THE JIST Big Canvas is a nonprofit organization that believes in “Comedy for Everyone” comedy in Omaha, Nebraska with the goal making improv, sketch, and stand-up comedy accessible to people from all backgrounds. We’re asking for help to secure a permanent space for community classes and performances.
ABOUT BIG CANVAS Big Canvas is a nonprofit improvisational comedy organization in Omaha, Nebraska. It began in 2014 with a group of five performers from diverse backgrounds who got together with the goal of making this art form accessible to people from all walks of life and backgrounds. Five years later, Big Canvas is going strong, focused on its mission of “comedy for everyone.” As an organization, we believe that improv comedy is more than just a way to have fun (though it certainly is that!). It can help build confidence, improve public speaking and listening skills, and make you better at thinking on your feet. It’s also a great outlet for self-expression, and a wonderful way to reduce stress through laughter.
OUR NONPROFIT STATUS As a non-profit organization, Big Canvas is passionate about supporting its community. In addition to teaching classes in improvisational comedy, we offer free shows and classes and provide skill and confidence-building workshops for groups throughout the Omaha community. We believe that everyone deserves the benefits that this art form can provide, and we endeavor to reach as many people within the community as we can.
A TIME OF GROWTH As we have grown, we have begun performing a wider variety of shows, teaching a greater number of classes, and partnering with a larger number of community groups for shows and workshops. This has begun to pose an exciting challenge, as we have increasingly struggled to find venues that can accommodate our growing number and scope of classes and events.
Therefore, we are excited to be in the process of launching The Big Canvas Theater at Blackstone Commons! Located in the heart of the newly booming Blackstone District in Omaha, this theater will be Big Canvas’s home base for shows, workshops, and classes.
THE THEATER Having a dedicated theater for our organization will allow us to focus more on what we do, and less on worry about where to do it. This means we will be able to put on more shows with a broader and more diverse range of performers, teach even more classes, and host a greater number and variety of workshops to support groups in the Omaha community. This includes free classes and workshops for groups that may not typically have opportunities to engage in theatrical arts.
We see this theater as a place for improvisers, actors, comedy writers, and standup comedians in the Omaha community to practice and present their craft. Furthermore, in line with our mission of comedy for everyone, this theater is intended as a safe space for self-expression, no matter your background or identity.
WHY WE NEED YOUR HELP Construction of the Big Canvas Theater is already underway, but it is an expensive and time-consuming process! Currently, most of the construction is being done on a volunteer basis by our members. Your donations will be instrumental in helping us to bring our dream to fruition by growing our community class and workshop options. Right now, we’re able to offer intermittent opportunities when we can find a donated space, but we’d like to regularly offer them. So far, we’ve done seminars for teens and confidence, helping girls use their voice, and for adults of all ages. We’d love to focus more on underserved demographics in the Omaha and Nebraska area.
Many of our current students and performers have found their involvement with Big Canvas to be impactful, even transformative, experiences. With your help, we are excited to use this new theater to bring our brand of comedy for everyone to an even broader community!
