Showcasing Students

I’m wishy washy about improv class showcases.

On the one hand, if the point of going through classes is to learn to do performance-ready-level improv, then it seems sadistic to make 101 students “put it up on its feet.”

But on the other, nothing informs an improviser like improvising and all it entails – collaborating to build something out of nothing in-the-moment before a live audience. And so practice in front of a live audience should be part of each course.

So the in-between place becomes preparing each class for a performance that showcases – in grand improv style – all that they learned in class, on top of everything they’ve learned before, within bounds that keep them from stumbling into unknown territory. 

Here are examples of how to do it…from 101 to 401…

 101: Intro to Improvisation

The Coalition‘s Intro to Improv class endeavors to enable students to confidently make choices about imagined stimuli with faith in their ensemble’s commitment to collaboration.

This clip is but one example of that ability from David Pijor and Elliot Wegman’s Q1 2017 101 Coalition Class Showcase –

And here’s the whole show –

The Q2 2017 Intro To Improv class are Sarah Ahmed, Anthony Brazeau, Corey Byers, Richard Corbett, Timothy Couillard, Brandy Doughty, Immanuel Hart, Monica Janelli, Maura Mazurowski, Anais Murphy, Alisa Olmsted, Joseph Pickert, David Streever and Elrond The Wise

Note: The showcase is too damn long. BUT, you got to give it to David; he had a huge class and showcased them well, with production value to boot.

201: Character and Relationship

While 101 uses short-form improv games to help improvisers experience being in-the-moment, feeling in-the-moment and collaborating in-the-moment within the built-for-success gimmick of the defined game, in 201 students focus on how to establish and heighten Personal and Scenic games to foster sustainable scenes.  Without emotion, we have caricatures, not characters.  Without emotion, our relationships are but mere tools for conflict or premise.  The key to The Coalition’s 201 class is building Character and Relationships through patterns of emotional behavior.

When improvisers commit to having something for themselves in addition to feeling something about their scene partner AND find the rhythm between those Personal and Scenic games, players can play (and the audience can relax) without praying for an Edit.

Here’s a great example of a fun Scenic Game heightened with use of a Split Screen from Grace Manno’s Q1 2017 201 Coalition Class Showcase –


And here’s the whole show –

The Q2 2017 Character & Relationship class are Malerie Anderson, Michael Bodine, Wilson Caton, Molly Cihak, Gretchen Glaeser, Virginia Greene, Riley Hammond, Dakota Martin, Kimberly Nario, Caroline Phipps, Drew Simmons and Tyler Whaley

301: Patterns and Games

Improvisation gets unique strength through its in-the-moment collaboration; the audience knows we’re making it all up on the spot and building on others who are also making it up on the spot reinforces the “magic.”  The Coalition’s 301 class is all about how groups of individuals can come together to build something unreachable by an individual.  Students learn pattern mechanics.  They learn the rubric games – One Person Scenes, To The Ether games, Help Desk games and Hey Everybody games – that I developed out of necessity when teaching improvisers in a city where learning group games through osmosis wasn’t an option.  Through building their pattern recognition muscles and committing to both follow and progress the group, students ultimately learn how to play Organic Games, evolving beyond the rubrics to build group games that are of-the-moment with the audience.  

There is a reason though why 301 follows 201; the best group game work still needs emotion at its core.

Here’s a great example of an Organic Game built on emotion reaction from Lauren Serpa’s Q1 2017 301 Coalition Class Showcase –

And here’s the whole show –

The Q2 2017 Patterns & Games class are Peter Cloutier, Cindy Miller, Vinny Principe, Brittne Walker and Joshua Wright


401: Longform Performance, focused on The Harold

There has been debate about whether The Coalition should use The Harold as its Longform Performance format.  On the one hand, its Chicago’s form, designed by Del Close and Charna Halpern of the iO Theater to make improv not just a tool for writing sketch but a stand-alone performance art of its own.  At iO if you’re on a house team, you do The Harold.  On the other hand, as Charna’s book Truth In Comedy lays out, The Harold is like the space shuttle, incorporating all of the developments and discoveries that have gone before it into one new, superior design.”  The “other hand” won out; by learning The Harold students learn the lion’s share of what they need to know to do any other long-form format.  

If ever there was a rite of passage, it’s doing an abstract organic Opening to a Harold.

It can seem forced if not fun. It can seem staccato if not relaxed.

And yet the tighter the better. The looser, the more opportunity to start the show disconnected.

AND YET STILL if we’re connected then together we can play loose.

Here’s a fun Harold Opening from Shamoniki Ellison’s Q1 2017 401 Coalition Class Showcase –

And here’s the whole show –

The Q2 2017 Longform Performance class are Tim Armstrong, Teddy Armstrong, Dan Klein, Suzanne Makarem, Michael McFall, Patrick Miller, Michelle Murgia, Cindy Nester, Dustin Phillips, Max Redmond and Erik Shiken

One thought on “Showcasing Students

  1. Pingback: Carpool – an emotional matching warm-up exercise | Improv As Improv Does Best

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