About this project
Thank you all so much-- we can't believe we made it! We are surrounded by the best community and are humbled and delighted by the outpouring of support. See you at the theater!
Video #6 was in response to a challenge to make a video with LEGO elements!
In Video #3, Dan improvises an inspiring speech about the comedy theater.
We're going to build a comedy theater in the heart of downtown Hartford. Will you help us?
What do Boston, New York, Chicago, Providence, Los Angeles, Burlington, and Minneapolis all have in common? They all have improv theaters! It's time for Hartford to join the big leagues by opening our own thriving comedy theater.
There is not a single dedicated space for improv in the state of Connecticut. After six years of bringing improvisers together throughout the state, Sea Tea Improv is ready to own and operate a space for comedians, actors, and musicians.
And we want to put it right smack in the middle of downtown Hartford. The spot we've picked out is easily accessible and will put feet on the street of our great little city. We love Hartford and we want it to have this affordable and fun entertainment opportunity for all its people, every night of the week.
This is the moment. We've picked out a theater space in downtown Hartford and we need the money to make it as great as we know it can be. We've been working towards this goal since 2009 and we're ready. Are you?
WHY DOES HARTFORD NEED AN IMPROV COMEDY THEATER?
We want to create a space for comedy in Hartford. Sea Tea Improv is approaching our 1,000th instance of improv-- yes, one thousand performances, classes, and workshops-- and we’ve only scratched the surface of what we want to do. Every day, interest in our shows, classes, and studio events grows larger-- it's time to take our experience and make a leap to join the thriving Hartford theatrical scene.
But there's not yet one place where you can always find an improv show. Sea Tea Improv wants a home, and more than that, we want to give a home to the many talented performers and groups throughout Connecticut. Let’s make comedy a 365-days-a-year experience.
WHO IS IT FOR?
The theater is for comedians and actors who want to learn, perform, and build comedy careers, as well as for those who want to to add comedy to their already flourishing lives.
It's for the rapidly growing community of excellent improv teams in the area who need more performance opportunities.
It's for writers looking for a place to put on a sketch show or try stand-up.
It's for the couple looking for a date night that makes them think and laugh.
The theater will be for the people of Hartford and Connecticut to do something fun, smart, affordable, alternative, and different every single night of the week.
It's for the young adults and college students in Hartford looking for something awesome to do.
It's for anyone from any neighborhood to come and shout out their suggestions.
It's for our suburban neighbors to find a reason to visit our capital city (we have a proven track record for drawing these folks!).
The theater will have nights for teenagers who are too young to perform their awesome stand-up sets in bars; the theater will have nights for visitors from the Upright Citizens Brigade and iO in Chicago.
We’ll bring in the amazing college groups in the area, up-and-coming stand-ups, and of course, all of your favorite improvisers. The theater will be for artists of all talents-- dance, burlesque, radio producers, puppeteers, writers, stand-ups, storytellers, you name it-- to find a new audience, try something new, make you think and make you laugh.
It’s time for Hartford to have its own comedy space. Sea Tea Improv is dedicated to building, running, and leading that space. We’re ready -- please help us reach our goal.
Sea Tea Improv is in the middle of negotiating for a specific space in downtown Hartford. It’s the perfect spot for underground comedy! Our architect estimates we can fit a beautiful stage, 90 seats, bathrooms, and bar in our theater.
We are mere days (maybe hours!) from securing the lease. The moment we sign it, we'll update this kickstarter with the exact address.
We are currently in negotiations for renting and renovating the space. Our landlord is wonderful, the City of Hartford is excited and supportive, our business neighbors are ready to welcome us with open arms. All we’re working on now is the scope of the renovation.
Why downtown Hartford? The space we've picked out will see lots of foot traffic. It'll be right near plenty of parking and public transportation options (take the bus or bike to our shows!). It's just around the corner from our studio. It's walking distance from the North End, the South End, and Front Street districts-- not to mention within half a mile of the Hartford hotels. We'll bring business to a ton of nearby bars and restaurants that our customers will love.
Not to mention, our goal in Hartford has always been to fill an empty space. There are way too many empty storefronts in the city: we want to fill one up and make our city a little bit livelier and more vibrant. The space we are looking at has been vacant for 15 years. We can't wait to see what improv style the ghosts come up with!
BUDGET & GOALS
Renovating this space is a huge project: our estimates for the whole project come in just under $100,000. We've been saving for years towards this goal, so we'll be matching this Kickstarter. For every dollar you put in, we'll put in one, too. We'll kick in our savings and outside fundraising to match your contributions until we have a fully funded theater. We're asking you to help so that we can build faster and better.
