May 22, 2022

Charlie Doodle

Unique Art & Entertainment

8th Floor Improv to host 12th annual Bellwether Festival online

3 min read

8th Floor Improv prepares for their virtual one-night Bellwether Festival, which will take place Feb. 5. Credit: Courtesy of Grace Gstalder.

As 8th Floor Improv Comedy Group prepares to shift their annual in-person comedy festival to an online format, their motto, “best friends doing best friend improv,” helps keep their spirits lifted.

The Bellwether Festival — typically a free, two-night affair — is the largest collegiate improv festival in the country and usually features performances from college and professional improv teams from across the United States, Grace Gstalder, a third-year in international business and president of 8th Floor Improv, said. After not having a festival last year due to the pandemic, the event will be streamed online Feb. 5.

“We didn’t even reach out to pro teams because it’s not a fair time to ask people to make that kind of sacrifice,” Gstalder said. “We just wanted to keep everyone safe. That was our main focus when moving it virtual.” 

The festival will now be a one-night livestream from the US Bank Conference Theater featuring 8th Floor Improv members and alumni. Gstalder said the group is planning to perform comedy sets and may incorporate pre-recorded video sketches.

“Bellwether is normally about bringing together a bunch of different schools and teams, but just with what we have and who we have, we’re going to put on kind of a normal 8th Floor show with some twists,” Gstalder said.

Gstalder said having to modify improvisational performances to an online format with a virtual audience requires paying attention to angles and potential technical difficulties.

“We definitely have to cater to the online viewer and definitely exaggerate things; make them bigger so they’re able to be seen on a tiny screen as opposed to in person,” Gstalder said.

Nishant Kondepudi, a fourth-year in marketing and economics and vice president of 8th Floor Improv, said while it is disappointing to have to do the festival virtually, adapting is a natural part of improv.

“It’s all about dealing with those unexpected punches, kind of just learning to thrive in whatever environment you’re put into,” Kondepudi said. “Improv is not a set thing. It’s never going to go as planned, and sometimes it works out better when it’s not planned.” 

Kondepudi said 8th Floor Improv is going to try to find a way to make this year’s Bellwether Festival the best it has ever been, despite the unusual format. 

“There’s a level of confidence that we know what we can do, and we know what people can provide, and I don’t think people are going to be disappointed,” Kondepudi said. 

Kondepudi said the Ohio State community has been supportive of 8th Floor Improv despite the uncertainty brought on by the pandemic, which drives the group to continue to put on performances.

“We do appreciate the support and feel very connected to the Ohio State community and feel very representative of it,” Kondepudi said. “Being able to provide that product and experience to them is always going to be a good time.”

The livestream will premiere Feb. 5 on Twitch. The time of the show will be determined at a later date, Gstalder said.

8th Floor Improv to host 12th annual Bellwether Festival online

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