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The Art of Improv

Tucson Improv Movement: Twitter Blast, 7 p.m., Saturday, July 13 and 20 at Red Barn Theater

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After finishing graduate school at the UA, Justin Lukasewicz moved to North Carolina to work and ended up living near the Dirty South Comedy Theater.

It was there his interest in improv grew when he decided to take a class at the theater. It was love and he got to experience firsthand how to run a professional improv group. Once he took more classes, he eventually began to teach basic improv 101, as well as perform on different improv teams.

When Lukasewicz returned to Tucson about a year and a half ago, he was disappointed that there wasn't a big improv scene here.

"I kind of wanted to get out there and start my own thing and hopefully put together something that really focused on more long-form improv," Lukasewicz said.

"I just really wanted to create almost an improv theater here, something new and different for Tucson."

In October 2012, he founded an improv troupe and comedy school called the Tucson Improv Movement, or TIM for short. However, it wasn't until last January that TIM received more attention from Tucsonans when it ran its first Living Social deal for improv classes. Now, the school's curriculum offers five levels of improv training, which last for six weeks. The first level class focuses on basics of active listening and agreement; the second level focuses on the game and how to make it funny; the third level focuses on character and voice; and the last two levels focus on the Harold and how to do the long-format style of improv.

Del Close, a writer, actor and teacher, created the Harold in the 1960s. According to Lukasewicz, it is the most standard and famous long-form improv format in the world that allows actors more time to develop believable characters and storylines. Today it is performed by Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles and New York. Lukasewicz says he hopes Tucson will become the next big city known for performing the Harold.

Lukasewicz says when people think of improv, they think of the TV show Whose Line Is it Anyway? Or they think of stand-up comedy. But it's much more than that, he said.

"Improv is all about positivity and agreement ... if someone gives you a suggestion or idea you agree to that and add on to that," Lukasewicz said.

"I think the hardest part about doing improv is getting over the thought process that you have no clue what is going to happen. You never know who you are going to become; you just got to get up there and do it."

TIM currently performs at the Red Barn Theater where troupe members will participate in Twitter Blast at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 13 and 20.

"The show goes for about an hour," Lukasewicz said. "We start the show asking people for a hashtag. We have a screen that we bring Twitter up on so that people can see tweets about that hashtag. We will talk about the hashtag, then do improv.

Lukasewicz said people who have seen Twitter Blast say they've never seen anything like the show and want to come back.

"I really hope they leave seeing something they feel is a true work of art," he said.

In order to join TIM, you have to take its classes, then audition to be a part of its performing company, which currently has 15 members. Lukasewicz said many of the performers were once a part of the UA's Comedy Corner, the longest-running college comedy troupe in the nation.

Lukasewicz has high hopes for TIM. In addition to adding more performers, he hopes to teach a Harold class by December.

"In five years I hope that we are a fixture in town," Lukasewicz said, "(and) that people think, 'This is one of the unique Tucson things that we have and love.'"

The Tucson Improv Movement presents Twitter Blast, at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 13 and 20, at Red Barn Theater, 948 N. Main Ave. Tickets for Twitter Blast are $5 at the door; $3 for students and military. Visit tucsonimprov.com for more information.

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