Photo by: Jessica Neumann Photography
Fighting Improv Smackdown Tournament, FIST, Commissioner Maggie Dempsey took some time to chat with me about her role organizing and maintaining the largest improv tournament in D.C. ever. This month, the Washington Improv Theater is having their Sixth Annual FIST with 58 teams competing and over 170 people performing. The tournament started March 8 and will be going on until April 7 where an improv trio will be victorious and a huge party will ensue; however, in the meantime Maggie is in the middle keeping everything in check.
Maggie was a big fan of the show “Whose Line is it Anyway?” and got involved with an improv team in high school. She took a hiatus from performing during college, but got the urge to perform again once she established a career as a Navy contractor. “I was just working so much and I really needed a creative output, so I found Washington Improv Theater and registered for courses. I feel that my life has a lot more balance now that I’m doing improv. You know you work and do what you need to do, but with improv you get a chance to explore and play and that’s something that is unique to improv.” FIST has been a big part of Maggie’s improv life. Three years ago some classmates from her level two class invited her to join their team to compete in FIST and now she plays with those friends in the troupe Just Moxie, which has been going on for two years. “FIST brought me to Just Moxie. It’s been really exciting. You meet so many cool people. You get a chance to be silly and crazy.” Improv not only provided the creative outlet, but also has supplied her with friends from all different backgrounds. “Getting to meet people from all walks of life that I would otherwise never run into is the coolest part. In my troupe there’s me, I’m a contractor for the Navy, someone who works in the arts, someone who works in the Air Force, a college professor, a vet tech and a software writer. The six of us we have no reason to run into each other at all in any other capacity and now they are all my best friends I’m ever going to have and I think that is pretty neat.”
Maggie was inspired to be a commissioner by Just Moxie’s former coach Justin Purvis, who ran FIST when she performed. “He did such a great job and it looked like it was a lot of fun.” She threw her name in the hat to be considered for last year’s tournament and got the job. This year is her second time commissioning “The rest is kind of history.” She enjoys the job, but it has its ups and downs “Sometimes, you have to be the bad guy and bearer of bad news, but it’s also fun. It’s so great because I get to meet so many people and all those people are really excited about improv. The kind of person that is into improv is a fun and energetic person. I meet 150 people who have that much in common in one week. What else can you do in DC that even comes close?” You can get tickets to FIST here, and be sure to use the promo code to get a discount: gofightwin2012. Don’t worry if you miss a show, because you can follow the action on Twitter with hashtag #WITFIST2012.