Big Blue Door was founded by Joel Jones and Jen Hoffman Jones in the summer of 2012 to make art that finds and shares the human experience with wit, comedy, skill, and candor. Our classes and shows combine the most innovative training anywhere with ongoing opportunities for original, exciting performance. Come see better, listen better, laugh louder, and maybe discover your own voice along the way.

We teach:

  1. Longform improvisational comedy emphasizing strong character and scene work.
  2. Writing for stage, video, and audio that explores character, emotion and action using craft, clarity, and candor.
  3. True stories as the touchstone and anchor for understanding character, plot, and comedy.

We produce several original shows every month. Many of our classes and shows take place in our McGuffey Art Center space, Studio 20, on the second floor.

McGuffey Art Center
201 2nd St NW
Charlottesville, VA

Here’s a quick history:

Season 1: 2012-2013
In the summer of 2012 Jen and Joel moved back to Charlottesville after several years in New York and launched Big Blue Door.

  • We started our website.
  • We started our monthly Big Blue Door Jams, featuring locals from all walks of life telling true stories inspired by changing monthly themes.
  • Joel started teaching Improv 1 through Live Arts.
  • Joel started teaching Telling True Stories through The Bridge PAI and Piedmont Council for the Arts.
  • Joel taught first Sketch Workshop through Writer House.
  • Big Blue Door offered its first independent Telling True Stories course and Sketch Workshop at Park School
  • Joel taught Improv 2 classes at Live Arts in early 2013.
  • In the spring of 2013 we had our first guest hosts and guest producers for our Jams.
  • Improv Showcases and Telling True Stories Showcases featured class graduates.
  • Big Blue Door staged first Sketch Show at The Bridge PAI featuring original material developed by a team of improvisers and writers.
  • We held our first Big Blue door Slam bringing back audience favorites from our monthly Jams.

Season 2: 2013-2014
Our second season continued the classes and shows from our first season and added road shows, publishing, oral histories, and more. In our second season we produced at least two shows each month.

  • Big Blue Door stories recorded at our live shows feature weekly on WTJU‘s Soundboard
  • Big Blue Door offers its first independent improv classes at Directors Studio.
  • Big Blue Door storytellers published in special Valentines issue of the Cville.
  • Big Blue Open Door focuses on storytelling from local web community.
  • Door 2 Door brings a collection of our veteran storytellers on the road.
  • First Improv 3 class.
  • Charlottesville’s first ever longform improv ensemble, The Lady Pills, launches Charlottesville’s first ever run of longform improv comedy shows.
  • The Lady Pills perform at Magnet Theater in New York City.
  • Big Blue Door featured on NPR.
  • We first collect oral histories of refugees in the community as part of a Benefit for the local International Rescue Committee.

Season 3: 2014-2015
Our third season expanded our reputation as one of the most innovative and fastest growing arts organizations in Central Virginia. Big Blue Door offered more classes than ever, produced three unique shows a month, and dramatically expanded our improv program.

  • Big Blue Door joins McGuffey Art Center as an Associate Member.
  • The Lady Pills perform a new improv form called Smallprov.
  • The Lady Pills perform as the opening act of the Richmond Comedy Festival.
  • Big Blue Door adds a second improv ensemble and our improvisers form two teams, Hotdog Water and Unusual Suspects, for our winter Harold Run.
  • Big Blue Door Improv Night begins in 2015. On the third Thursday of every month, Improv Night features a changing array of longform improv shows and groups.
  • Big Blue Door’s spring improv run features new form called Monoscene.
  • Big Blue Door’s summer improv run features two teams, Plan A and Mogli Mogli de Brogli.
  • Big Blue Door brings the Big Blue Door Jam back from its six-month hiatus with our third-year anniversary show.
  • Brian Weisbrod and Nauder Namaky launch our first indy show, OK Stupid.

Season 4: 2015-2016
In our fourth season we expanded our staffing, refurbished our studio, and premiered new improv forms!

  • Big Blue Door joins McGuffey Art Center Studio 20 as a Renting Member.
  • Big Blue door’s fall improv run features two teams, Dance Monkey and Catwampus.
  • Big Blue Door premieres two new forms for our winter run, The Sleepover and The Helix.
  • Big Blue Door offers a storytelling group under the leadership of Melissa Wender with a show called Stories Confidential.
  • Big Blue Door updates its studio with sound baffles and lights.
  • Big Blue Door’s spring improv run features new form called The Echo, plus indy team Short Term Analysis.
  • Big Blue Door hires its first team performance coaches, veteran improvisers Brian Weisbrod and Nauder Namaky. With Joel Jones they form improv group, The Administration.
  • Summer team performance features new ensemble, The Bitter End.

Season 5: 2016-2017
In our fifth season we grew our performance teams, ran our first Telling True Stories II course, expanded to new venues, launched an oral history project, and brought back our storytelling shows!

  • Big Blue Door joins McGuffey Art Center Studio 20 as a Renting Member.
  • Big Blue door’s regular improv teams include The Bitter End, Driver’s Ed, Mr Mammals, Half-Price Candy, Lemon Cello, and Colorblind Astronauts and our summer groups.
  • Big Blue Door premieres a combination storytelling and improv from, The Experience.
  • Big Blue Door offers Telling True Stories II
  • Big Blue Door launches TrueVille a brand new oral history project under the leadership of Melissa Wender. TrueVille begins with Police Stories, interviews with local law enforcement.
  • Big Blue Door does its first ever fundraising and grand applying.
  • Big Blue Door performs at new venues The Front Porch and Belmont Arts Collaborative.
  • Stories Confidential brought back under the leadership of BK Marcus as a story meeting group and a new monthly true stories performance series featuring veterans of our classes and past shows.
  • Big Blue Door presents Charlottesville’s first improv-spoken word poetry event, Fire & Smoke, hosted by The Fire Tigers.

Season 6: 2017-2018
Our sixth season is just around the bend with more shows, new teachers and coaches, and world premiere plays.

To keep up, why not “Follow” us by clicking the button on the upper right of our homepage, and “Like” us on Facebook? Heck, why not like us in real life by coming to our shows and consider taking a class!


4 thoughts on “WHAT

  1. Have you ever considered working with the IRC or Adult Learning Center to promote the story project amongst Cville-based immigrants? As an ESL volunteer, I’ve heard some extremely powerful stories from local immigrants.

    • Cora,
      Thank you so much for the suggestion! We did work with IRC a little in the fall of 2012 when Jen was producing a play for the Hamner Theater and we would love to collaborate again. We’ve always hoped to expand into recording stories and oral histories and maybe developing shows out of that material as we grow and find people and resources to help us grow. Come talk to us after a Big Blue Door Jam!

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