Geek Week growing by leaps, bounds, tweets and Skypes

Kevin Harrington is organizing Geek Week at ImprovBoston for the fourth year. This year, with the festival promising to be bigger than ever, he has help. (Photo: Sharilyn Johnson)

For those who think Cambridge isn’t geeky enough, put April 28-May 2 on your calendar: You’ll want to be in town for Geek Week 4th Edition, an orgy of all things “geektastic” — science fiction, fantasy, comic books and anime in all aspects of performance, including comedy, music and film — centered around the ImprovBoston comedy club in Central Square and very likely mixing comedy with new technologies such as Twitter and Skype.

First, though, performers, artists and vendors have to sign up. Show submissions are accepted through Feb. 20, according to Kevin Harrington, an improvisational comedian and acting instructor who’s been organizing the show since the beginning. This time, he’s out to make Geek Week as big as he can.

“We want to make this more of a spectacle instead of just a series of shows. It’s been ramping up and growing in the past couple of years, and it’s been well attended. But we just want to find more and more diverse things,” Harrington said last week. “I’m looking for animation, videos, short films, burlesque — and yes, stand-up, buts stand-up geared toward geeky stuff.”

The first Geek Week was mainly a few retro-fitted comedy acts and one-night revivals of a show called “Quest,” Will Luera’s “Mysteries of the Universe Revealed” and Harrington’s well-received 2006 improv series “In the Garage,” about role-playing gamers in high school. (The name of this year’s show is an allusion to Dungeon & Dragons 4th Edition.)

For Geek Week 2.0, in 2008, Harrington went wider, bringing in performers from Harvard, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute (creators of “Ben Franklin: Dinosaur Hunter”). “We were starting to slowly build things out but still using almost all local acts,” Harrington said.

Geek Week 3 Point Oh! — the sexy one — went wider still, attracting Asaf Ronen’s improv troupe from Austin, Texas, to perform “Ka-Baam!!,” a live-action comic book.

Geek Week 4th Edition, though, promises to be, as the nerds, say, an order of magnitude bigger.

Advances from the Geek Week laboratories

“The goal is to get a big name, a known entity in comedy or geek culture — it could be somebody like John Hodgman or Wil Wheaton that people instantly recognize from science fiction and comedy,” Harrington said. He also has people seeking grants to help fly in talent from New York, Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco or other “towns that have either a tech industry or a strong geek culture.” The principals from overthinkingit.com (writers of haiku about characters from the video game “Street Fighter”) are likely to stop in.

Look also for improv shows where audience suggestions come in via Twitter or Skype video and are flashed onto a screen above the performers. Considering the time difference between Cambridge and New Zealand, home of a friend of Harrington’s, an evening performance here could be interactive Saturday morning cartoons there. And writers and actors from Boston News Net may return to do live blogging and Webcasts.

Harrington is also eager for Geek Week’s nights to be full of parties and its days to include workshops and sales by local comic book stores and artists from the Boston Comics Roundtable.  He wants to expand beyond ImprovBoston and sell weekly passes.

He can’t do all this alone, of course. The bigger the event, the more help is needed.

“They said they would be willing to help me get more of a budget, more of a strong crew behind me,” Harrington said of ImprovBoston’s directors. Now Harrington has under him five producers, each with two or three helpers, and a growing volunteer corps. “It’s starting to become a group of people, finally, but it’s been my bastard child for four years.”

Harrington had grateful words for a number of people working with him, including Hannah Foell, a designer who runs the Rock Band Night at ImprovBoston, and Kate Garvey, a promoter who is helping seek grants. Also helping are David Marino and Becky Pineo, he said.

The help came at a good time; Harrington was thinking about getting out of the Geek Week business.

“Last year was a lot of work, a nightmare, and I thought I wanted to step down,” he said. “But my big fear is that if I left this or got burnt out, someone would take it over, someone who wouldn’t put the time into it — someone who wasn’t a true geek.”

Interested people can send mail to Geek Week at ImprovBoston, 40 Prospect St., Cambridge, MA 02139, or visit the event’s Web site for information and to sign up “all relevant acts: new troupes, veteran performers and projects featuring, written or created by women. Ideas include, but are not limited to, improv, sketch, music, stand-up, video, fantasy, science fiction, comic book, anime and superhero.” There is a $20 submission fee.

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