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A group of about 16 adults have been routinely meeting inside a small, brick building on the corner of Arapahoe and 27th streets in Curtis Park since the beginning of June. They’re going to school, but not just any school: they’re studying the art of sketch at Voodoo Comedy Playhouse. The classes are a slice of the improv world that Steve Wilder, the man who opened the intimate venue in 2011, has hoped to bring to Denver for nearly a decade.
Although Denver’s comedy scene has garnered national attention thanks to comics such as T.J. Miller or Ben Roy, Voodoo’s sketch-writing class gives local funny folk experience making the same type of comedy that shows up on national shows such as Saturday Night Live or Key and Peele.
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When Wilder founded Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, he modeled it after the improv theaters he had performed in while he lived in Los Angeles. “When I got here in 2009…there were multiple theaters that did improv,” Wilder says, “But there was no theater that had a bar attached to it. I thought, well why doesn’t this exist in Denver?” Fast forward to the present-day, and the playhouse is much more than a comedy club. Voodoo is a venue for stand-up and improvised acts, the latter of which draw from a variety of topics including Broadway musicals, Dungeons & Dragons, Shakespeare, and more. And yes, there’s a bar, stocked with local libations. Perhaps most importantly, though, the theater is one of Denver’s leading comedy incubators. Wilder and a crew of instructors now lead a five different comedy classes each week.
“It’s not just a bunch of white guys here…we have people from all walks of life and different cultural backgrounds teaching our programs,”Wilder says. “I personally feel that it’s the most diverse and experienced set of improv instructors in all of Colorado.”
The sketch-writing classes are restricted for people who have either already passed Voodoo’s improv courses or have otherwise been approved by a Voodoo instructor. In this eight-week course, students will learn to write, produce, and perform their own original work and graduate with a portfolio of original sketches. The classes are similar to those taught at Second City Theater in Los Angeles or Chicago (Wilder is an alum of the former). By the fall or the winter of this year, Wilder expects to have enough graduates to create Voodoo’s—and Denver’s—first in-house sketch-comedy troupe, which would perform every Saturday night.
The goal is to make Denver a pipeline for talented sketch comedians and, in the process, continue to entertain the city.
Although classes for this current eight-week session have been filled, Voodoo will be accepting applications for the next session starting in August. For those who are curious about improv but don’t feel comfortable committing to an eight-week course, stop by for one of Voodoo’s free drop-in improv classes every Monday and Tuesday night. Call 303-578-0079 for more information.