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Posts from the Teaching & Coaching Category

Think world-class object-work skills just happen?

Nosireebob.

But have no fear, because Kyle Dooley (yeah, that Kyle Dooley) is teaching all that and more at Bad Dog Theatre this summer.

Who knows? Maybe someday Mark Little will gaze at your invisible beer with the same boyish admiration.

Click here for more info and to sign up for classes.

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Photo © Alison Haines

Whether you’re in New York, LA, Chicago, Toronto, Montreal or – let’s face it – any city with a comedy scene, it’s incredibly hard for theatre owners just to break even.

But lately there’ve been mutterings from comedians who say UCBeast (UCB’s stand-up club in New York), should pay performers.

Now, the stand-up culture is, and always has been, different from improv. But Chris Gethard makes some pretty good points about the payment-vs-non-payment thing on his tumblr.

This week, Matt Besser made a special episode of his Improv4Humans podcast called “Ask The UCB” where he and Ian Roberts set the record straight.

When you hear how much time, energy, and yes, money they’ve poured into all the different UCB stages (including UCBComedy.com, from which they’ve never profited), you’re guaranteed to have a new respect for everything they’ve done.

I guess the reason I never talk about it in interviews is it sounds tacky. And when I talk about it I don’t wanna…I don’t wanna come off bitter and like, ‘Poor me,’ like maybe we’re starting to sound by this; having to pay those taxes.

But I guess it is something people should know, that the UCB Four, in 15 years since the theatre’s been open, we have never taken any money.”

- Matt Besser, from Improv4Humans 

(Click the link above or on the image below to hear the whole episode)

Thanks UCB, for giving us a space to play.

Thanks UCB, for giving thousands a place to play.

Chris Craddock is a prolific, provocative, award-winning playwright and performer whose urban pop culture satires have wowed audiences coast to coast. The former Artistic Director of Rapid Fire Theatre, he’s a recipient of the Centennial Medal of Alberta for his contribution to the arts. His new TV show, Tiny Plastic Men, airs this fall on SuperChannel.

Hey, all post-secondary Drama Programs except Humber College. It’s me, Chris. I wanna ask you about something.

How come you don’t offer improv?

I know you have improv classes, but I’m talking about the real stuff. The way it’s done in the real world by us improv professionals? Because, and I mean no disrespect here, but it seems like any drama kid that wants to find out how to really improvise, they have to come to us.

They get all this Theatresports in high school, but then when they get to their university ‘improv’ course, it’s all silent tensions and rolling on the ground and no one mentions Keith Johnstone or Del Close, let alone The Crumbs or Jacob Banigan. In taught university drama course improv, its always some other thing.

And I’m not saying the other things are bad or have no place in your programs. I’m not saying that people don’t use those techniques to make wonderful theatre. I’m saying there’s a real absence of the one art form where being a Canadian is actually an advantage. What? Oh yes! In Europe, where most of our art forms come from, they think we’re pretty awesome at the art of improv comedy. And it is an art, University Drama Programs, even though it’s funny.

And we’re doing a fine job of your job, by the way. I’m not saying we need you, because the kids coming up are incredible. I’m saying you’re missing out. You should have courses in this stuff, because it’s a significant movement in how live performance happens, and Canada is on its cutting edge.

But if you can’t do that and want to go on as you are, it’s okay. Just do us this one favour. Keep telling your students not to join the local improv company. It helps us get the ones with the right attitudes.

Julian Frid is an aficionado of the art of improv and the founding member of Sex T Rex. He’s performed on stages across North America, and is a student at U of T, focusing on the structure and cognitive effects of storytelling, specifically in film. He is proud to say he consistently pays improv teachers good $$.

Teaching improv at U of T, I’ve encountered many people who want not so much to be improvisers (in the sense of going onstage to improvise regularly), but to use the tools of improv to hack social sitches.

Does this work? Debatable. I don’t see the “after,” just the “before,” but improv games tend to loosen people up and teach all those Batmans out there to consider the question “Why so serious?”

The greatest thing I think these classes teach is respect for creative (weird) people. Teaching the course, I can see the status shift from being closed off and knowing what is “good” and what is “not.” At the end of eight weeks, these people wade into scenes and give their fellow performers wide-eyed attention. It brings out the child in them, though I’d never tell them that outright.

These students are less concerned with comedy than with possibilities of game, of exploration, and getting to do what they’ve always wanted to do. I had a student who loved the idea of opening up a closet and having a live bear inside. This was a frequent but hilarious occurrence.

For students like this, improv is a novelty. As an improviser, and after watching a fair amount of improv over five years, I wonder how much of a novelty it remains for some, when all we see is people and chairs.

Depressing? Hopefully not. After examining and practising an art like improv, one, even though they may not be able to articulate it, gains a nuanced and elemental understanding of the art. How to move the people and the chairs to make the most entertaining arrangement or dynamic possible.

Good film is best when it remains good even when muted. This is because elementally, film is images moving on screen.

Improv is elementally people with chairs. Our whole life is people with architecture, furniture, navigating and using these spaces. Improv requires exploration.

Photo © Joe Pack

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