I’ve been teaching improv classes in Tampa Bay for 5 years, and this first semester at Unscripted pulled the rug out from under me.
I’ve never gone into a semester worrying about teaching. Having taught performance classes at different Universities in Florida for the better part of a decade, I’m no stranger to the classroom. Typically, I look forward to day 1 of any class as the beginning of a shared-journey─I like to tell students that "we get a chance to experience and witness personal, emotional, visceral growth," which is what sets arts-based curriculum apart from other disciplines. By the last day of class, we can literally see learning happening. Everyone starts to wear their heart on their sleeve.
But with this first class at Unscripted, I was apprehensive. In my opinion, the more students that enroll in a first level improv class the better─the more chances we all get to look at the different nuances people enact as they start building comedy instincts and interpersonal muscles. But I wasn’t sure how many people would actually sign up.
My worry was totally unsubstantiated. We just completed the UT-1 class last Sunday with over 20 students, some with plenty of improv experience and others brand new to the scene.
A certain magic happens when you have people of different skill levels, backgrounds, and experiences in the same room playing together. Folks with experience tend to step back as brand new folks step up. New players make bold moves that are clunky─sure─but come from a source of genuine inspiration that’s brilliant, rich, raw and far exceeds what the best players do on stage any given night. The mix of so many high spirited, eager people creates a sense of equity that I’ve only ever encountered in a first-level improv class.
People taking risks for the first time creates an infectious energy and makes you double down on your own commitment to the art.
We covered a lot of ground in the first level one class – groupmind, character, game, scenework, form, object and space work, scene painting, narrative, how to be coached, and how to prep for a show. Other instructors around the country tell me it’s "too much too fast"–that the only way to get students “performance ready” is to take it as slow as a snail, building basic block upon block. This semester's students prove them wrong. After 10 weeks, they're doing 20 minute longform sets with proficiency, discovering game, following pattern, heightening the unusual, and sharing focus as good (and sometimes better) than plenty of teams that have been playing public shows in Tampa Bay for decades.
I think the truth is simple: People are performance ready because doing improv is being people. And for anyone who’s spent countless hours and dollars trying to “master” the art of improvisation, that truth is darkly funny.
You can catch our UT-1 students this Sunday March 19th at 1P as they hit the stage at Unscripted. The show is free and open to the public, featuring two teams doing 20 min long form sets.
Come see people…having fun…on stage…being people.