by Jessica Loria
There comes a time in the education of the improviser in which s/he finds that once a week in class improv just simply isn’t enough. That’s great! That time should come, and soon you’ll be on your way to selling your soul to some surly theater producer for 22 minutes of stage time. This is the dream. Embrace it.
1. Form a Troupe
But seriously folks -- the best way to get more experience is to start your own improv troupe. This is not a daunting task, I promise. Find a few people in your class you click with, and love playing with. It doesn’t have to be your full class. In my opinion it shouldn’t be more than six people, and sometimes that feels like too much. Be aware, however, those who you exclude may have hurt feelings. But, they’ll move on. Playing with different people is one of the joys of improv, and you want the troupe to have good chemistry. There’s also no rule about the number of troupes you can start -- so feel free to shop around, or throw a bone to someone you don’t necessarily adore playing with.
It doesn’t have to be just your class, either. Connect with improvisers in Fresh Sauce. Reach out to someone in a different class you enjoy. Find people who get you, and get together.
2. Find a Coach
If you’re serious about this troupe, and becoming a better improviser, you need a coach. Reach out to a Go U teacher you really liked, or a particular performer you enjoy. Most of us are happy and willing to coach, and I guarantee you’ll find someone who helps you grow. Many troupes book sessions with a few different teachers to start. I always recommend that. You’ll find someone who clicks with your troupe and playing style, and you’ll figure out what you want as you go. Even when you decide on a coach, it never hurts to book a session or two here and there with someone else. Different people bring different things to the table. (For example: I love patient, emotional play, and tend to focus on that when I start working with a troupe).
An aside: pay your coach. Usually it’s $5-10 per person for a 2-hour session. Coaches aren’t doing this for the money, but their time is valuable.
3. Have Objectives. Get a Name.
Figure out what your goals are as a troupe. Sometimes, at first, you just want to play with certain people and improve. That’s a good goal! Later, you might decide you want to focus on a particular form, or excel in a certain area. Some troupes are adept at finding and playing the game of the scene. Others are focused on physicality or character. Follow your bliss, and pick a coach who is right for that -- but don’t neglect the rest of your training! A fast-paced physical troupe still needs to connect emotionally, and an emotional acting-focused troupe can benefit from intense game focus.
Another aside: if you’re still confused on what I mean by finding the Game, see me after class. Or check out the UCB book. Actually, do that anyway.
You’ll also need to name your troupe. Pick something that represents you, and that you won’t stop loving. Don’t name it after your coach, or a beloved teacher, and try to stay away from jokes that came out of scenes you did (trust me -- nothing is ever as funny as when you performed it, and that magic will never be recreated). If your troupe has a specific focus, feel free to use that when naming it too (think Dubalicious, who uses dubbing games in between their scenes).
4. Set goals. REHEARSE.
You have a coach now. Use him or her. Decide as a troupe what your goals are -- do you want to get ready for BITS? Work on characters? Master a particular form? Make a game plan, and be prepared to work for it. It’s ok to start small. And it’s ok to rehearse less as the troupe ages, but improv can never truly be solved (sorry), so you should still be rehearsing once in awhile. Go Comedy rents out rehearsal space for $25, and for even less if your coach is on staff here. Just email me for information and availability!
Sometimes troupes die. It happens and it’s natural, and you should let it. Performers will want different things, and sometimes people drop off to do non-improv related things (not sure what that’s all about). It’s ok to move on.
Get that stage time! Here at Go we have opportunities like the Sunday Buffet, BITS, or different opening night spots. Pointless and Planet Ant Theatre have availability for guest teams as well. Some local bars have pop-ups in need of comedy, and some others don't know it yet but they need you too. Remember that stage time is a goddamn gift -- most of the performers you admire honed their skills in some dive bar while competing with Monday Night Football. Don’t ever take stage time for granted. Your coach can help you find spots too, but remember that hustle is an improviser’s best friend. You should always be posting, networking, rehearsing. You can be the most talented person in the world, but without that drive no one is going to know about it.
Jessica Loria is a goddess and a warrior and a Go Comedy! Resident Artist. You can find her at her throne as Managing Director in HQ, teaching classes for GoU, or performing on stage with Birdbox Players, Safe Word, and Seat's Taken. She is beautiful and wonderful and did not write this bio for herself.