Black Box Improv Theater in Dayton gets ‘back to being funny’

Grand reopening to be held this weekend



Black Box Improv Theater in Dayton has been dark since March 2020. While the coronavirus is still present, and founder Justin Howard recently departed, the newly expanded ownership group is enthusiastically emerging from the COVID-19 imposed shutdown to bring laughter to the community. The rejuvenated crew is hosting a grand reopening on Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1 and 2. (Note: Friday’s show is sold out.)

Shows are presented at 8 and 9 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and each one has a different theme. Doors open at 7:30 p.m. Proof of full vaccination or 48-hour negative COVID tests are required to enter. Masks must be worn at all times.

Black Box Improv Theater is open Friday and Saturday nights through mid-October. While it is subject to change, the plan is to then expand the schedule to Wednesday through Saturday. Admission is $15 per night and includes the 8 and 9 p.m. shows.

Kevin Carter, who started doing improv comedy at Black Box in 2014, became an owner in 2017. The improvisor and rapper recently sat down at the Barrel House to answer some questions about the reopening of the intimate comedy venue on East Third Street.

Q: How is work going on the reopening?

A: It was a long road coming. We’re just trying to get people in to get back into improv and get back to being funny. It has taken a lot of work but we have 10 owners now so we’re able to split up the tasks. Every owner brings a type of specialty like finance, maintenance or law so when we bring it all together, we can do a lot. The best part is, all of the owners are improvisors so they understand the community. This is all homegrown talent. Everybody is from Dayton. We want to run it like a business but we understand, at the heart, it’s about the community.

Q: What policies are in place at Black Box to deal with coronavirus concerns?

A: It’s a big risk for us because of the Delta variant but we’re going to try. We’ve got to get people to come and feel safe. We’ve modeled some of our policies off of other theaters we know. A lot of businesses are starting to require vaccinations to get in so we’re doing proof of full vaccination or 48-hour negative tests. Of course, you’ve got to have masks on. All of our performers are all fully vaccinated, but we do care about them so we want to make sure it’s safe. I’m a little worried about the requirements. You know we’re going to lose a few people but I want to make sure it’s safe for everyone.

Q: How are the performers preparing for the return to live improv?

A: We got the lease a couple months ago and I started teaching a refresher course for everybody that has graduated and was performing before. It’s basically a sprint through all the levels we taught before just to get everyone acclimated. We don’t want to go up there cold on opening night. I’m taking the class too. I’m teaching it but I’m up there with them. I need to learn too. I’m not above that. That’s what we’re doing now to make sure everybody is ready to put on the best show we can.

Q: When are you starting improv classes for new performers?

A: The first classes started in September and everybody goes through three levels. Those classes run for eight weeks and after that, they do the next level and then the next level. Then, they get on stage and that’s how the shows grow. We want to make sure everybody gets in there and becomes comfortable with how we have things set up and how we’re handling things.

Q: Where do you see Black Box in five years?

A: Best case scenario, we’re doing shows every Wednesday through Saturday, we’ve got a packed house, we’re putting on A-plus comedy and it becomes a true staple in the community. I want it to be where, even if you’ve never been there, you’ve heard of the Black Box Improv Theater.

Contact this contributing writer at 937-287-6139 or e-mail at


What: Black Box Improv Theater, 518 E. Third St., Dayton

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 1 and 2. Doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Cost: $15 (Friday show is sold out)

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