Sam Abrams talked to Greg Maughan about how the theater, and its community, has evolved over the years. Before he founded Philly Improv Theater, Greg Maughan felt that Philly lacked a comedy community. Many similarities can be drawn from Greg’s process to that of coworking.
Greg started the theatre knowing he didn’t want to start a club. Theatre is very different from a club. Clubs are more like a bars that hire people to tell jokes. In this setting, comedic material is not as important to the customers. In fact, clubs are just a good way of running a bar and disguising it as something else.
Philly Improv Theatre is a community. There was no improv scene in the city when they started. They did not start by doing shows. They started by teaching people what improv was and offering classes on it. Naturally, people who were interested gravitated towards their community which allowed them to connect those people.
There is now around 60,000 people who take part in some kind of activity within the space. People are continuously coming in and out of the building doing various things throughout the day. The whole spectrum of different activities is what makes them successful. It is similar to coworking in how there can be separate smaller communities within the larger community.
Supporting the Community
People are able to come to the theatre, connect with a group of like-minded people, and create with them. To best support the community as a whole, think about how one person’s idea will impact the whole community. You should not just be focused on benefitting any one niche within the space.
While Greg can sometimes support certain people and ideas, he does not want to be a gatekeeper for comedy. When they pass on an idea, they make sure the person knows there is a place out there for what they want to do. People have different senses of humor. What is not funny to Greg, may be funny to crowds of people elsewhere. If you believe in something, it will find an audience. This is similar to how coworking spaces all differ from one another. There are going to be spaces that you mesh with better and that is okay.
Additionally, older, more veteran members of the theatre help facilitate new members and bring them into the community. They spread the welcome that they received. Due to the people continuously coming in and out of the theatre, there is always one person there that can help.