By Annie Kinnett Nichols
I first fell in love with improv when I lived in Chicago. My job actually paid for classes at The Second City where so many famous Saturday Night Live actors began their careers.
No, I wasn’t a budding comedian; I was a writer for an advertising agency in Chicago. I was great at presenting my work in house, but as soon as I got in front of the client I became a deer in headlights. Thankfully, there was a cure. I was able to take a whole year of improv classes, and by the time I finished, I could sell anything to anyone.
The second time I fell in love with improv was when I moved back to Atlanta and my friend, Travis Sharp, invited me to Dad’s Garage when it was still located in Inman Park on Elizabeth Street (more on that in a second). I was hooked again, and I took my daughter there for special kid shows on Saturdays.
What began as a handful of improv lovers in 1995, has grown to over 300 volunteers and performers and around 30,000 people coming to Dad’s Garage shows annually. After the Inman Quarter mixed-use development saw their longtime home bulldozes, Dad’s Garage carried on at 7 Stages in Little Five Points for a couple of years until they could find a “forever home.”
Thanks to the board of directors (who tripled their annual giving), a Kickstarter campaign, an anonymous donor and the success of the annual Bacon Fest fundraiser (keep reading), Dad’s Garage purchased an old church property in the Old Fourth Ward at 569 Ezzard Street behind Thumbs Up Diner. The new space opened to improv lovers on New Year’s Eve and a full slate of shows is ahead.
When I walked into the lobby the first thing that caught my eye was the giant carcaricatures of past and present performers. There is a bar serving beer, wine and personal pizzas designed especially for Dad’s Garage by Ammazza Pizza. You order up your pizza before the show and it will be delivered piping hot at intermission. Matt encourages people to come before the show and hang out after as well. The beer prices can’t be beat and the cost of tickets is incredibly affordable as well, ranging from $4 to $23.
Along with improv and scripted shows (right now you can see Woman of the Year, a hilarious play about the modern woman featuring sketches written by the ladies of Dad’s Garage), the company is also teaching workshops, including one for high school students. According to communications director Matt Terrell, one of the most popular workshops is for lawyers who learn techniques to use in court.
Inside the main theater space, the pews of the old church are gone and replaced by risers so that everyone has a great view of the stage. All the seats and most of the innards of Dad’s Garage came from different places – reuse at its finest.
With a new home, there is now also space to host Bacon Fest 2016. This year’s fundraiser is set for March 26 starting at 1 p.m. Dad’s Garage will, literally, serve up a ton of bacon. Six Feet Under, Cock & Trice and more will be serving up bacon-flavored creations during the event. There will also be booths like Hobo Wine Tasting, Blast off Burlesque and the Sanitary Smooch Booth featuring Blondie from The Clermont Lounge. For tickets and more info about everything happening at Dad’s Garage, visit dadsgarage.com.