Everett Improv offers laughs and learning
Rick Sinnett photo
Pictured left to right: Christina Jordan, Britney Barber, Zach Wymore and Andrea Chin entertain the audience during the Everett Art Walk.
EVERETT — Everett Improv offers live shows, improv classes, karaoke, painting experiences and, “anything you can dream of within reason and law” from their downtown Everett studio and lounge.
If you’re looking to re-socialize yourself since the pandemic restrictions have lifted, Everett Improv (EI) might be the answer. Between their shows, classes and “Painting Under the Influence” events, you’re bound to meet new people. For those who want to take it a little slower, there’s the reverse drive-in show where they come to you and perform from the back of a pickup truck. One way or another, EI owner Britney Barber makes it happen.
Barber’s love and dedication to the arts and sense of fairness are the foundation of EI. She uses her communication and improvisation skills to entertain and educate her students and offers corporate training sessions. She said the workshops could help on any rung of the corporate ladder by teaching people how to think on their feet while holding their composure. Among the sessions offered are conflict resolution, emotional intelligence and team building.
Remembering what it’s like to work for exposure, Barber’s priority is to run an ethical theater. Two ways she does this is by giving her actors complimentary beverages and paying them well. She explained that there are theaters where all actors pay for their drinks before, during and after the show. Paid performers at those theaters usually get $12-$25 a performance night with required rehearsals during the week. Barber doesn’t take a paycheck from EI but puts that money back into it while her wife covers living expenses. “Money is the last thing on my list,” she said, “if you do the right thing, the money will come.”
Supporting Barber and EI as a patroness of the arts is her wife, Dr. Jenifer (Jen) Barber, a former Lt. Commander in the U.S. Navy stationed on the USS Nimitz as the crew physician. Jen extended her four-year station on the aircraft for another two years just to stay in Everett. Barber explained, “ We love this town so much that transferring wasn’t an option.” In 2013, they purchased their home and “plan on dying there as very old ladies.”
During the pandemic restrictions, some theaters had to shut down completely, but EI expanded. Over the summer of 2020, Barber leased the room next door, doubling its size. The original space is now primarily the bar and lounge, with the new room as the theater. With each room at roughly 15 x 30 feet, the venue is still quite intimate. However, the black stage backdrop and walls create an illusion of space while making paintings from local artists stand out.
The theater was able to open briefly in the Fall of 2020 but had to shut down that November. Covering the stage in plastic and creating separate pods for the actors, they performed a live movie dub, where the actors make up the dialog as they go. “It looked like a kill room!” Barber joked, referencing the show Dexter. After having to close again, EI kept going by providing online classes and corporate training sessions.
Barber’s dedication to the theater is deep-seated with a titanium rod in her left tibia as proof. She recalls the tale saying, “It was my first show at Jet City (Improv); I stepped wrong and broke my leg two inches above the ankle.” With her foot facing the wrong direction and feeling bad about interrupting the show, she insisted they act around her. Barber would end up “flopping” her foot back in place and continue the rhyme-filled Dr. Suess-inspired show. Laughing, she said, “Theater’s pretty hardcore.”
For a list of Everett Improv events, go to www.everettimprov.com/shows
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