It’s no secret that Providence is a hub for all types of creative art, including a booming comedy and improv scene. One central part of this community is the Providence Improv Guild (PIG), a group dedicated to providing space and opportunities for improv enthusiasts.
Melissa Bowler, PIG’s executive director, says the group was formed by independent artists and performers looking for stability in a chaotic comedy environment. After banding together, they began offering consistent classes, shows and stage time, and things took off from there. “Apparently it wasn’t just us looking for dedicated spaces for improv,” she says.
In its five years since opening, PIG has fostered a community that includes both new and experienced improv artists. “It’s a nice way for anyone to get into comedy,” Melissa says. “You can be brand new and we have a way for you to get ten minutes to try it out.”
PIG puts on shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday, with a rotating roster of troupes and improv students taking the stage alongside house groups Seagull Related Fish Fight, Real Mature and Fool’s Pudding. Aside from providing performance opportunities, the group also helps artists network, which leads to more interesting pieces and collaborations. “The artistic aspect of comedy gets better the more people connect and get feedback from each other,” Melissa says. “It just leads to awesome material and new ideas.” PIG’s open stage policy attracts everyone from student groups who record improvised podcasts onstage to experimental troupes who dabble in drama. “We have one comedian who books the stage once a year and eats tacos while improvising,” she says. “It may seem strange, but it’s art and I love that it has a home.”
PIG’s growth also speaks to the changing comedy scene in Providence, which Melissa has observed for about a decade. “Back then, it was more siloed, and now there’s so much more collaborative effort and ways to perform at any level,” she says. But Melissa is most excited to see how PIG has become a central part of the thriving Providence comedy community. “We all care – probably too much – about each other,” she says. “But it’s also respectful to the art, and that’s what bonds us.”
Providence Improv Guild
Shows every Thursday, Friday and Saturday
393 Broad Street