The space needs a total overhaul: plumbing, sprinklers, heating, lights-- everything. This funding will bring the space up to code and get it ready for you! Other than the renovation it needs, it's perfect. A great size, location, a sustainable rent, and best of all-- since it's empty, we can make it exactly into what we need it to be.
FIRST GOAL: $35,000 - WE DID IT!
$35,000: A fully equipped theater for comedy: stage! chairs! walls! toilets! all the good stuff! We will use this money for buildout, labor, a stage, paint on the walls, seating, lighting, and bathrooms. We'll also have a simple bar.
That's a picture of the awesome t-shirt we're offering!
WHY SEA TEA IMPROV?
Sea Tea Improv is the company to pull off this project. Maybe you’ve been to one of our movie dubs. Maybe you’ve only come to a workshop or a late-night mixer. Maybe you’ve seen us at a community event. We want to bring together everything we do under one umbrella. More collaborations!
THE TOP TEN COOLEST THINGS ABOUT SEA TEA IMPROV:
1. We’re experienced and creative comedians already, always pushing our boundaries.
We perform just about every kind of improv comedy: short form, long form, musicals, movie dubs, online improv-- not to mention scripted stuff like sketch, stand-up, and theatrical comedy (everyone loved our sold-out run of Gutenberg! The Musical! last fall).
In 2012, we were undefeated champions of the Upright Citizens Brigade Indie Cage Match. We're also the two-time undefeated champions of the Connecticut Cage Match. We've been named "One of the top 25 Things to Do in Hartford," by the Hartford Advocate, and have been named as Hartford's Best Local Comedian in 2013 & 2014. (Keep an eye out for 2015 announcements in the coming weeks!)
2. We’re known for saying "Yes" to every collaboration. No project is too weird or out of left field for us. From creating the live Clue games at the Mark Twain House, to raunchy Ha Ha’s & Ta Ta’s shows alongside The Beat City Beauties Burlesque, to tandem-bicycling conference, we can make improv work for anyone.
Not every improv team can say they’ve collaborated with letterpress shops, cigar stores, advertising firms, NPR stations, and mentorship programs. We love Hartford and we’ll go anywhere in this fabulous city! We tell ourselves every day: we’re all on the same team.
3. We never stop studying our art form. We want to bring you the good stuff. The helpless giggly, the mind-blowing, the stomach-busting laugh. So we’ve worked long and hard on taking every improv class we can find. Did you know that eight members of Sea Tea Improv are in the advanced program at the Upright Citizens Brigade? We’ve studied at UCB, the People’s Improv Theater, Groundlings, Improv Boston, and Hartford Stage. We’ve taken workshops all over the country from some of the best improvisers in the world.
4. We care about Hartford, and it’s contagious.
We love Hartford. Period. Sure, the city has its ups and downs, its issues that we would love to see fixed, and a history of crazy ideas. But for us, Hartford has been the land of opportunity. Hartford has given us space to grow and experiment, and plenty of stage time.
Here’s how we commit to the city: two of our members are on the Board for Business for Downtown Hartford, advocating for business rights in the city. We teach improv throughout the year in Hartford Public Schools (through the wonderful program Hartford Performs).
It’s thrilling for us to think that we’ll be a part of filling one of downtown Hartford’s many empty spots. We also want to get our theater up and running before both UConn and Trinity open their downtown campuses. Our theater will be only a quarter mile away from each campus.
But most of all, we are committed to making people fall in love with the city and all it has to offer. Over the years that we’ve been bringing folks to our shows and classes, they’ve turned from “I never used to come into Hartford” to arguing over which bars have the best happy hour. We make people fall in love with Hartford one by one. And that starts with our own members. Since Sea Tea was born six years ago, nine members are or have been residents of Hartford. Three of our members are looking for places to live in Hartford.
5. Our mission is to bring comedy fans & performers of all ages and experiences together.
We want to see Connecticut's comedy scene grow and thrive. To that end, we hold mixers in our studios, run classes and drop-in practices, and encourage small experimental groups within our ranks. Our classes and shows are for kids, teens, adults, senior citizens. We invite teams from across the state and the country to perform at monthly shows around Hartford.
Our studio is bursting at the seams with activity-- a great small study of what we would do with a theater. We hold a huge amount of community friendly events and rent out our studio at low rates for rehearsals, practice groups, readings, and meetings. The fact that we made a home for improv in general and not just for ourselves is something we are proud of. Of which we are proud. Grammar police, improv is for you too!
6. We know our business
Comedy takes work. We've created many jobs within Sea Tea Improv and have run it as a profitable business for six years. We've won the HYPE "Business Excellence Award," the reSEt Social Enterprise Award, and have been recognized by the Greater Hartford Arts Council with many grants, including a Jobs Grant from the City of Hartford.
