Justin Howard had a vision to offer Dayton something unique, cool, entertaining – a taste of Chi-town in the DYT. And he’s had quite a trip to get here. Introducing The Black Box Improv Theater.
After graduating from Tipp in ’01, Howard headed to Wittenburg as a football player. An injury took him out of the game and landed him with his first opportunity as a dorm R.A. One of the perks of the job is priority registration, and he decided to take advantage of it. After hearing that the most popular class is Improvisation for the Theater, he decided to give it a shot. One class and he was hooked.
You know Chicago style pizza, Chicago style hot dogs, and even Chicago style grammar guides. When his wife took a job in Chicago, it was time for Howard to learn Chicago-style improv. After his intro class in college, plus some experience writing, teaching and directing, Howard wanted to continue his artistic pursuits. He plugged into iO (formally Improv Olympic) to learn about the classic Chicago-based long-form improvisation style.
Most people are familiar with the “Whose Line…” style of improv where funky characters, witty one-liners, and quick responses are the goals. In this “short form” improv – the scenes come alive in an almost sporty way – encouraging winners among the cast for who can be the funniest. Long-form values the funny, but focuses on the story, so it’s more laughter based on the surprise of where the characters go and less of the shock-factor. Often there’s no story at all in short-form (just jokes); the story in long-form is woven among many characters and carries the full length of the show. Howard explains it as, “a completely improvised one act play, complete with multiple characters each with unique relationships often intertwining in ways that seem like they were written ahead of time. This is different from short form improv where a set of rules dictate a specific scene that begins and ends before a new set of rules dictate another scene. In short, we’re going to get on stage, start improvising and about an hour later you walk out saying “there’s no way they made that up” but we did.”
“Dayton is a Blank Slate”
According to Howard, the history of innovation exists today, but Dayton is still being redefined. He believes the arts are one of the strengths of the region and he’s excited to bring his unique form of improv to Dayton. Beyond the opportunity to help re-define Dayton as an arts town, Howard was attracted to the excitement, vibe and spirit of the downtown area. He and his wife recently moved from the suburbs to a house in the Oregon District where they get to enjoy accessibility of walking to work, restaurants, and the theater. Personally, he’s excited to be downtown, but there are great business benefits, too. Now, improv will be one of those walkable downtown destinations.
Howard also noticed immediately the great support of the Dayton community. He’s found a home at the Cannery District on Third where the owners and fellow businesses have been really supportive. He’s excited by the feeling that residents, businesses and community volunteers all seem to be invested in his success as it plays into the success of our region. Whereas the ‘new thing’ is a big deal for a short time in some communities, only to be cast aside when the next fad comes along, Howard sees Dayton as a community where long-term relationships are developed.
How to go:
Long-form improv is new to Dayton, and Howard is excited to provide entertainment and education (classes forming soon!) available now. Tickets are $9 and can be purchased online or at the door for their 9:30 PM shows on Fridays and Saturdays.