Nick Armstrong is an Actor, Improvisor, Director and Writer. On TV, Nick has been on the Emmy-Award winning shows The Office and Grey’s Anatomy. He has also made appearances on Jimmy Kimmel Live, New Girl, Stan Against Evil, Young Sheldon, Brooklyn Nine Nine and Parks and Recreation.
While in Los Angeles, Nick trained at the World-famous Groundlings Theater where he was a member of the prestigious Sunday Company who’s alumni include Will Ferrell, Heidi Gardner, Phil Hartman and many more. There he would study and teach improv and sketch comedy. He also studied at iO where he learned and taught Long Form Improvisation and performed on the critically acclaimed teams King Ten, COG and Kind Strangers. He was also former Artistic Director of M.I’s Westside Comedy Theater. where he taught and performed as well. Nick has taught workshops all over the world and has performed and headlined in over 60 festivals throughout the world.
Currently, Nick is the Co-Owner and Artistic Director of RISE Comedy in Denver, Colorado and Founder and Executive Director of Improv Utopia a Non-profit improv camp for adults held annually that gives back to the improv community and other arts related charities.
Josh Nicols is the Education Director and co-owner of RISE Comedy. Josh has been a professional improv teacher, producer and performer for 20 years. He has studied under instructors from iO West & Chicago, The Annoyance Theater, Groundlings, UCB, and Second City. He has performed and taught all around the country and abroad. Josh was the improv teacher at Mater Dei High School as well as working with Long Beach Poly Highschool, He also served as the Training Center Director at the Westside Comedy Theater, prior to that he was the Artistic Director/ Co-Owner of Spectacles Improv Engine in Fullerton Ca. He created and directed 7 years of The Orange County Improv Festival and is a founder and former director of The Improv Cup. He is a member of the teams Community Theater 3000, Tapestry, Laugh Track and A Bad Play Done Terribly. He has also directed full length improvised plays, which included The Awkward Party, Post Apocalyptic Bunker Comedy and Prentendessee Williams, with the Awkward Party receiving the accolade “Best Play of the Year” from the OC Weekly.
Anatasha Blakely is a filmmaker, actor, and comedian. She studied at Southern Utah University (B.F.A. Classical Acting), iO West (Improv Comedy), The School for Theatre Creators and Clown Church (Clown). Anatasha is the creator of an L.A. based improv ensemble called Stormchaser (The Stormchaser Improv Podcast Show) and a comedy duo, Buddy Puzzle (@buddypuzzle). Anatasha won best actress in a short at Filmquest, the Houston Horror Film Festival, and HorroHaus for her performance in “Inch Thick, Knee Deep” which she also wrote and directed. It also won “Best Script” at the HauntedHouse Horror Fearfest. darklingfilms.com
Alex Nichols has been improvising since 2005, when he founded his high school’s improv team. In Chicago, he was a member of several Harold teams at iO and performed at theaters around the city including The Playground, the Annoyance, and CIC, where he co-produced a weekly show with his independent team, Law Dog. He now performs regularly at RISE Comedy as a member of the shortform team Laugh Track and as one half of the longform duo Wrong Matt.
Arash Zadeh has been performing improv comedy in Denver since 2008. Starting off as a weekly hobby to try, improv has changed his life over the past 13 years. The joy and the love that improv brings to the performers and audiences draws him to the stage regularly. Arash can be seen performing weekly at RISE Comedy in The Duel: An Improv Cagematch and monthly with District 9. He is excited to teach from his experiences and welcome people into this amazing community!
Archer Rosenkrantz (They/Him) is a trans, queer, and autistic performance artist from Los Angeles. They’ve been studying improv since they were a kid, beginning with the ComedySportz High School League. Since then, they’ve studied under notable schools of comedy all over the country. Although improv is their home, they can be found on stages around Colorado performing sketch, stand up, puppetry, and walk around characters. On TikTok, Archer has gained a following under the name Archiebeshort, where they create comedic and educational content that tackles the intersectionality of LGBTQ+ and neurodiverse identities. Archer formally studied Inclusive Education in college, and their passion for teaching follows them into the artforms they love.
