It's 15 years of chuckles, guffaws and groans, and performing weekly at The Players' Ring during the summer months.

Now a premier New Hampshire improv group, Stranger Than Fiction still plays the Ring. It also "winters" (falls and springs) at Seacoast Repertory Theatre; performs quarterly at the Newmarket Millspace and is about to start a new series at the Hatbox Theatre in Concord.

And that's not the half of it.

No, really. It's not the half of it, which is why STF doesn't have special plans for celebrating its 15th at the moment, Promotions Co-Chair Marina Altschiller says.

"Honestly, the past year has been emblematic for us," Altschiller, a member since 2015, says. "That's a celebration of our fifteenth."

Altschiller is referring to the ever-growing, busy calendar in performance, workshops, jams and classes in addition to the weekly rehearsals for this committed group of chuckle-makers.

For starters, there's a definite uptick in stage time. In addition to the aforementioned series, STF just started performing at Jupiter Hall in Manchester, with three shows through July and more in discussion.

Earlier this season, members performed at the Del Close Marathon in New York and at the Ocean State Improv Festival in Rhode Island.

"That's an exciting one," Altschiller says. "It was founded by the Upright Citizen Brigade, which runs a big training school in New York."

Next comes the Big Pond Improv Festival in Vermont (July 23), with more in its future. Stranger has also performed at the Hartford Improv Festival, the Providence Improv Festival and ImprovME.

The Ring wasn't the company's official first performance, but close. The short of it, according to John Herman, the sole remaining original member, is the troupe sprung "out of the ashes" of another.

Its first gig as Stranger Than Fiction in 2004 was as the hosts for a "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screening at the Ioka Theater in Exeter followed by a stand-up show.

Tuesday Night Improv at The Ring was next, and has continued since.

The Rocky host cast included Chris Bujold, Noah Sheola, Sharon Stevens, Laura Mellow, Brian Spielvogel, Celene Ramadan and Herman. But by the time The Ring gig occurred, a few had moved on and Jennifer Lake, Brian Paul and Jeff Bernhardt were in the troupe.

"As for me being the last original still standing, everyone else grew up, got married, had kids, etc.," Herman, a father of two, says. "I might have faded out, too, but I have always been excited by the new possibilities. I couldn’t let it go."

"After my heart surgery a few years ago, I returned with an even greater passion for the art of it," Herman says. "The small troupe of friends is now a big organization. ... It’s amazing."

Today, Stranger Than Fiction stands at 18, a motley crew that consists of a Political Digital Organizer, Senior Sales & Use Tax Accountant, Case Manager and Special Education Teacher/Clinical Herbalist, Associate Dean of STEM Foundations, English teachers, MBA Program Coordinator, Real Estate and Security Manager, and others.

"We're on the large side for an improv troupe," Altschiller says, emphasizing large. "We have an average of 12 performers for each show. ... It allows everyone stage time, and the (members) teach our classes. It also allows performers to take care of themselves and take a break if they need them."

Today's Stranger members are Andy Morgan, Chris Klemmer, Connell Altschiller, Daniel Gannon, David Chevalier, Jacqueline Martell, Jen Whitley, Jillian Thiele, Herman, Jon Wellington, Laura Scafati, Marina Altschiller, Andrew Mitchell, Sarah Hart, Tara McDonough, Timothy Englert, Steven Porter and Zach Reynolds.

In addition to teaching and performing, members rotate the administrative responsibilities such as press, production, artistic direction, etc. Hence, breaks are required.

And then there's the classes, which are also experiencing growth.

"For a long time, we've done a three-course system over at the Rep. But we're also offering classes in Manchester, and an introductory class in Portland," she says.

"One thing that's really amazing is students that have gone through the classes have formed their own improv games. We've had some amazing groups come out of it, practicing and working together," Altschiller says. "It's amazing to see the larger community."

This phenomena goes to the heart of improv, building skill, community and all importantly trust between performers, she says.

For the past year, STF has spread the love by offering a free, monthly "Open Jam," the first Thursday of the month at the Seacoast Media Group building on the Pease International Tradeport.

"Any person in the community that wants to come can come on over," Altschiller says. "Some have come every single month over the year, some others are in and out. It's built its own community."

Jams draw 10 to 36 participants. "It's been amazing," she adds. The reasons for attendance vary widely. Some are former performers who want to exercise the humor muscles again, and there's a fair number of teachers looking for new games to use in classes.

For others, it's a pleasant, artistic diversion, she says.

"It's difficult to have a theatrical escape if there's not enough time to commit to a show or a group. This allows it," Altschiller says. "It's a nice way to exercise creativity."

The company's 2018 Ring "Tuesday Night Improv" season launched on June 5.

The weekly Ring series differs from the monthly Rep shows. The Ring sessions stick to more traditional improv games. The Rep is a bit more experimental and often features themed events "because we'll have two or three weeks to get ready instead of one," Altschiller notes.

Things could change. A musical might be thrown into the Ring mix. Best to keep an eye on STF's Facebook page, and website to keep up, she suggests.

Either way, if the summer's early shows are any indication of how things will go this season, it's going to be a good one, because "it was awesome!" Altschiller says.

The audience, which is asked for suggestions throughout, can really set a tone for the shows, she explains.

"And this one was so joyous and engaged," she said of the season's first show. "It brought everyone's on-stage confidence up. We had such a good bond, both on stage and with the audience," she says. "We all walked off stage feeling amazing."

It's what makes working rehearsals, shows, classes, jams, festivals and the business-side along with a day job, worth the effort: the creativity and the community.

"It's really an exciting kind of performance when you go on stage and you literally have no clue what's going to happen," Altschiller says. "You know you're doing a certain game or format, but what happens on stage is completely in the moment."

And there's the inevitable outgrowth of good times shared, a sense of family, "We do spend a lot of time together!"

"Honestly we do it because we love doing improv," she says. "We get so much out of it – community and family – that we want to make sure that as many people that want to participate, or see it, or perform, get that opportunity."

Go & Do

What: Tuesday Night Improv

When: Tuesdays through Aug. 21 at 8 p.m.

Where: The Players' Ring, 105 Marcy St., Portsmouth

Tickets: $14, general admission; and $12 for seniors, students and members.

More info: Visit playersring.org or call (603) 436-8123