The International Institute for Critical Studies in Improvisation (IICSI) at the University of Guelph is set to launch the fourth annual edition of the 24-hour festival of improvised arts, IF 2023.  

The free festival, to be held Friday, Oct. 20 through Saturday, Oct. 21, features improvised performances in Guelph’s newest state-of-the-art performance space, ImprovLab. Further shows and installations will be held in other U of G venues as well as online through an all-night digital stream. 

IF 2023 is curated by IICSI director and 2023 Killam Prize winner Dr. Ajay Heble, School of English and Theatre Studies professor and founder and former artistic director of the Guelph Jazz Festival. 

“This event marks our Institute’s return to a full program of in-person improvised performances,” said Heble. “Moreover, this year’s Festival also coincides with the launch of our brand new, state-of-the-art, performance and research facility, ImprovLab. I can’t wait for audiences to see and to hear events in this beautiful new space.” 

Centred on the theme “Restless Imagination: Improvising the New Normal,” IF 2023 will showcase established and emerging improvisational performers who mix skill, vulnerability and daring to make meaning out of the moment. 

IF 2023 featured artists  

  • bassist/singer Mali Obomsawin with her quartet 
  • artists Vijay Iyer and Hafez Modirzadeh
  • instrument builder and improvisational polymath Douglas R. Ewart with Juno award-winning percussionist Jesse Stewart 
  • two-time Governor General’s Award-winning playwright Judith Thompson with trumpeter jashen edwards 
  • spoken word artist Truth Is… with drummer Marshall Trammell 
  • dancetheatre David Earle 
  • pianist Marianne Trudel and percussionist John Hollenbeck 
  • vocal improviser Rhiannon 

The festival will also feature sound installations by Milo Tamez and Jerónimo Naranjo (Batería Suspendida), and Jesse Stewart, as well as special contributions from partners around the globe, including LASALLE College of the Arts (Singapore) and Sonic Arts Research Centre (Northern Ireland).  

View the full lineup on the IF 2023 website

Free IF 2023 passes are available via Eventbrite. While the festival is open to all, attendees are encouraged to reserve a free pass as some festival performances will have limited space. 

IF 2023 will dovetail with two other events at U of G:  

IF 2023 is presented by IICSI, with support from Musagetes, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC), the Art Gallery of Guelph, CFRU 93.3FM, the College of Arts and Lost Aviator Coffee. 


Sam Boer