Asa Erlendson and Improv officially met in 2007 at Pitzer College in the group Without A Box. Things got hot and heavy when he co-founded a group called ImpRAWv in which he had a transcendent experience in an experiment called The Beehive (watch “My Dinner With Andre” to get the reference). When he moved back home to Denver in 2011, Asa and Improv started going steady while at the Bovine Metropolis. First, as a student, and eventually as a coach and teacher. Things got really serious when he joined the group Governor Jack. With Governor Jack, Asa was able to meet, study with, and perform with amazing improvisers from cities and schools all around the country while absconding to festivals in Denver, and from New York City to Salt Lake City, but no further West than that… yet. Since they first met, Improv has introduced Asa to a variety of genres, styles, and forms. He can truly say he is a better person for knowing Improv. And even though he has messed around with sketch and has a growing friendship with stand-up, his heart will always belong to Improv, its community and all of its teachers and students.
Aurelia Vanderkolk has been performing and teaching improv and theater for over 20 years. At the age of 9 she made her acting debut as the Unicorn in a community theater production of The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe.
Hailing from Indiana, she was a troupe member and educator with INDYPROV in Indianapolis, IN for 9 years. In 2021 she joined Laugh Track, RISE’s short form house team. Aurelia became an instructor at RISE to continue her passion of helping others gain confidence and a love for improv! When not at the theater she likes practicing yoga and snuggling with her dog, Poppy.
Chris Gropp has 13 years of Improv experience, but 34 years experience of being a goofball. He can currently be seen performing in Blockbuster and with The Chronicles, as well as producing RISE Comedy’s short-form team Laugh Track. Chris is known for his puppy-dog energy and his wild card choices on the stage, and his ornery playfulness off it. Improv has positively influenced Chris on so many levels, so he is excited to share his love of it with any and everyone who will listen!
Christie Buchele is an accomplished standup comic from Denver, Colorado. Making a name for herself by sharing the heart-wrenching and hilariously raw realities of being a woman with a disability. Christie has been featured on Viceland’s, Flophouse; Hidden America with Jonah Ray; Laughs on Fox; First Look on NBC. Christie has performed at Limestone Comedy Festival in Bloomington, Denver’s own High Plains Comedy Festival and 208 in Boise. She starred in and wrote for the Project DU film Scary Lucy which has won multiple awards at film festivals around the country. As Director of Stand-Up at RISE Comedy Theater in Denver Colorado, Christie empowers young comics to hit the stage running and tell their stories with confidence.
Christie has been described as “Brave” for leaving the house in that body, Christie’s comedy has been described as “funny despite what she talks about…” and “Uncomfortable..” by Christie’s mom. She was chosen to open up for the likes Josh Blue, Marc Maron and David Cross.
Christie co-hosted a witty relationship advice podcast, Empty Girlfriend, which earned best Comedy Podcast by Westword Magazine and best Podcast for Sexpot Comedy in 2017. As one third of the Denver Comedy powerhouse, The Pussy Bros, Christie reps the Mile High City hard while crushing audiences with a wry, biting style that’s a bit sweet, a and a little bit surly; proving time and again you can say almost anything with a smile on your face and a gimp in your step.
Christie has been described as “Brave” for leaving the house in that body, Christie’s comedy has been described as “funny despite what she talks about…” and “Uncomfortable..” by Christie’s mom. She was chosen to open up for the likes Josh Blue, Sean Patton and Andy Kindler. She has also been featured at national comedy festivals like 208, High Plains and Limestone.
Christie co-hosts a witty relationship advice podcast, Empty Girlfriend, which earned best Comedy Podcast by Westword Magazine and best Podcast for Sexpot Comedy in 2017. As one third of the Denver Comedy powerhouse, The Pussy Bros, Christie reps the Mile High City hard while crushing audiences with a wry, biting style that’s a bit sweet, a and a little bit surly; proving time and again you can say almost anything with a smile on your face and a gimp in your step.
