Half a decade ago, Cleveland’s sketch/improv comedy scene appeared ready to hit the big time. That’s when the ambitious Ground Floor Theater company took over the old Centrum movie theater on Coventry Road in Cleveland Heights, gave it a makeover, and packed its schedule with performances and improv classes. What we learned from this exercise was that Cleveland improv still wasn’t ready for the big time: The place folded in less than a year.
Now one of the big guns of the local improv scene is giving it another go. Don Mitri, an alumnus of Something Dada and Tony N’ Tina’s Wedding, will christen Big Dog Theater at the Centrum in October.
“There are great groups all over, but they don’t have that home where everybody knows they can see them every week,” says Mitri. Big Dog — humbly named in honor of his 150-pound pooch, not Mitri himself — opens October 1 with performances by three of the area’s top stand-up comics: Mike Polk, Jeff Blanchard, and Ryan Dalton.
Mitri is hopeful that with top talent, lower prices — most shows max out at 10 bucks — a less grueling performance schedule, and increased activity on Coventry these days, Cleveland improv might stand a chance this time.