Chic Spotlight: OTRimprov

Chic Spotlight: OTRimprov

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(left to right) OTRimprov’s Kat Smith, Alison Rampa and Tara Pettit

Cincy Chic: Tell us about the concept behind OTRimprov!
Alison Rampa, Castmember at OTRimprov: OTRimprov’s mission is to create a space for improv in Cincinnati – to develop an “Improv Scene” equal to other great cities. We want to provide a home for wandering improvisers who feed in from the surrounding universities and transfer from other cities for the opportunities here. We want to help foster a culture here in Cincinnati that inspires creativity, imagination and support – a culture of “yes and.” “Yes and” is a core idea in improv and it rests on the assumption that whatever your partner says you will not only agree with but also contribute to. Tina Fey in the book “BossyPants” writes a lovely passage about how the philosophy of “yes and” is useful, not only in improv but in life. It means you are both listening to the needs of others and contributing, which is the attitude that we hope to bring to Cincinnati and Over-the-Rhine.


Cincy Chic: When did the group get started?
Rampa: OTRimprov (OTRi) began in 2010 as a collection of improvisors looking for link-minded performers and a place to play in Cincinnati. After headlining numerous shows for the Little Big Night comedy performances at Know Theatre of Cincinnati (as “Off the Rocks Improv”) they formed their own partnership with Know Theatre’s Jackson Street Market, a resource sharing program for fledgling companies, and began producing shows independently. This continued partnership allows them to call Know’s Underground space on Jackson St. in Over-the-Rhine home for a majority of OTRi performances.


Cincy Chic: What makes you unique and different from other improv groups?
Rampa: I like to think that Cincinnati-style improv, like our chili, is big, silly, supportive and flavored with cinnamon. I speak for myself, I know there are serious actor types in our troupe and their energy is invaluable, but I like the idea of OTRimprov being the group that is goofy, gregarious and more than a little odd (nonplussed watching centaurs preparing for a marathon by visiting a Pizza Hut buffet? You’d be at home at one of our shows). Chicago-style improv can be edgy and sarcastic, Los Angeles-style improv can be artistic and New York-style sentimental, but I really feel like Cincinnati is in a unique position to create our own flavor of improvised comedy. It’s super exciting to be a part of.


Cincy Chic: What did you choose Over-the-Rhine?
Rampa: We latched on to the name OTRimprov, not only because that is where we were playing, but because we wanted to be associated with the hip coolness that was springing up all around us. It’s been wonderful watching this neighborhood develop into a world class destination. In 2009, I did an improv show for The Fringe Festival with a previous troupe and I heard residents complain about the ‘effin artists’ who were invading their territory. We’ve made great strides since then, the change in the past five years has been astounding.


Cincy Chic: Why did you choose improv?
Rampa: I was a drama nerd for a goodly portion of my life, but rehearsing for a play is hard and learning lines takes time. Improv on the other hand is instantaneous. It takes time to build trust within a troupe and hone your craft, but you are getting constant feedback. It’s not for the faint of heart, but there is something extremely satisfying about putting on a good show and knowing you were a part of it and moreover it was a part of you. It’s about creating something, literally, out of nothing. You have a stage, some chairs and your scene partner and together we make something happen. Hopefully that something is funny, engaging, interesting or truthful. It’s a very pure artform. And it’s a helluva lot of fun. Mostly that.


Cincy Chic: What will people experience by attending a show?
Rampa: People who attend an OTRimprov show will experience something new, fresh, funny and odd. The Know Theater has generously allowed us to use their Underground space which has a cash bar filled with the finest local brews so the atmosphere is relaxed and loose.
Our show is usually two acts long – the first act being a game set similar to Whose Line Is It Anyways. The second act is a more experimental long form set which is more like a 45 minute improvised play. The theme and structure of this set will often change, though my personal favorite is The Chronicle in which we get storytellers from around the community to come and tell their tales that we will then improvise scenes about. We’ve had great guest chroniclers from all over the city – Rollergirls, TrueTheater, Cincinnati Fringe artists and the band Bad Veins. It’s a great way to get people who wouldn’t normally come see improv in the door. I believe that patrons who are familiar with improv will experience a show on par with any troupe in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles and those who are not familiar with the form will come away as fans.


Cincy Chic: Is there anything new on the horizon at OTRimprov?
Rampa: YES! September 12 and 13 OTRimprov is proud to host the first ever Improv Festival of Cincinnati, IFCincy for short. We will be bringing in improvisors from all over the country to perform over two action packed nights of wall to wall improv. Tara Pettit, fellow lady improvisor and Executive Producer of the festival, has been busting her tail putting together top tier acts along with local favorites and arranging for improv workshops taught by people who are seriously big deals I am mostly excited about arranging a Lovely Ladies of Improv Brunch and Jam during the festival where female improvisors can get together to discuss, connect and maybe play. I love meeting improvisors, but I am always astounded by how easy it is to work with female improvisors, even if we’ve never met before. Being female in this male dominated art form binds us together in a profound way.


Cincy Chic: Where can readers go to learn more?
Rampa: Check out our newly branded website,, for more information on shows, workshops and corporate training. Visit the IFCincy website site at to find out more about the festival, the great acts we have coming to perform and how the community can support us.