Frankie Lee is a producer, performer, and teacher with RISE Comedy. Frankie is an actor, improviser, playwright, and sketch comedian living in Denver, CO. Having been involved with the improv comedy community in Denver for over 8 years, his local credits include Snack Table Sketch Comedy, Improv Allstars, Overcommitted, and Tantrum. Regionally he’s performed and done workshops in cities across the country including Phoenix, Portland, Omaha, and New York. Having taught with RISE Comedy since their reopening in 2021, Frankie has only grown closer to his immense passion for improv and continues to host energetic classes where he shows people their superpowers. You can catch him performing monthly at RISE Comedy as one of the hosts for the short form jams and Snack Table Sketch Comedy.
Haley Cohen has been an admirer of improv since she was 16 years old. She got her first taste of improv in high school when she joined ComedySportz. In 2016, fresh out of college, Haley moved to Asheville, NC where she got involved in Asheville Improv Collective. She graduated from their long-form improv program and became a teacher shortly after. Along with teaching, Haley performed regularly with AIC on her house team Blank Slate and long-form improv duo Aftermath.
In 2021, Haley decided it was time to seek new opportunities West. She settled in Denver and started getting involved at RISE Comedy. She is a member of Waiting Room, Laugh Track, Teach!, and is currently leading a new mockumentary team. Outside of improv, Haley is a visual artist, rock climber, and avid hiker. She works in Deaf education and is passionate about helping students tap into their creativity and potential. She is thrilled to be a new instructor with RISE Comedy!
Janae Burris (Just For Laughs/NBC First Look) is a comedian, actor and event host in Denver, Co.She is a South Central Los Angeles native and a CalArts alumna. Her favorite moments in standup comedy include performing to a crowd of 10,000 at Red Rocks Amphitheater, being on the road with Josh Blue and being the first woman of color to be promoted to the Comedy Works Pros list. Janae is a 2021 True West Award recipient for her work in the one woman show “Queen’s Girl In The World” at Aurora Fox Theater. She is currently developing her podcast Dead Daddy Issues and she is a proud camp counselor’ for Athena Project where she teaches stand up comedy to teenage girls. See Janae in David Byrne’s Theater of the Mind at Denver Center for Performing Arts through December.
Jared McBain has been studying and performing improv for over 15 years in Denver and spent time learning and performing improv in Chicago, IL as well. Before moving to Chicago, he performed in countless shows all across Denver and was the winner of Season 4 of Denver’s Next Improv Star. In Chicago, he studied improv at the iO Theater, The Annoyance, and The Second City and was cast on a house team at the iO Theater. Now back home in Denver, Jared performs regularly all around town. You can catch him every Saturday night at RISE hosting The Duel with Hot Nap.
Lucky Johnston has performed on Denver’s various stages for more than a decade. He’s done stand-up at Comedyworks, acted at Dangerous Theater, solved murders for Dinner Detective, and improvised everywhere. At Bovine Metropolis Theater, he taught all he learned about the art of improvisation, while behind the scenes, he directed, produced, and designed the posters for several shows. He identifies as an artist, a creative,and a Bon Vivant. He is very excited to perform and teach at Rise Comedy, and to remind people the how’s and why’s of make believe.
Melissa Schenter Connor hails from the Pacific Northwest, where she earned a theater degree from Western Washington University. She has performed original plays at a wide range of Fringe Festivals, including in Edinburgh, Scotland, most of the Canadian Fringe circuit, and at an American Chemical Society National Conference. Besides improv, she has training in Viewpoints, Devising, Forum Theater, Musical Theater, and Commedia dell’arte. She is a member of a number of improv teams in the Denver Metro Area, including Barkley, Too Intense, Waiting Room, and Sexy Goblins. While not on stage, she can be found doing illustration and graphic design, playing board games, reading fantasy and sci-fi books, and talking to her cats.
