Workshop Offerings

Creating Realistic Characters - Master Class
Thursday 10:15am - 5:30pm (6 Hour Class, 75 minute Break)
Jill Bernard

In recent years in the United States, improv teachers such as Joe Bill and TJ Jagadowski from Chicago, David Razowsky from Los Angeles, Greg Tavaras from South Carolina, and Jill Bernard from Minneapolis have begun working with the idea that improv can contain realistic characters who are vulnerable. Having the ability to create improv that is honest and vulnerable adds another layer to your work, a little bit of cake underneath your frosting to take your work from light entertainment to something with resonance. In this module, we start with your true self as a completely valid and powerful launchpad to creating original improvisation. We will explore emotion as a driver. We will practice letting your relationship, and how your partner sees you, define your character. We will learn to trust assumptions in place of inventions.

About the Instructor: Jill Bernard is the education director at HUGE Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jill began performing improvisation in 1993, has taught and performed worldwide, and is the recipient of the 2005 Chicago Improv Festival Avery Schreiber Ambassador of Improv Award.

NOTE - This is a master-level class. If you are not a festival performer and wish to take this class, please contact the festival producer for pre-approval.

Physicality, Movement, and Using Space
Friday 9:45am - 12:45pm
Nick Trotter

Improv and comedy are often seen as essentially verbal arts. I disagree! We will explore using our bodies to engage the space of the theatre, so that we can break out of “talking head” improv. We will explore how to use the whole stage to create dynamic action, using crosses, the margins, upstage and downstage, tableaus and stage picture for theatrical effect, so that we don’t feel trapped in the center. We will talk about status relationships and how to claim (or concede) space as active choices for character and conflict.

This class, although physical in nature, will not exclude people with limited mobility, or who use adaptive devices such as wheelchairs. We will explore the powerful potential for ALL abilities of movement, and we acknowledge both the power of stillness and the right for everyone to participate.

About the Instructor: Nick Trotter received an M.F.A. in Ensemble-Based Physical Theatre from Dell’Arte International (2009). Nick has been teaching improvisation to entertainers and business professionals since 2012 independently, and at Bovine Metropolis Theater, the Voodoo Comedy Playhouse, and They Improv. Nick's focus is in finding honest connections between people, and helping them find simple ways to speak their own truths, using their own experience and native intelligence. "Talent" and "creativity" are not required!

Improvising Modern Drama
Friday 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Peter Rogers and Lindsey McGowEn

We improvise all kinds of genres, but we rarely do the sort of work you'd see in most theaters today: modern drama.  And that's a shame, because improv works brilliantly at telling these tense, grounded stories about ordinary people.  Learn powerful tools for building riveting, dramatic moments, including:

  • Why story spine doesn't quite work here, and what to do instead.
  • Which conventional improv instincts get in the way of modern-drama plotting.
  • What wacky short-form games are the key to gripping dramatic relationships.

Whether you plan to work in this genre or you just want to take your dramatic storytelling to the next level, this is the workshop for you.

About the Instructors: Peter Rogers is an improv coach and director in Austin, Texas. He has improvised for fifteen years, appeared in over a dozen mainstage shows, and has narrated extensively in audience favorites like The Black Vault, Charles Dickens Unleashed, and The Kindness of Strangers: Improvised Tennessee Williams Plays. Lindsey McGowen served as the award-winning Mainstage Technical Director and Production Manager at the Hideout Theatre in Austin, Texas. She’s designed lights, sound or video for more than 30 improvised plays.

Deep Character
Saturday 9:45am - 12:45pm
Michael Robinson

If there is a common weakness across Improv, it's character.  We don't have the luxury of time afforded the actor in a film or play to prepare and rehearse and experiment.  Consequently, we reach into our bucket for a stock character, or we do a stereotype that satirizes a certain type of person.  Neither are desirable.  There is a way, not unlike shamanic possession, to get quickly down to the very roots of who we are, and, using our imagination, temporarily alter how are DNA encoded personas are perceiving and reacting to the reality around us.  This workshop will up end most traditional notions of how character is approached and played and give you the freedom to truly act as somebody other than yourself.

About the Instructor: Michael Robinson taught improv at Vancouver Film School and at the National Institute of Dramatic Arts, in Sydney, Australia, where among his many students was Cate Blanchett. Michael performed for several years with Colin Mochrie and Ryan Stiles at Vancouver Theatresports League, then formed The Court Jesters in Christchurch, New Zealand, which won the World Theatresports Championship in 1995. Michael has also had a distinguished stage, film, and television career, which includes receiving a BAFTA for production on the TV series Serious Arctic.

Empathy in Improvisation
Saturday 2:00pm - 5:00pm
Shaun Landry

Improvisation can be funny along with heartfelt. Shaun gives you from her toolbox theater games and exercises to connect an empathetic viewpoint to your improvisational scenes. Learn to punch upwards and not down in improvisational comedy.

About the Instructor: Shaun Landry is a Second City Chicago Touring Company Alumnus, the founder (and Emeritus) of the San Francisco Improv Festival, and is currently a core teacher at The Pack Theater in Los Angeles. She has been featured as Gwenn Craig in the Academy Award Winning Movie Milk and as Marcia in the movie Read You Like A Book with Danny Glover.

The Other Conflicts
Sunday 9:45am - 12:45pm
Jill Bernard

We spend too much time on Man vs. Man. What other conflicts are there? Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Society, Man vs. Himself, etc. In this workshop we will do some scenes to see what we can do besides bicker with each other. Please wear closed toe shoes to this workshop.

About the Instructor: Jill Bernard is the education director at HUGE Theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Jill began performing improvisation in 1993, has taught and performed worldwide, and is the recipient of the 2005 Chicago Improv Festival Avery Schreiber Ambassador of Improv Award.

Time Warp: Experiments in Achronological Storytelling
Sunday 2:00pm - 5:00pm

How do you construct a narrative and not get caught in your head? How do you craft a story told out of timeline order? What's the difference between exposition, story, and plot? In this workshop, we'll examine narrative and story structures, build tools for discovering deeper, more resonant and rewarding stories, and learn how to apply them to our improvised work. We will also explore the opportunities and challenges of crafting stories told out of chronological order, and delve into finding the precarious balance of improvising with narrative shapes in mind without abandoning in the moment truthful emotional reactions.

About the Instructor: Yichao has led narrative designs for two major theme park projects in China, served as a staff writer for a Chinese sitcom set in LA, and has received recognition from the Kennedy Center, Actors Theatre of Louisville, and the O'Neill Theater's National Playwriting Conference. He is an alumnus of Seattle's Jet City Improv and a past College Improv Tournament champion. Yichao currently works for Riot Games as a narrative writer.

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