CINCINNATI — While rehearsals are an exercise in fun and creativity, the 10 Improvaneers consider their art serious business. The improv troupe has been perfecting their craft since 2018, proving themselves as performers, but most importantly, making people laugh for a cause.  

Now, the first all-Down syndrome improv troupe has its sights set on Cincinnati, where their next performance will help families like theirs. On March 5, they’ll headline Brew HaHa, a benefit show to help build a GiGi’s Playhouse, a center that provides free programming for anyone with Down syndrome at any stage of life.  

What You Need To Know

  • Cincinnati is hoping to build a GiGi’s Playhouse, a center that provides free programming for anyone with Down syndrome at any stage of life

  • Brew Ha Ha will be a benefit show to support the efforts

  • The Improvaneers will headline the show

  • The troupe from Akron is made up entirely of actors with Down syndrome

Families in the Cincinnati area started working to build a local GiGi’s Playhouse in 2019, to help provide more programming for families with children with Down syndrome in the region. According to Amy Pennington, who is leading the charge, there are no comparable centers for hours. 

“The closest one, I figured out, was in Indianapolis,” she said.

The Akron-based Improvaneers, however, got their start at a GiGi’s Playhouse. Founder and standup comic Rob Snow said the group’s first performance was at the Canton location. 

Rob Snow with his son, Henry. (Michelle Alfini/Spectrum News 1)

Before the troupe's debut, Snow said he’d been touring the country speaking and performing at a few GiGi’s Playhouses himself, all to benefit his son, Henry.

“He’s absolutely my inspiration,” he said. 

Henry was born with Down syndrome and Snow said he immediately started looking for programming and support that could help him find a way to develop and thrive. That’s where the Improvaneers came in.

“Really, the mission is, I’m trying to create jobs, this program is trying to create jobs,” he said. “Jobs that fit their abilities in a better way.”

With a background in comedy and improvisation through Second City, Snow saw improv as a teaching tool that could help students with disabilities develop their communication skills and confidence.

“Someone with developmental disabilities is going through therapies for most of their life, whether it’s physical therapy, speech therapy, lots of different therapies and teaching throughout their life and this is really fun,” he said.

Nick Doyle performs alongside another longtime Improvaneer, Audrey Costilow. (Michelle Alfini/Spectrum News 1)

Nick Doyle was one of his earliest recruits and over the years, and he’s grown to become the assistant director of the Improvaneers. 

“I learned how to be professional,” he said. “Everyone looks up to me.”

Since 2018, the group has grown enough that it consistently sell-out shows, and now travels the country to perform and teach the “Improvaneer Method.” 

“It makes me proud,” Doyle said. “We’re not going to change for no one.”

The performance at Brew Ha Ha will be an extension of the group's efforts, showing the value of their work as performers, while also helping support others with Down syndrome from across the state. All of the proceeds from the event will go toward the Believe our Build campaign to open Cincinnati’s location.

The last day to purchase tickets for the event is Feb. 26. For more information on the event and to use the discount code "Laugh," click here.