It helps that within our ranks we have performers with Masters' degrees in Business, Marketing, Writing, Theater, Education, Public Health, and Sociology. We work in schools, organizations to end homelessness, Hartford Stage, LEGO, The Mark Twain House, UConn, Lincoln Financial, and many more places that bring us the experience and expertise to run this comedy theater. We all double as successful professionals, which is a huge boon to our business.
7. Our members are thriving in the comedy world
Several of our members have moved out of state to pursue amazing opportunities. Two of our founders, Kate Sidley and Joe Leonardo, are active at the Upright Citizens Brigade in New York. Kate has also been accepted to a prestigious Late Night Writers' Workshop at NBC and has a viral comedy video with 1.5 million hits, while Joe Leonardo has appeared on Anderson Cooper and Hooplaha. Summar Elguindy performs both improv and sketch frequently at Improv Boston. Vlad Perez is on a house team at iO West, performs at UCB in Los Angeles and has co-starred in a Hulu original comedy series opposite Danny Pudi. (We'll let you know when it comes out!)
And many of our members who still live in Connecticut have taken their experience and launched into big, cool projects: founding a comedic literary magazine; writing cartoons for LEGO; interviewing BJ Novak; running comedy-writing competitions, and so much more.
8. We want to put Connecticut on the comedy map.
We run our own festival! This year, we're bringing in 44 improv teams from across the country to perform in the Front Street district of Hartford. Top dogs from other cities are coming to love and respect Hartford through the eyes of Sea Tea Improv.
We also travel around the country to other festivals-- we've done great shows in New York, Boston, Cleveland, D.C., Baltimore, Portland, Providence, Philadelphia, Minneapolis, and so many more. We're working hard to give Hartford the reputation of a cool and talented city.
9. We’re inclusive.
Improv is for everyone. Our audiences and students demonstrate a huge diversity of gender, age, and ethnicity, and we love that. Our shows are cheap, and our classes are always offered on payment plans. For up-and-comers, we provide cheap or free opportunities to perform.
Within our own group, we're proud of how many women we have. This isn't a boys' club where anyone gets away with saying "women aren't funny."
Most of all, we build opportunities for people at all levels of availability and interest. That means everyone: including lawyers, teachers, waitstaff, business folks, and kids who can't stop talking during class. We give all of those people the opportunity to watch and do comedy. As our wonderful member Brenna says, "That shit adds richness to life and turns survival into living, yo."
10. We give back
It's important to us to contribute to our community however we can. We raise funds for the American Cancer Society every December, and we perform at just about any fundraiser we're invited to. We've worked with Alzheimer's patients and caregivers to think about living in the moment rather than living in memory. We saved a dog we found on the street and got it adopted by a happy family. And we've been teaching improv to the homeless, for free, through the wonderful Beat of the Street program in Hartford.
There are so many reasons to give. We’re asking you, from the bottom of our hearts, to help us make this theater dream a reality.
Donate because you believe in taking risks. Donate because we’ll make Hartford an even more prosperous and exciting city. Donate because you think this city, state, country, and world could use a little more laughter. Donate because you’ll be helping us create jobs in the arts. Donate because you want to sit in our audience someday. Donate because you want to be on that stage someday. Every night will be different.
We’re never done pushing our boundaries.
We promise we’ll make you proud.
Love and thank you in advance (and thank you for all the support so far),
Sea Tea Improv
(Julia, Greg, Dan, Summar, Joe, Vlad, Kate, Laura, Steph, Graham, Jeffrey, Helena, Casey, Briana, Steve, Patrick, Brenna, Miriam, Tim, & Daniel.)
Risks and challenges
Risks! Hartford's favorite subject.
Our biggest challenge is the high cost of renovating the space. We're going to have to carefully manage our time, supplies, and contractors to get this project done efficiently and affordably. We'd also like to open our doors before another rough Connecticut winter hits. Every day that we don't open our doors to collect ticket revenue will add to the pressure. We plan to work as efficiently as possible with our whole team to make the most of our lease terms.
Once we open, we'll face the challenges of competition with other Hartford events, as well as dealing with the perennial issue of changing customer expectations about parking in the big city.
We hope that this Kickstarter will be the first in a big effort to build marketing buzz and excitement around the theater, so that we can sell out many shows before we even open the doors.
To that end, we will be marketing our "First Fifty" shows very soon-- throughout this campaign, we'll unveil the first fifty amazing improv, comedy, and arts events that we'll hold in the theater. By getting your tickets ahead of time, you'll have something to look forward to AND be helping us create excellent momentum for our space.
Above all, we'll use our principles to guide us. They are:
Make Your Partner Look Good
Make Bold Choices
Tell the Story.
All businesses are a risk. But, trained in the art of adaptability, we think we're up to the challenge. We're a trained group of business experts who just so happen to love the art of thinking on our feet.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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