • Second/Third/Fourth Fridays are Black Joy Fridays through the Black Improv Alliance, a presentation of house and guest teams from all over the world.

Highwire Improv is bringing the infrastructure – logisitics, tech, marketing and these incredible, generous, dynamic, and creative partners are bringing the shows.

This is a long-term commitment, and our unique online-only world makes this easier than ever. The troupes, partners, and approaches may need to change for Season 3, 4, and beyond. That means that we’ll be investing in ongoing work to ensure that when the world opens back up again, we can always say to Baltimore:

Fridays are for Black improv.

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