Less generous-of-spirit people than Timmy Finch, Brandy Sullivan, and Greg Tavares might look back on their history with Piccolo Spoleto festival and feel justified in gloating a little. The trio formed the comedy improv group The Have Nots! in 1995 and spent years begging the City Office of Cultural Affairs to include them in the official Piccolo program. After six consecutive years of rejection, the Nots! opened up their own space on Cumberland Street — the original Theatre 99 — and in 2001 programmed their own fringe festival during Piccolo. On the schedule that year: renowned late monologuist Spalding Gray, Tiny Ninja Theatre's Macbeth, and New York comedian Mary Purdy.
This year, with their fifth Theatre 99 fringe festival completely dominating the official Piccolo theatre program (the OCA came around in 2002), The Have Nots! are savoring the taste of success — and hardly gloating at all.
As always, the three improvisers have scheduled a busy calendar for themselves, with nine Have Nots! shows over the course of the festival, shoehorned in amongst the 13 other sketch and improv groups they've programmed at the American Theater and their own space above the Bicycle Shoppe on Meeting Street.
And this year, audiences can expect to see many of the members of those 13 groups — which include acclaimed acts from Chicago, New York, L.A., and even Canada, as well as their own extended family of improvisers — on stage with the Have Nots! during their shows.
"We're doing things a little different this year," says Not! Brandy Sullivan. "It's still going to be a Have Nots! show, but we're gonna be inviting some of our guest artists in from Chicago and New York to perform with us. Every night we'll have some of them up there with us. We'll still do a lot of our perennial games and stuff, but there'll also be a lot more participation from other people."
Over the last two years, Sullivan notes, the Theatre 99 company has grown to 35 improvisers, many of whom perform weekly, with the Nots or with their own groups.
"We focused a lot on guesting during the Comedy Festival this year and last, and I think we're going to be doing a lot of that in Piccolo this year, too," she says. "It's fun to play with other people."
THE HAVE NOTS! COMEDY IMPROV JAM • Piccolo Spoleto's Piccolo Fringe at Theatre 99 • $15 • May 26, 31, June 7 at 9 p.m.; June 3 at 8 p.m.; May 27, 28, June 2, 8, 9 at 7 p.m. • 1 hour 45 min • Theatre 99, 280 Meeting St. • 554-6060