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Dead Parrots to host first improv festival

The Dead Parrots Society sing the finale for their improvised musical, "A Fish Out of Water," on Saturday, May 9​,​ in Old Main Theatre. This performance was part of a two​-​day improvised musical event.

The Dead Parrots Society will be making Western more spontaneous with its first ever improvisation festival, which will bring improv teams from all over the U.S. and Canada to campus at the end of May.

At the festival, six university improv teams will come to Western: University of British Columbia, University of Victoria, California Institute of the Arts, University of Washington, University of Portland and Northwestern University, as well as several local and national companies.

The parrots met most of the teams at improv competitions and other festivals, Dead Parrot member Jacob Foerg said.

“It’s nice to see them in a less competitive scenario,” he said.

The headliner of the festival will be the Upright Citizens Brigade, a popular improv company that has locations in Los Angeles and New York.

Two improv shows will take place on Friday, May 29, and Saturday, May 30, one at 7 p.m. and one at 9 p.m. Workshops for improv teams to learn from professional companies will also take place all day Saturday, May 30, and Sunday, May 31.

The Dead Parrots have long awaited the chance to put on their own festival. The team has been around for 16 years now and has seen many great alumni improvisors at Western, senior and artistic director Jon Ramsey,  said.

For several years, the idea of hosting a festival was talked about, but due to budgeting, the idea was never able to be fulfilled. The money the Dead Parrots make from shows often goes quickly, as the group usually travels to several competitions across the country during the year, Foerg said.

This year, Ramsey decided to change it up with his new leadership role by deciding to go on fewer trips this year to make the festival happen.

“As soon as I was elected to be the artistic director I made the festival the almost number one priority,” Ramsey said.

For the last 11 months, Ramsey and the rest of the parrots were in contact with many teams, companies and parrot alumni to get them to the festival, Ramsey said.

Jacob Keith, a sophomore at Western who frequents Dead Parrots shows, said he is excited to have an improv festival like this on campus.

“I like that they’re bringing a [professional] improv team to Bellingham because I think it’s a pretty good atmosphere for it, and I think people really enjoy it,” Keith said.

Getting to perform with other teams and companies is one of the aspects of the festival that Foerg is excited for, he said. Bringing back the past Dead Parrots is one of the highlights Ramsey wanted to include in the festival.

“Just because they’re graduated doesn’t mean they can never ever be a part of this team again or affiliated with this group,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey tracked down the Dead Parrots alumni, including founder F. Tyler Burnet, to come back and do a reunion show, Ramsey said.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen. I think it’s going to be crazy, but I’m really happy to see the parrots I met when I was a freshman and a sophomore and the parrots I don’t even know,” Ramsey said.

Ramsey doesn’t know if this will be an annual event, but hopes this type of festival will be able to happen in the future long after he leaves, he said.

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