Mylène van Zijl’s comedy journey started in 2010 at Impulse Theater, which held Denver’s longest running improv show for over 20 years.
Throughout the years she has taken workshops and classes at The Bovine, RISE Comedy and Chaos bloom. Mylène’s teaching style involves active listening, teaching players how to create opportunities from within a scene and having a ton of fun!
Natalie Kilkenny has embraced theater for over a decade, including coaching numerous improv teams and teaching at the RISE Comedy Club and the Bovine Metropolis Theater. She never grows weary of taking acting workshops and courses from Denver to Yosemite to the Big Apple! Natalie delights audiences with the popular all-female improv troupe, Dishwater Blondes, and chaired the GroupMind Foundation from 2011 to 2015, producer of the Denver Improv Festival that attracts creative talents to Denver stages from LA, NYC and The Second City. Natalie co-hosted and co-produced the Daughters of the Improv Revolution. You may catch Natalie in several short films and as a regular improviser with ScriptProv.
Nicholle Harris has 20+ years of theater experience and is an experienced improviser! Improv has been pivotal for Nicholle in finding community, perseverance, and confidence in her identity. Improv allows us to create connections, and provoke essential conversations – through joy, something Nicholle is very excited about being a conduit for in the classroom. She also has a Master’s in Social work from The University of Denver and does Restorative Theater and Social Emotional Learning through Improv with youth all over the Metro Denver Area, in schools and in detention centers. At the height of the COVID19 pandemic, she worked with incarcerated individuals in arts and writing practice. She was also an intelligence analyst with the United States Air Force and the Department of Defense for 16 years. She hopes to use her experiences in these diverse environments to inform her understanding of working with and finding joy and community with adults from all different backgrounds and stories!
Nick Trotter has been playing (and playing around) in the Denver improv community since 2011, teaching at RISE and its predecessor the Voodoo since 2015. He specializes in character, physicality, and surreal, immersive, plastic worlds, especially with Circo de Nada, a local performance project where he serves as founder and director of training, and with whom he has performed at national and international festivals. He is a lecturer and associate professor in theater at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Metropolitan State University in Denver, and Community College of Denver, teaching improv at all three institutions. And he has taught various styles of theater independently. He has been performing onstage since childhood, and holds an MFA in ensemble-based physical theater (2009, Dell’Arte International) as well as a BA in Geography from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
Sammy Anzer performs at colleges and clubs across the country and when he appeared on Kevin Hart’s “You Look Like” roast battle, he lost every one of his matches for looking like “church camp Drake” and “the most handsome employee at the Taco Bell.” Sammy Anzer is growing into the mixed-race comedic voice in America and has proven it by performing alongside DL Hughley, Rory Scovel, Amy Miller, and Rojo Perez. Sammy’s grandma said it best when she quoted Kanye West, “if you’re a fan of Sammy Anzer you’re a fan of yourself.” Expect confidence, joy, and thought provocation.
Steve Vanderploeg is a comedian based in Denver, Colorado, where he is on the professional roster at the world famous Comedy Works. Steve’s punchline heavy off-dry antics have led him to be a city favorite. He has been featured as “Comedian of the Week” on Today’s Comedy 103.1 FM in Denver. His comedy has also been featured multiple times on the popular podcast “The Grawlix saves the World.” He has performed on over two dozen comedy festivals across the country including multiple appearances at High Plains Comedy Festival (7X), Rogue Island Comedy Festival (2X), 208 Comedy Festival (2X) as well as appearances at SF Sketchfest, Limestone, 10,000 Laughs comedy festivals and Treefort music festival just to name a few. Steve consistently works with comedians much more famous than him, and usually, they like him.
Steve Wilder (Stephen Wilder) is the founder and original owner of RISE Comedy in Denver, Colorado (formerly Voodoo Comedy), operating since October 26th, 2011. He has been teaching, improvising and performing for 29 years, and he has been in service to the Denver and Colorado theater communities since 2009.
