“Waffles and improv are a magical combination,” asserts Roy Janik.
And he should know. As the Artistic Director of The Hideout Theatre, Janik has been busy planning for this year’s 10th Anniversary of WaffleFest, the three-day improv and all-you-can-eat waffle festival taking place this weekend in the Hideout’s upstairs and downstairs theaters.
This is the biggest WaffleFest yet, with shows running Thursday through Saturday, including simultaneous shows in both theaters the last two evenings.
Janik has a soft spot in his heart for the soft, pillowy goodness of this all-you-can-eat festival. After all, the festival was the debut of his own group, the now-prolific Parallelogramophonograph, in 2005.
“We debuted at WaffleFest, and the wall of butter/syrupy/sugar-fueled enthusiasm we received from the audience was INSANE. We couldn't have been that good, but that night we were rock stars.”
P-graph (as they’re more readily known) will be back again this year along with 26 other groups, including two others that Janik performs with. Other popular groups included in the lineup are: Confidence Men: Improvised Mamet, Girls Girls Girls: Improvised Musicals and ColdTowne Theater's "Outstanding Troupe," Bad Boys.
Part of the fun of WaffleFest is the citywide gathering of talent from all of Austin’s phenomenal improv houses. In this case, that means groups from The Institution Theater, The New Movement, ColdTowne, Gnap! Theater Projects and The University of Texas will be joining the teams from the Hideout in this endeavor.
Festivals like WaffleFest are an awesome way for improv newbies and veterans alike to take in some of the astounding talent that circulates in Austin. As a showcase of groups from around town, it’s an easy way to experience a large variety of styles and performers in one convenient location.
Festivals are also a great way for the performers themselves to see their colleagues in action. “There are hundreds of improvisers in Austin…performing every single week,” says Janik. “That means we're often too busy performing to see each other's shows. A festival is a chance to celebrate how much we love doing this. All united under the banner of free waffles.”
The only exception to the all-improv lineup is sketch comedy group, Your Terrific Neighbors. As long-time performers on the Hideout weekly schedule, YTN are like those weird, funny cousins that keep showing up to family reunions.
“People tell us we have a very improvised feel,” says the Neighbor’s Courtney Hopkin, who also performs with Janik in the improvised show, Charles Dickens Unleashed. “I'm not sure if it's a good or a bad thing that people think we're making our sketches up on the spot, but I like to think of it as a compliment to our chemistry and our writing style."
This year, Hideout co-owner and Youth Director Jessica Arjet is also developing a teen showcase to show off the work of the kids and teens that take improv classes at The Hideout. “The idea of teenagers hopped up on waffles is frightening, but also too perfect to say no to,” agrees Janik.
So it seems you can truly get as much variety in your improv options as you can in your waffle creations at WaffleFest. And the Hideout staff is not kidding about the promise of all-you-can-eat waffles.
For the past three years, WaffleFest has enjoyed a very sensible and generous sponsorship from Batter Blaster organic waffle batter. “Rumor has it that they're sending us some of their new flavors this year. So for the first time ever, we'll have different types of waffles on-hand,” says Janik. And as always, all the toppings you might imagine: butter, syrup, whipped cream, chocolate and—Janik’s favorite—Nutella.
So be prepared to stuff your gut before busting it with all the comedy. Just make sure to pace yourself. Nobody needs you improvising your waffles all over the stage.
Tickets are available on The Hideout Theatre website for all three days. Shows run Nov 17 – 19 at 8 p.m. and 10 p.m.