I Promise It's Not A Shameful Plug: Choosing An Improv Class

Loose Parts - 01-18-2012.gif

Wait, don’t run!  I promise this entry is not an advertisement about why our improv classes are better than the alternatives.  In fact, I will agree that in some cases certain students might be better off with improv classes offered elsewhere.  Instead, this article describes some of the key factors a student should consider when choosing an improv class.  The unfortunate fact is that anyone, regardless of experience and qualifications (both improv and teaching) can call herself or himself an improv instructor, rent a room, and offer so-called improv classes.  But as the Romans were fond of saying: caveat emptor (buyer beware).  So here are some of the key factors a student should consider.

Improv Experience.  How long has the instructor been performing improv?  What types and styles?  Is she active now?  When was the last time he performed?  And if an instructor lists experience with a particular theater, you might want to double check how long that person actual performed at the theater.  Some people will pad their resume by joining a group for just a few months before moving onto another project. 

KnowledgeandExperience.jpg

Teaching Experience.  Is this the instructor’s first time teaching, or has he been teaching for 10 years?  Doe the instructor have any other teaching experience such as leading Applied Improvisation workshops or working in schools?  There are differences between doing improv and teaching improv.

Focus.  Does the class focus on a specific style or does it cover fundamentals applicable to any form of improv?  Don’t assume that the class is geared towards the main show offered at the theater.  For example, CSz Sacramento’s main show, ComedySportz, is so-called short form or games based improv.  But our Beginner Class covers improv fundamentals and introduces several types of improv, not just short form or games.  Another consideration:  Is the class focused on a specific segment, e.g., actors, improvisers, or everyday people interested in adding a fun, useful life skill?  Some one off classes also focus on specific skills, styles, or forms.  These specialized events can be especially useful to students seeking to fill out his or her improv education.

Class Size.  Bigger classes offer the advantages of meeting more friend and playing with a diverse set of people.  Smaller classes offer the advantage of more individual attention and coaching.

Price.  Most improv classes costs between $10-$20 per hour.  Classes are typically 2 hours long and organized into 6-8 week sessions.  Ask if you’re allowed to make up missed classes during future session in case you get sick or have work conflicts.  If you’re financially challenged, ask if the theater offers any work study or scholarships for members of underserved and underrepresented communities (CSz Sacramento does, for example).  If you are really broke, consider drop-in classes or jams often offered by theaters in any given city.

Dr. Goofy Will See You Now

Yesterday I began the arduous process of trying to find a new doctor who accepts my new insurance.  As most of us know too well, trying to navigate the health care system can be an aggravating process often culminating in the Catch-22 of the insurance companies instructing “ask the medical provider” and the doctor’s office instructing “ask the insurance provider.”

The experience made me think of a sketch I wrote for The Set well over a year ago called a Mouse of Prevention (a riff on the saying an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure).  The premise was that under President Trump Disney has taken over health care (keep in mind I wrote this sketch just after he began to run for office.  Sorry for being so prescient.  BTW, I also wrote a Game of Scones sketch with the Hodor character holding open the door way before that reveal.  Weird…)

GoS Sample Menu.jpg
Disney AlADdin Pharmaceutical Rep

Disney AlADdin Pharmaceutical Rep

So why am I talking about this stuff in a blog about improv?  Well, because that sketch was a good example of one of my favorite improv concepts: if this is true, what else might be true?  It’s a great way to build new, absurd situations, settings, and worlds.  If Disney did run health care, what else might be true?  In my sketch Lumiere sings Be Out Patient to people in the waiting room, pharmaceutical reps sing You Ain’t Never Had A Drug Like Me, and operating rooms play It’s A Small World repetitively in lieu of anesthesia. Note that this concept of what else might be true is often combined with the improv concept of heightening, i.e., moving an idea towards increasing levels of extremeness and absurdity.  Heightening is especially important in pattern based long form improv in which performers play with “the game” of the scene (meaning a key pattern or theme, not a performance game like you find in short form improv).

You can learn more about core improv concepts in our Level 1 Beginner Improv class.  We’ve got new sessions starting in January.  Our class is great for anyone who wants to learn an amazing life skill, start the journey towards performing improv, make great new friends, or just have a comfortable place to laugh each week.  Our class are very popular after New Year’s, so you can reserve your place with a $50 deposit.

Anyway, thanks for reading.  Doctor Goofy will see you now.