An alumnus of iO West and Second City Hollywood, Steve has performed with and studied under improv luminaries such as Michael Pollock, musical director of Second City Hollywood and the premier improv accompanist in the country; Shulie Cowen, the founder and director of Opening Night: The Improvised Musical in Hollywood; David Razowsky; Armando Diaz; Kevin McDonald; Craig Cackowski; Dave Hill; Eric Hunicutt; Karen Graci; and many many more.
On the scripted theater side, Steve studied at the Asolo Repertory Theater and New College/USF in Florida, and he has performed across the country and on both coasts, including Off-Broadway as part of the United Solo Theatre Festival.
Steve now operates as CTO and corporate/private workshops & events manager for RISE Comedy. He has personally deployed corporate workshops and events for companies such as Apple, Adobe, Comcast Xfinity, Chipotle, DaVita, Dell, Ernst & Young, Google, Microsoft, Vail Resorts, and many others. Steve is honored to have been chosen as the keynote speaker for the 2021 RMHA conference in Black Hawk, CO. Steve also created and runs RISE Comedy’s musical improv training program.
In addition to RISE Comedy, Steve is co-executive producer for The Dinner Detective Murder Mystery Dinner Show®, where he manages 8 cities across the country, as well as coordinating the websites for all 80 locations. Steve is also founder and director of Hit and Run: Musical Improv™, Colorado’s longest-running improv comedy show, which has created hundreds of fully improvised Broadway-style musicals over the past 17 years, at theaters and festivals across the country. In 2016, Steve co-founded the Diversity in Colorado Improvisation group; this group kickstarted a change in inclusivity and diversity in the Colorado improv scene, which continues to this day.
In the virtual arena, Steve operates as Lead Digital Architect for The Virtual Detective. Through The Virtual Detective, Steve has so far produced 8 full-scale digital productions, and has performed hundreds of shows for dozens of colleges and organizations across the country and internationally, including shows in Canada, Bahrain, Hawaii, Morocco, Italy, the UK, Switzerland, Germany, Scotland, and many other countries.
Steve’s comedy festival and improv festival performing & teaching credits include: Los Angeles Improv Festival, New York Musical Improv Festival, New York Improv Festival, Out Of Bounds Comedy Festival, Montreal Improv Festival, Duke City Improv Festival, Denver Improv Festival, Colorado Improv Festival.
Todd Couch was in the first ever graduating class from the theater back when it was the Voodoo Comedy Playschool. He has been performing Improv, sketch, and stand up for the past ten years on stages all over town including the Opening Ceremonies of the Denver Comic Con. He is a founding member of Barkley and has been hosting the Improv Jam every week for the past five years. He also performs with Makeshift Shakespeare improvising hour-long Shakespeare plays. Todd has studied improv and sketch with classes, intensives, and workshops in Denver, Chicago, New York, and Los Angeles. He most recently studied at the Magnet Theater and the Pack Theater over the pandemic. The RISE Comedy Theater’s green room sofa is named after him, The “Todd Couch Couch.” They got your back.
Valerie Vasilas is a performer, writer, director, producer, teacher, a mover and a shaker, and the wearer of many other hats.
She got her start in comedy because she thought that she invented improv (it was her college thesis and she went around calling it “unscripted theatre”), and when she found out that, no, she was not that revolutionary or special, she decided to dedicate herself to learning it.
She got her start at the Neighborhood Comedy Theater in Phoenix, then moved to Los Angeles where she trained at iO West and the Pack Theater. Her background is in physical theatre, where she’s trained in Commedia dell’Arte, clown, mask and puppetry.
You can catch her on stage with Laugh Track. She also coaches Snack Table, the house sketch team at RISE.
She has had her digital content featured on WhoHaHa, Funny or Die, as well as at live events in New York City and Los Angeles.
She loves kale, potatoes, and burritos.