Review of the Improvamonium in Rochester, NY

We reached out to our community to get some feedback on festivals. Here is a review of Improvamonium in Rochester, NY by attendee Ron Williams:

This festival was awesome! First, it was free to register. All you had to do was find a way to get to RIT. They put you on the poster for the event, so it makes your team feel super official. After arriving and finding the building (it started to snow on the way up), we were very happy to get 26 minutes to perform a set. A lot of the talent was local, and we were the only team from NYC. The college crowds are very receptive, and it was easily one of the best shows we’ve ever done.

Where to Stay: There is a hotel right next to RIT.

Where to eat: Plenty of bars right next to campus with burgers.

Overall, I’d do it again if the rest of my team wanted to. It was well run and the auditorium was huge (had to be over 200 seats).

 

Site Update: Instructor Submissions Now Available

Having the instant submission tool for improv troupes has been great. I’ve been coding away to make that same functionality available to instructors. And it’s finally online!

Starting today, any festival that uses the instant submission tool on our site can also elect to take submissions for instructors as well.

How it works

A more detailed walkthrough will come soon, but the quick answer is this:

  • If you’re a festival producer. You are offered a checkbox when creating a new event to accept instructor submissions.
  • If you’re an instructor (and you have an instructor profile on the site), you’ll see a button like the picture below. Just click it. That’s it.
  • Capture

    How it looks

    Festival producers will already be familiar with the visual layout of the submission review page. It’s modeled after the troupe submission review page. In fact, you don’t even have to go anywhere new. It’s added as a tab to your review page.

    You will actually be presented with two lists. The first looks like this.
    Capture

    This is a list of instructors who have submitted to teach at your festival. Although instructors are not required to submit a troupe if they are submitting as an instructor, it is useful information for producers. So any troupes the instructors perform in which have submitted to the festival are listed below their names. Clicking on their names will take you directly to their teaching profile and workshop lists.

    The second list is a passive list. This is a list of instructors who have not specifically submitted to your festival, but are members of troupes who have submitted to perform. Having this information can be very helpful to producers when knowing who might be coming to the festival anyway.

    Capture

    What does it cost?

    Nothing. Producers can use this tool at their leisure and instructors can submit to any festival using the tool for free.

    What doesn’t it do?

    A few things. There aren’t as many options as the troupe submission tool, because it’s not really clear which of those features will be useful. Right now, it’s pretty much just a list. I’m very open to new features being added to this as time goes one.

    Loading quickly. It doesn’t do that. I know. More than any other page on the site right now, it’s a bit of a memory hog. It will load slowly the first time you load it. I’m working on that.

    Notify producers. Right now, producers won’t get notified every time an instructor submits. This is a relatively minor thing to be added, but I’m going to wait a few weeks to work out any potential bugs people may find. I don’t want producers to get flooded with bogus messages due to a bug somewhere. Messaging will be here before March.

    Why is it only for festivals?

    Don’t worry. There is another tool coming soon which will help facilitate getting instructors and theatre companies talking. In the mean time, I hope people keep reaching out to each other through their respective teacher and theatre profile pages.

    What should I know to use this tool responsibly?

    As a producer. If you have a general model for how instructors will be paid, it’s helpful to put that info up front. It’s not binding at this stage of course, but it helps instructors know which festivals they can submit to in a sustainable way. You can also check their booking information on their own instructor page to get a feel for their expectations. It’s best to have both parties familiar with the expectations of the other so there are no surprises down the road.

    As an instructor, look for festivals which accept instructors. But if they elected not to, they probably have a reason. You probably don’t want to email them to try to get them to change their minds.

    And that’s about it for now. There will be changes to this tool as with all tools. But it’s up now. Hopefully this will get some awesome workshops at festivals.


    Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival.

    Consider Teacher Workshops at Your Theater or Festivals

    NIN’s year of the teacher was amazing. We created the Teacher Tool which will allow you to submit yourself, for free, as a teacher to a festival and let theaters know when you’re in town so they can hire you if you in the neighborhood…NEATO!  With that said, I’d like to chat with our readers about hiring veteran teachers to come to your festival and/or theater to do teaching or coaching workshops. There is huge value in this. I think we have a responsibility as theaters and festivals to start training the next generation of improvisors to become great teachers and have the tools and knowledge they need to succeed.

    A lot of theaters, festivals and communities are still young. I’d say about 80 percent of the theaters and festivals I go to  fit in this category. For theaters, a lot of communities are growing pretty fast and we are basically making teachers out of students or recent alums. I get it, the demand is there from incoming students and you want your business to push forward, but what about the teachers? Teaching is a different art all together. Especially teaching something like improv. Just like improvisors who need training, so do teachers. Sure, you may have to shell out a few dollars to get a master teacher to come out, but your return on investment is going to be huge. The better the teacher, the better the business, and the more chance to have returning students. The better the student, the better the performer, the better your audiences will get because of the quality of work – Trickle-down Improv-nomics. You may not see the money right away, but invest in your theater it will be worth it in the long run. I know some theaters are doing this already and to you guys! YAY! You’re ahead of the game and I’d be interested to hear about the experience. You have to think big picture. I know it’s hard to think that as we try to figure out how to pay our rent for next month or buy more paper towels for the bathroom, but the long game is where it is at and it’s worth it.

