An improv comedy troupe wants to bring some laughs downtown.
The Richmond Comedy Coalition leased a 1,700-square-foot commercial space at 8 W. Broad St., where it plans to open a 60- to 80-seat theater.
The Coalition Theater should be up and running by mid-summer, if all goes according to plan, said Matt Newman, the managing director of Comedy Coalition.
Newman said the group, which launched in 2009, has for several years been putting on shows across town, including in Jackson Ward, Manchester and Carytown.
“The biggest benefit for us from a business perspective is it brings everything under one roof,” he said. “We’ve been scattered all over the city. From a communications perspective, it’s easier as well, because we don’t have to direct people to show up at a certain place. They’ll know where to find us.”
Newman said the Jackson Ward area made sense, given the group’s history.
“That’s where we first starting doing shows,” he said. “We think it’s a place we can encourage the momentum we’ve been building as a group. And that corridor has its own momentum that we can both link into and, hopefully, add to it.”
The group also looked at locations on North Robinson, but Broad Street gave them more bang for their buck. The building is owned by architect Walter Parks, whose office is a block away on Brook Road.
Newman said the group would be financing the project in part with money it has collected from doing shows over the past few years and through an online campaign.
The biggest costs will be the lights and the stage, he said. The actual costs are unclear, because the group is still getting designs and quotes back, Newman said.
Jason Lefton, owner of the nearby laser-etching business Big Secret and a performer with the Coalition, said he thought the theater would be a big addition to the area.
“It’s going to give downtown a comedy theater which doesn’t exist now,” he said. “Now there will be shows every weekend. It’s huge.”
Christine Walters, owner of the ComedySportz Theater on West Broad Street near West End Drive, said she was proud to see another improv group gain traction and launch a theater.
“Improvisation is really on the rise,” she said. “The most difficult thing for me when I started in 1996 was educating people on just what it was.
Richmond Comedy Coalition is “hip, young and energized to go and get the word out there,” she added. “I think they’ll do great.”