Vibe Check Wins Slayden Cup Tournament and SCIF 2021 Recap

Vibe Check wins inaugural Slayden Cup Tournament; Secret City Improv Festival a Success

Festival was held September 24 and 25, 2021 at Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, TN

The inaugural Secret City Improv Festival was held over September 24 and 25, 2021 in the Historic Grove Theater in Oak Ridge, TN.  The inaugural Secret City Improv Festival would welcome 14 improv troupes from 5 states to take part in the two-day festival.   The festival would include the inaugural Slayden Cup Improv Tournament, and all shows would take place on the grand main stage of the Historic Grove Theater.  

Slayden Cup Improv Tournament Recap

A total of 7 improv troupes would comprise the field for the inaugural Slayden Cup Improv Tournament.  The tournament would take place over both nights of the Secret City Improv Festival with Group A competition taking place at the beginning of the festival, and Group B competition taking place in the first show on Saturday night. The semi-final competition, and the finals would take place immediately following the Group B match on Saturday.  Each match would be decided in an audience vote.  

In a random draw to set the matches held prior to the festival, Group A would be Tomorrowquest Theater (Columbia, SC) vs. Vibe Check (Atlanta, GA) and Full Disclosure Comedy (Knoxville, TN) vs. Two Busses (Omaha, NE/Des Moines, IA) and in Group B competition Danger Jr. (Nashville, TN) would face Mighty Nice People (Murfreesboro, TN) in the only match of the first round for Group B.  Four First Names (Orlando, FL) would be awarded an automatic first round bye.

Photo by: Stephanie Collins

Tournament format would comprise of a single elimination format.  Each troupe would be given 12 minutes to perform their normal improv show, and an audience vote would be held to determine the winner.  In Group A, Vibe Check and Two Busses would win their round 1 matches.  In Group B, Danger Jr. would narrowly defeat Mighty Nice People.  In the Semi-Finals, in another close audience vote, Vibe Check would win Group A to advance to the finals and Four First Names would defeat Danger Jr. in an equally close audience vote.  In the finals, Vibe Check faced off against Four First Names.  By a winning margin of 1 vote, Atlanta, GA’s Vibe Check with performers Tom Von Dohlen, Parker Patzke, Ryan Toto, and Matt Metzger would win the inaugural Slayden Cup Improv Tournament.  



Photo by: Stephanie Collins

The Slayden Cup Improv Tournament is named as a memorial for one of the founding members of Knoxville’s legendary improv troupe, Einstein Simplified.  Bill Slayden was remembered by fellow Einstein Simplified troupe member, Frank Murphy, as being both incredibly funny and an incredibly generous and wonderful person.  His battle with cancer was kept private, and his passing near the end of 2020 was felt throughout the East Tennessee improv community.  The tournament is a way to honor this legendary improviser by honoring the artform he helped establish in Knoxville.  

Secret City Improv Festival Recap

Night one of the Secret City Improv Festival would see headlining performances from Playback Reloaded (Knoxville, TN) and Vibe Check (Atlanta, GA) in the 8 PM show.  Blue Plate Special from Greeneville, TN would lead the 10 PM show along with performances by Nashville’s Danger Jr., Columbia, SC’s Tomorrowquest Theater, and Atlanta, GA’s Action Show. 

The second night of the Secret City Improv Festival would see headlining performances from Oak Ridge, TN’s ORHS Masquers-Atomic Acts.  The high school troupe would kick off the night’s performances to a capacity audience.   Performing in their first festival, Atomic Acts, would see performers Alex Dahl, Elliot Johnson, Jack Lloyd, Porter Peterson, Nina Tilson, Anna Younger, and Norah Younger take the stage at the Historic Grove Theater.  The troupe is coached by Mark Jennings (Full Disclosure Comedy), Terri Lloyd, and Amy Uptgraft.  The young team received many great reviews from the professional performers attending the festival.  Aaron Garrett from Magical Lying Hour, who had been the instructor of an intensive workshop for the ORHS troupe on Saturday Afternoon, noted how he was impressed with Atomic Acts maturity and stage presence.  He also noted that most high school age troupes stay insulated inside of their internal school culture, and Atomic Acts’ team of performers’ approach to improv was vastly more mature than what he had encountered teaching other high school aged troupes.  

Photos by: Terri Lloyd

Improv Chattanooga would take the stage to perform their well-received 1-star review show.   Two Busses would bring on audience member Michael Johnson to perform with them for their entire set.  Einstein Simplified closed out the 8 PM block with their brand of short form improv.  The final set of the festival would see a very well received and dramatic improv performance delivered by Mighty Nice People.  Full Disclosure Comedy (Knoxville, TN) would take the stage to lighten the mood.  Magical Lying Hour (Houston, TX) would bring their incredible hybrid show that answers the question of what happens when you have prepared actors and improvisers tackle a scene together.  The festival closed with the Slayden Cup runner up Four First Names (Orlando, FL) bringing their blend of unique musical improv to the stage.    

The Secret City Improv Festival was able to raise funds and make donations to both The Historic Grove Theater, and the ORHS Masquers.  “The wonderful support of the community in Oak Ridge for our festival means a lot.  Especially in the current climate we find ourselves in.  There is a lot of healing that can be had when you just genuinely enjoy yourself.  I was glad to see that energy in the performers and in the audience alike throughout the entire festival.” said Festival Director, Aaron Campbell.  “We look forward to returning to the Historic Grove Theater for our second Secret City Improv Festival in the fall of 2022.”  Continued Festival Director, Aaron Campbell.

The Secret City Improv Festival would like to celebrate the efforts of the musical accompanist for the festival, Faustino Solis, for traveling from Las Vegas to perform throughout the entire festival.  “It is incredible to have a talent like Faustino on the stage.  His experience working with Second City Chicago, The Groundlings in Los Angeles and in the Vegas show scene speaks volumes of his talent.  His work with so many legendary performers includes Laura Hall (Who’s Line is it Anyway) vouches for the performer Faustino really is.  It’s a thrill to have him at the festival.” praised Festival Director, Aaron Campbell.
Photo by: Stephanie Collins

The Secret City Improv Festival would like to thank the wonderful support of the City of Oak Ridge, community members who donated to us, Denise Tindell and Ruby Miller, and High Places Community Church and the crew of the Historic Grove Theater.  We also must thank our sponsors who have supported the festival including Explore Oak Ridge, Transolutions & Logistics, LLC, Mike Massaglia State Farm, Dos Bros Fresh Mexican Grill, Gatlinburg Comedy Tours and E.T. Limo.  These companies stepped up and supported the festival, and helped bring this festival to life.

The Secret City Improv Festival is slated to return in the fall of 2022.  All announcements can be found on our website at www.secretcityimprovfest.com and on our social media pages on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.