    For festivals, what a great opportunity to offer this course to your community and improvisors coming into town. We are so focused on the teaching of improv skills and forms, we are forgetting that a lot of these improvisors are going to become coaches or teachers eventually. If you’re inviting a master teacher to come to your festival, have them do an improv workshop, but also have them add an instructor workshop. Why not? You have them there. Again, may cost more, but I feel this is something that would do really well. After all these people are the best in the business and have years of experience in teaching. They know what works with students and what doesn’t.

    I want to take a second to thank all the teachers and coaches out there for doing the work and committing to our art form. You’re paving the way for the future of improv. Right now we may not get paid as much as we deserve but I do see a day where that will change and it’s all because of the blood, sweat and tears coming from your passion. So, thank you!

    Nick Armstrong

    Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California, Yosemite and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West and The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops at theaters and festivals around the world.

    Guest Blog: Improv is My Therapy Part 1

    There is a fair amount of anecdotal evidence on how improvisation helps people. Many of us have firsthand experience on how improvisation has changed our lives and have probably heard similar stories from others in the community. Improvisation is also used in corporate workshops and in drama therapy as a way of teaching skills that are useful for increasing workplace effectiveness or dealing with mental illness. As an individual who teaches psychology and does improv, sometimes I wonder why improvisation seems such an effective tool for improving the lives of individuals. In what I hope to be the beginning of a series of articles (note my optimistic “Part I” in the title), I will begin by discussing why “Yes, And” is therapeutic by drawing comparisons with similar psychotherapeutic concepts.

    For many, the rule of “Yes, And” is the first tenet of improvisation that they learn. This phrase reminds us to first say yes, to agree with what the other person in the scene has said, and then show that we are agreeing by adding to that. While the temptation is often to go “No, But”, we learn over time that by saying yes and building something together, we create a much more enjoyable experience for ourselves and the audience.

    Our desire to say “No, But” is usually related to control. Studies in social psychology tell us, we are fearful of things that we perceive to be foreign to us (such as the thoughts in someone else’s head), and trusting of the things that we perceive to be from us or similar to us (such as the thoughts in our own head). Improvisation is a frightening experience (as we often forget) in that we are coming to the stage with nothing prepared; this activates our fight-or-flight response and causes us to want to default to our primal settings. Our simple, anxious minds want to stick to what we tend to perceive as good, which is anything that we can control (i.e. the thoughts in our own head). Instead of trying to trust another person, we try to save ourselves. Improvisation teaches us to embrace and acknowledge our fear, but not to be controlled by it.

    In psychology, we often refer to people’s perceptions of the amount of control they exert over their lives as their locus of control. Individuals with an internal locus of control believe that they have control over their life, while those with an external locus of control believe that their lives are controlled by external forces. To be healthy, an individual should be somewhere in the middle; it is important to be comfortable with not always controlling everything, but also to be aware of what one can control. Individuals with an internal locus of control benefit from Yes-Anding because they learn to accept what they can’t control (by saying “yes”); individuals with an external locus of control benefit because they learn that they have some control over their environment (by saying “and”).

    Agreement is not a one-way street; not only are we agreeing with what our partner is saying, but they are agreeing with what we are saying. Carl Rogers, an influential American psychologist, developed the idea of unconditional positive regard. According to Rogers, a therapist should show unconditional positive regard to a patient, that is to say, no matter what a patient shares with their therapist, the therapist should show acceptance without negative judgment of the basic worth of the individual. On stage, we are asked to show unconditional positive regard to our teammates, and that can be very therapeutic. We base our self-esteem partially on how we are viewed by others, and when our thoughts and ideas are supported and elevated to the level of comedy gold, we feel great about ourselves; we learn to trust our ideas. Being yes-anded reminds us that we are valuable, worthy, and wanted. Yes, And teaches us how to relinquish some of our need to control the world around us, to thrive even when we are fearful and uncertain, and to remember that we are individuals of worth and brilliance.

    Guest Blogger and NIN Member Jeff Thompson

    Jeff has been an improviser since 2002 and has studied at iO West, ComedySportz LA, Second City Hollywood, The Groundlings, Nerdist, and UCB LA.  He is also one of the producers of the Hollywood Improv Festival.

    When not on-stage, he can be found teaching psychology, coaching teams, consulting for businesses, or playing video games.