TESTIMONIALS I can’t say enough about what wonderful experiences I’ve had at Big Canvas. The teachers are so positive and encouraging. I know they will never give up on me. Their family-friendly shows are refreshing and allow anyone to come and enjoy them. It’s also evident how much fun the performers are having. Shows are fun for all. There is no such thing as negative at Big Canvas. The founders created a VERY EXCEPTIONAL GROUP! Did I mention that Big Canvas is NON PROFIT? Love Big Canvas! -Terry Armstrong
I came to Big Canvas because one of my friends suggested trying it out, and in many aspects, it has changed my life. First and foremost, improv classes have helped boost my confidence, both in social settings and when speaking in front of groups. Additionally, their classes are set up in a fun and safe environment, and they do such a group job of teaching in a positive way. Big Canvas lives their values by making comedy for everyone. -Mike Lucas
Big Canvas is an amazing, hilarious group of some of the most talented individuals in the Midwest. I took my first improv class with Big Canvas in 2016, as a surprise gift from a friend. I’d watched “Whose Line is it Anyway?” as a kid and seen different comedy shows around Omaha but had no idea what to expect. Once I started, I was hooked! No matter what kind of background you may have, improv is fun and can add so much to your life. Improv gives you a chance to be creative, assertive, emotional, silly and so much more. The teachers and members of Big Canvas are experienced and very welcoming. Their mission of ‘Comedy for Everyone’ holds true in every aspect. I know I’ve become more confident in myself and learned so much in the past three years, and value every experience I’ve had with Big Canvas. -Michelle Yeaman
I took an improv class from Big Canvas as an honorarium to my late mother who loved comedy. It was also the dark, frigid middle of Nebraska winter and, frankly, there wasn’t much else to do. The first classes were painful as I was the introvert amongst the guffaw of extroverts. But the skills I learned soaked into me like a cure for awkwardness. I suddenly looked forward to the classes, embraced the new friendships, and relished the laughter I got performing in shows. Now Big Canvas is my Big Family. We always have room at the table so join us for a class, come to a show, or volunteer to help us share comedy for everyone. -Dean Brame
Big Canvas has taught me so many new ways to communicate, understand people, and bring joy to others. The workshops and classes have helped me immensely, both onstage and off. Learning improv with Big Canvas is a wonderful way to challenge yourself and have a lot of fun at the same time! -Jessica Kent
I was introduced to Big Canvas in the summer of 2018 when a friend invited me to see one of their shows. I remember the feeling of immersion into a world that is risky, exciting, and hilarious...and I immediately wanted to learn more. In addition to serving on the board of directors for Big Canvas, I have completed the first three levels of classes and find myself more in love with Big Canvas and improv comedy than I was on that summer day. You not only learn a great deal about active listening, creating a story in real-time, and pushing yourself to tackle new challenges but you also step into a growing community of people who thrive on trust, creativity, and love. Improv has already helped me as a stand-up comedian and I look forward to sharing more of my story as the Big Canvas story continues to grow and weave its delightful magic all across Omaha. -Ben Webb
When I moved to Omaha four years ago it didn’t take long to realize how easy it was to stay at home all the time. I needed to rebuild my social life in a new city, with new people, and I had no idea where to begin. So, I turned to the thing that had provided me so much comfort before I moved, theater and improv. Big Canvas gave me more than I ever expected to have when I started Level 1. I was welcomed into such a warm and friendly community of people. Through improv classes, I have come out of my shell more than I ever thought possible. Not only am I more confident on stage, but in my life in general. My Big Canvas family is filled with absolutely hilarious and loving people, and we are constantly learning from each other. Big Canvas has improved my listening skill, communication skills, and given me a fantastic group of friends along the way! If you’re thinking about signing up, say yes and jump in…you won’t regret it! -Emily Worthing
Being a part of Big Canvas has been transformative for me. Beyond just getting to laugh and relax, the classes, workshops, and performance opportunities have made me more confident, a more proficient public speaker, and better at thinking on my feet. More importantly, though, The Big Canvas family has become such an important part of my life; it’s a group of people I genuinely love spending time with. As an East Coast transplant, I had been looking for a group I felt like I belonged with. This incredible bunch of people has been such a wonderful addition to my life since I moved to Omaha six years ago! If you’re at all interested in gaining confidence, breaking out of your shell, or just meeting some awesome new friends, sign up for a class! You won’t regret it. -Josh Fairchild
I've been part of Big Canvas for just over three years now. It is absolutely one of the most fun things to do. I took the entire year of classes and went through a whole year with the same people. I found myself looking forward to class every week because I knew we were going to have fun and laugh. Many of the people from my class are still part of Big Canvas by volunteering and performing in shows today. I love having to think on my feet. With improv, I’ve learned about the art of comedy, about other people, and most importantly, about myself. -Joe Klaus