What is ImprovLab?

ImprovLab is research and performance facility that is part of a major renovation of the performing arts wing of the MacKinnon Building at the heart of the University of Guelph campus. This publicly accessible, multi-use venue is ideal for leading-edge research on the social impacts of improvisatory artistic practices; boundary-pushing performances across all artistic disciplines; and impactful community workshops. It is a state-of-the-art research space designed for the presentation, broadcast, archiving, and analysis of improvised performance and audience reception studies; a world in which researchers and artists can explore, create, and collaborate freely, and share new creative works with campus, local, and global communities. 

Building on the renowned, interdisciplinary research programs in Critical Studies in Improvisation—and enabled by core funding from the Canada Foundation for Innovation (CFI) and the University of Guelph—this world-class facility is designed to cultivate collaboration and interdisciplinary research while fostering the next generation of performances and audiences.

Depicted are the Winegard Walk South Entrance of MacKinnon and ImprovLab

Depicted in this artist rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects: the Winegard Walk South Entrance of MacKinnon and ImprovLab.

More About The Space

ImprovLab is a 140-seat research and performance facility defined by its flexibility. This facility invites a variety of configurations, ranging from a controlled black-box environment to an open, airy space that engages visually with the courtyard outside. With a wide array of moveable sound, lighting, and staging equipment, ImprovLab fulfills all the needs of a conventional, high-quality live performance event while simultaneously inviting infinite possibilities for experimentation. Optimized for acoustical integrity and features state-of-the-art technical infrastructure, this space allows artists and presenters to showcase work with fewer barriers than they would encounter in a conventional theatre space or performance venue.

In addition to the main theatre space, ImprovLab is adjoined by a multipurpose “green” room.

Depicted in this artist rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects: the interior of ImprovLab.

Core Equipment

ImprovLab features:

ImprovLab Uses

ImprovLab is primarily a research facility, and usage is dedicated to improvisation-related research activities. Approximate percentages of full-time research use and off-hours uses are estimated in the Space Use Graph below.

IICS team members named in the CFI research proposal are:

graph illustrating the Research use for the ImprovLab

This Space Use Graph illustrates the space use for the ImprovLab. The green area represents 75% of the use by the 3 main Research Areas (Practice-Based Research, Experimental Technologies, and Social Determinants of Health), the blue area represents 25% use by Additional Research, and the purple areas represents Partner and Community rentals, Affiliated Researchers, as well as fee based use.

Principal Users:

Ajay Heble (University of Guelph)
Daniel Fischlin (University of Guelph)
James Harley (University of Guelph)
Carla Rice (University of Guelph)
Rebecca Caines (University of Regina)
Eric Lewis (McGill University)
Jesse Stewart (Carleton University)
Ellen Waterman (Carleton University)

Secondary Users:

Frederique Arroyas (University of Guelph)
Roger Dean (Western Sydney University)
George Lewis (Columbia University)
George Lipsitz (University of California, Santa Barbara)
Marta McCarthy (University of Guelph)
Kevin McNeilly (University of British Columbia)
John Semple (Women’s College Hospital and University of Toronto)
Sherrie Tucker (University of Kansas)

Community Use

Depicted in this artist rendering by Diamond Schmitt Architects: The entrance to ImprovLab through the Mackinnon Building, featuring the adjacent courtyard.

ImprovLab is available for public use, especially by local arts organizations in Guelph and surrounding areas. While this space is primarily dedicated to innovative improvisation research, ImprovLab also offers ample opportunity for broad-ranging community use, bringing a wide variety of artists and publics together for a wide variety of performances and events.

The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation is dedicated to keeping this space as accessible as possible—and optimizing its use for public-facing events—through a fair pricing structure; dedicated and helpful staff; and a collaborative, knowledgeable technical personnel. View the ImprovLab Rate Sheet.

For general inquiries about ImprovLab, please contact [email protected].

If you are interested in booking ImprovLab, please fill out this form [LINK FORTHCOMING]

Hear about the anticipated impacts of ImprovLab (and the larger Arts Research Centre facilities at the University of Guelph) from Critical Studies in Improvisation PhD student Emmalia Bortolon-Vettor: