When Does My Troupe Need a Coach?

First, I want to give a shout out to our members for suggesting topics to us regarding coaches. This was one of them, and I know there are many more to tackle.

We were asked, “When does my improv troupe need to get a coach.” I think it’s when your team is ready to organize, commit and wants to become better. At first when you form, you might not need a coach right away. You need to organize your thoughts as a team and get on the same page.

I wrote two blogs regarding how to organize teams – Read these and then continue.

1. Does Your Troupe Have a Bible

2. 5 Ways to Better Communicate with Your Troupe

When your troupe is organized and knows what it wants to do, a coach can come in and help you realize your vision. A coach can also read your improv bible and be able to guide your team towards your goals.

How to Pick a Coach?

1. Vet a coach – If you’ve organized your troupe, as read above, then go watch some performers or teams that fit your vision or are close to what you like in improv. If you’re looking to create your own new form, then go see a team that has done that too. Who’s their coach? Maybe if you like one of the performers on that team ask them if they’d be interested in coaching. I do think not all performers make good coaches, but it’s a start and you gotta at least try.

2. Teachers – Well this goes without saying, if you’ve taken classes at your local improv theater and loved a teacher ask him or her to coach you guys. They are usually more seasoned and have seen it all.

3. Try a coach out – So you got a coach! YAY! That doesn’t mean they’re your coach for life. Try them out for a month or so and see if you like them. If it’s not a good fit that’s okay. Here’s how you can approach a coach: Ask the coach if they’d be interested in coaching you for a couple months. After that couple months, as a team, evaluate how you think you’re doing as a team and how you think your coach is doing. If they’re doing great, then ask then extend them for a 6 month run and then evaluate from there.

I’ve said that every team needs a coach in blogs before, and people have disagreed with me. I often wonder why. I still have never heard a good excuse not to have a coach. Can you imagine a movie without a director, or a broadway play without one. Pure chaos. Hopping out of your team to coach while you’re in it does not work. You are trying to achieve group mind with your fellow improvisors and jumping out of that can only hurt the team. If one day I come across a team that is absolutely amazing and they never had a coach, that will be the day I say, “Hey you’re right teams don’t need coaches.” But to this day I have never seen it. Even if they had a good show, I can see room for some coaching. Having said that, teams that are vets and have been coached for years and are now flying solo that’s a different story altogether. Should they do a coaching check in once in awhile. YES! My team King Ten that’s been together for 13 years still gets a coach on a quarterly basis. Why? To push ourselves and to never become content with what we are doing. As artists we always must push ourselves past what we think we can do. And a coach is a great way to help you get to that.

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

 

 

 

How to Hire an Improv Instructor: Standard of Practice

During my travels and throughout all the improv summits I hold at Camp Improv Utopia I always get the question: How much and how do we hire an instructor? Is there a standard?

Our improv industry doesn’t have a standard yet. But most every industry has a pretty good standard of practice when it comes to hiring outside help. Bill and I created NIN for a lot of reasons, but one of them is to help guide improvisors, theaters and festivals. In this blog I am going to try and breakdown for you a standard of practice for hiring an improv instructor.

Transportation:

The  standard is to purchase the instructors airfare (Coach) or if they are closer and don’t need airfare pay for their gas money. The current Govt. rate is $.58 per mile click HERE for the official govt. resource. Also, transportation from the airport. You can easily have someone pick them up or pay for a car to get them.

Lodging: 

The standard is to get the instructor a hotel room for the time they are there. Unless they offer something else assume this is what you should do. The accommodations should be nice. Think of it as a place you’d stay too. I have heard nightmare stories from instructors about being put in bad neighborhoods and bad hotels so do your research.

How much do I pay them: 

This can vary…But I’ll try to break it down:

1. It really depends on your budget and the instructors experience – But remember this, they are not only training your students, they are usually training your instructors or future instructors. So think about this when hiring them.

a.) For one standard workshop and show a good average rate ranges from $300 – $800 again depending on the instructor. For Master instructors, think about $1500-$3200. But usually when you have one of these type of instructors out you are getting more than just one workshop and a show. This is all negotiable just want to give you some ball park figures.

b.) If you have them doing a couple workshops and a show that can range from $800-$1,700 for a typical instructor. Again, this is negotiable and depending on the instructor. It may be more for your top instructors this could be double as mentioned above it could range from $2,000 – $4,000. But again for most instructors the average should be around $800 – $1,700.

c.) Usually if you’re going to spend the money, bring an instructor out for shows and workshops. They will charge you a flat fee for their services.

d.) The 60/40, 70/30, 50/50 split scenarios. I get it, some theaters have to pay rent for their space and some instructors will do this, but you won’t get quality instructors from this scenerio. Why? You haven’t guaranteed them money to come out. Can you guarantee them the workshop will be sold out? Are you only charging $20 a head? Now if you’re charging like $80 or more a head a scenario like this may work out. But again, an instructor is leaving their community, job and family to come help your community out. They have put years of work, teaching, stagetime and money into their education.

You have to realize you are booking them out of potential other work so it has to be worth it for them to come out to you and you have to put a value on your community. If your community gets the best training from these instructors, you all get better. Creating better shows bringing in more students and more audience and potentially more revenue for you. That’s your return on investment.

Per Diem: 

Now this can get tricky. Are you feeding them? Taking them out? If so you might not have to give a per diem. But if they’re on their own it’s usually $40- $75 a day in per diem. It varies from place to place….San Francisco is more expensive than Omaha for example. You don’t have to pay per diem on their travel days but just the days they are working for you. This is a standard practice in most industries. They have to feed themselves about three times a day. Now can you build this into their base fee? Yes! Just ask them about it. Can you waive it because you’ll be feeding them…Yes. Again, depends on the instructor but always ask.

Contracts:
I know it’s improv, but you should have them. It’s really ridiculous not to. Doesn’t have to have tons of legal speech but at least outline what you are each responsible for. It protects your theater and festival and it protects your instructor. It also protects you from that awkward moment after the workshop of “How much did we say?” You can find templates of them online. Here is a sample template.Of course you can change the wording to fit your needs and always run by a lawyer if you have access to one.

Fundraising for this money:

Now you’re probably screaming, “Nick, how can we afford this?” “We are just a small festival.” This is my answer: Ask yourself why are you throwing a festival and why are you bringing these teachers in. It’s most likely to bring a name or experience to help your community grow and your audience grow. To bring your community more attention. Remember they represent your theater or festival that week or weekend so you get all the press, the growth as teachers and performers the whole shabang! Yes it’s an investment and you might lose some money, but in the long run your return on investment will be seen in the quality of work you’ll be elevated to and hopefully with better shows and improvisors comes more audience.

Fundraising has so many more outlets then ever before with social media and things like Kickstarter. Do some events during the year, get other theaters or groups involved. Have a budget so you know what your goal is. Here is a list you can consider doing to fundraise during the year:

1. Kickstarter, Indigogo or something similar. I’ve seen these have much success.

2. Do fundraising shows that the money goes directly to the festival. (Phoenix Improv Festival and The Torch Theater run a 48 hour marathon called GhostFest every halloween to raise money for their festival.

3. Festival Submission fees – The average submission fee is around $25-30. Merch sales at your festival – T-shirts, buttons, stickers etc.

5. Sponsorship Packets – Does your improv fest or theater have a Sponsorship Packet? Why not? Get local businesses, improv companies and more to put money into your programs, list their logo on your site. I’ve seen some great ones. Here is one from The Pittsburgh Comedy Festival as a great example.

6. Auctions and Raffles: Auction off classes, get prizes from other companies that can donate to you some goods or services.

Ultimately, you might not have the finances to do this and that’s okay. Keep working at it. Some teachers have wiggle room so just talk to them. Value them for who they are and their experience. If we are to become a greater community we have to have standards like other industries and I hope this helps guide you. Sure there are scenarios that aren’t listed here and things can change. And you can get creative…I’ve heard of a company that instead of paying the instructor they made it a vacation for them…tickets to disneyland, a vacation destination etc…So you never know. Best of luck and we are always here to help you! If you have any comments, experiences or suggestions please do!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

2015 is The Year of the Teacher

logo-2015When the site launched back in 2013, a big goal of the site was to start bridging the gap between improv festivals and traveling troupes. We knew it was important to get great shows to festivals to help raise public awareness of how beautiful this thing we do can be. We spent a lot of time talking to both festivals and troupes about their difficulties communicating with each other. We’ve put in a lot of time and consumed a lot of Mt. Dew building tools that we hope are bridging that gap. We’re very proud of the small contribution we’ve made towards facilitating those conversations.

As we worked, it’s become more and more clear that there’s another gulf in the improv world, and that’s getting some great improv teachers in touch with growing theatres.

Improv companies – those that are starting out and those that have been growing for years – all of them thrive and grow only when they are pushing their performers to learn and grow. Theatres excel when they expose their performers to the best education. Access to quality education used to mean flying to Chicago or Los Angeles or New York, and the cities left behind stagnated. That’s not the world we live in anymore. Improv can flourish everywhere. It’s absolutely in our reach to have amazing education and amazing performances everywhere. It’s absolutely in our reach to have improvisors pursing their craft as a full time career. It’s all right within our reach if we come together.

So after a lot of work, and a lot of work to come, we’re very excited to announce that 2015 will be The Year of the Teacher.

Theatre owners – You have a part in this

Running a venue can be expensive. You have to pay professionals every day; A/C repair techs, web designers, marketing people, landlords. I hear too often that there just isn’t a budget to fly or drive in quality instructors. That’s like building the world’s classiest steak house and not having the budget to get good steak. Bringing out instructors to challenge your performers is the best investment you can make in your theatre. If you plan well, you will see a huge leap in both the quality of shows and tickets sales. It will absolutely spur your growth.

There are dozens of great instructors you can get to come to you with decades of experience. They want nothing more than to help you. They’ll bend over backwards to help you. But you have to treat them like the professionals they are.

Local teachers – You have a part in this

For every famous master teacher, there are countless unsung heroes. You are often the first person a new improvisor will be exposed to improv through. You will be the ones to spark that first ember of passion in them. Don’t ever take that for granted. You are a teacher. That’s the most noble thing there is. Take it seriously. Work with your fellow teachers to build a lesson plan. Throw away a one-size-fits-all curriculum and replace it with a set of teaching standards. Make sure you impart the real wisdom of the ideas of improv. It really doesn’t matter if they learn it through clams are great or hot spot. Be available to your students. Be available to other teacher’s students. Really read and respect your teacher evaluations. (You do have teacher evaluations, right?). Most importantly, always be learning yourself, both as a performer and a teacher. Talk to teachers you admire. Ask them for advise. Be a better teacher. Inspire the next generation.

Traveling teachers – You have a part in this

You have something specific you want to say. That’s awesome. Don’t wait for the phone to ring. If you want to be taken seriously as a professional, act like one. Build a portfolio. Get feedback. Ask for referrals. Don’t be pushy. Don’t be a jerk. But if this workshop is something you believe in. Keep that fire burning under you. Don’t rest until it’s out there. And hey, if you don’t have something to say, wait until you do.

NIN – You have a part in this

Hey, that’s us. The truth is, nothing that’s been said above is groundbreaking or controversial. Most people would agree they’re nice ideas in theory. But in practice, it’s still very difficult. We all understand the festival submission process, but setting up a workshop with a teacher is uncharted territory. We get many questions here about “How do I approach a teacher?” “What should I charge for workshops?” “How do I ask a theatre if they’d like to have me.” We’re still very much at that seventh grade party awkwardness of asking each other to dance. We don’t need to be anymore. We don’t need to be confused to not know how to start the conversation. We don’t need to be embarrassed to talk about money.

So we’re going to spend the next year trying to facilitate those conversations. We’ve talked to a lot of you; at festivals, in bars, over email. We hope to keep talking to you in the year to come to make teaching improv something everywhere.

So where to be begin

We’re ready to start dedicating all our efforts into channeling these ideas together. We’ll have a lot of blog posts this year dedicated to the subject. A lot of venues honestly don’t know what a teacher expects when they visit. We hope to do a lot of writing to help you prepare for their visit without surprises or confusion. We’ll talk about how to make the finances work for your budget. We’ll talk about how to work together with other theatres to share workshops. We’ll talk about how local teachers can improve their skills and create great student teams. We’ll talk about the differences between a teacher, a coach and a director.

The page itself will start having more tools available for teachers and for theatres. Very soon, any NIN member who is a teacher will be able to have an extended profile in which they can list their workshops with all the contact and logistics. Teacher’s will also be able to include testimonials on their teaching profile and also include a history of the theatres and festivals they’ve visited so people can reach out to past students and learn about the workshop from those who have taken it. There will even be a trip planner for teachers hitting the road to help get them in touch with the right theatres looking for workshops. Oh, and teacher’s will be able to submit workshops directly to festivals as well. Teaching standard builders, schedulers and other tools will be available for people trying to build a training program.

And in the non cyber-world, we’ll be traveling to festivals and theatres hosting conversations and Q&As with teachers and theatre owners in hopes of raising the national dialog on how we can share information and tools with each other, on how to build a better index of teachers than any Facebook page can hold, on how we can start the process of helping theatres know which instructors are the best bang for the buck.

There is no club for improv teachers, no guild, no union, no secret handshakes. There is only word of mouth and a thousand blind emails. That’s not enough. But it’s as start. We can start working together, theatres, festivals, students and teachers to build a stronger network of instruction across the continent and beyond.

And wouldn’t that be lovely?


Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America.

Marketing You or Your Group

In this day and age, if you’re not online, you’re dead. That might seem blunt, but it’s absolutely true. If you’ve ever read Austin Kleon’s “Show Your Work” you’ll know first hand that having an online presence is essential to promoting your work and showing the world what you have to offer. It’s also the best way to get constructive criticism, share what you know, and build trust with your audience. Not to mention, everybody else is already online. If you’re trying to get people to come to your shows, festivals, or theater, they need to have a way to find out about it.

In this day and age with all of the technological advances we have at our finger tips, you NEED to have content online that you can direct people to. Content varies in a variety of ways. For the purpose of this article, I’ve broken it down into 3 simple, but detailed, sections. There’s written, audio, and visual content. Through this article, I’ll break down these different mediums, how they can be beneficial to you or your group, and tips on how you can implement them. Keep in mind, these are all just suggestions. Feel free to incorporate one, all, or none of them at your leisure.

WRITTEN

Written content is a broad term that can be something as small as a status promoting your show to a press release detailing everything your production and performers have to offer. It allows your audience to READ about what you think is worthwhile to share or just what you’ve been up to. Types: Articles, Blog entries, Facebook statuses, and Tweets.

FacebookCreate a Facebook page
This is one of the first things you’re going to want to do. Facebook is the KING social network right now. Pretty much everyone I know has it and that’s how I find out about news, shows, and everything else that is going on in the world. I know comedians who will post a comical status and then I see them incorporate that into an act they do later. In other words, posting the joke as a status was a test run to see if it works (people liked it). Having your own page for your group adds some professionalism to your group as well as a direct place for people to go to find out what’s happening lately.

  1. Events allow you to directly invite targeted/specific people to your show(s).
  2. You can tag multiple people in your group when you promote a show so that it appears on all of their timelines (more eyes might = more people in your audience).
  3. (Most Important): Stop inviting people to help you plant bell peppers in Farmville.

Twitter2. Create a Twitter Account
The point is to drive more traffic to your page and most importantly to your show. The time frame it takes to create a facebook page or a twitter is probably less than 20 minutes.Tip: Use hashtags. Twitter allows you use to hashtags to drive more traffic to your posts. Using #improv #comedy #theater allows you more chances for people to see what you or your group have to say. It also allows you to connect with other groups or theaters already utilizing Twitter. Tip: If you’re managing multiple Twitter handles, it’s best to use a service that allows you to update/tweet all of them at any given time easily rather than signing in and out of the Twitter website. Look into services like: Tweetdeck (personal favorite), and HootSuite.

Web3. Create a Website
Setting up a functioning website would probably take a few hours and then you have it as a point of reference to direct people to for as long as you pay for the domain. Tip: You don’t need to be an advanced HTML coder to create your own website. There are a ton of drag and drop website builders that are easy to use and will allow you to do it yourself. Some cost-efficient and easy to use services include: Wix, WordPress, Tumblr, and Squarespace.

 

AUDIO

Audio content is pretty self explanatory. It’s what you want your followers to HEAR. It is beneficial because it allows your audience to literally hear your voice and/or music (if you’re a musician). If you have an opinion or an idea for a series, you can create a podcast Types: Podcasts, MP3 recordings, Voice-over, etc.

PodcastStart a Podcast
Services like: Podbean, Pod-o-matic, and Libsyn are established sites for hosting podcasts. If you have a few friends and want to talk about something that you think others want to hear, do it. Better yet, post it up because it’s something you’d want to listen to.

SoundcloudCreate a Soundcloud
If you want to just do voiceover recordings, impressions, characters, or show the world that you can sing, you can do it here. Just create an account, upload your audio, and wha-lah! Soundcloud offers a widget (on Android) where you can just click record and easily upload it to your account within a few minutes.

 

VISUAL

Visual content is what catches your audience’s eye. It can be anything from a 6 second vine to a short film. Any type of visual content allows your audience to SEE your creativity and what you’re offering.
Types: Videos (YouTube, Vimeo, Vines, etc), Drawings, Show Posters or Flyers.

YouTubeCreate a YouTube or Vimeo Channel
If you’re ever submitting for a sketch team, production team, or talking to a director/agent you’re undoubtedly going to hear “show me an example of your work.” In other words, let me see your reel. This is step 1 to developing a place where your reel is eventually going to go. This will be the home for all of your video content.

InstagramCreate an Instagram
Think of it as a virtual photo album for your group’s shows and travels. If you’re a group that travels to a lot of festivals, having an account that showcases all of the wonder places you’ve been is great for you and your group as a reminder of what you’ve done together, but also shows your audience/fans/followers what you’re up to and what you find interesting to share. Tip: Hashtags allow more ways for people to see your images.

VineCreate a Vine
Have a funny idea that’s only 6 seconds long? Create a Vine account for you or your group and start vining. There are TONS of people who have had major success just because they had a funny 6 second looping video. Tip: Hashtags and the ability to tag people allow for more opportunities for people to see your work. Use ones relevant to your group and popular ones that are on the rise for more loops.

FacebookDesign a show poster or cool logo
Having an eye-catching logo or show poster is Advertising 101. It’s the first thing people are going to see and it might stop them for a second when they’re walking by. The logo might catch their attention and have them look up your group on facebook, twitter, or your new website and find out when your next show is (if it’s not listed on the poster). For posters, keep it simple. The simpler the better. People don’t want to read a novel when they look at a show poster. Give them the name of your group, location, and performance dates accompanied with a cool picture. Tip: If you’re not a great artist, ask a friend to help you come up with something. If you see another group with awesome posters/logos, ask them for help (and offer to pay them for it).

Just to clarify, you’re not limited to using one or the other. You can use one, two, or all three types of content when promoting your work. In fact, the more the merrier. You can write a Facebook status or Tweet (written) and accompany it with a photo of your cast or video from a previous week’s show (visual). You can record a podcast (audio) and then share it via Facebook, Twitter, and/or your website (written). You could also just use one. Keep in mind though, you don’t want to bombard your audience with too much content or they’ll be turned off to it. Think quality over quantity.

In the end, it’s all about who you want to reach and what you want to promote. It’s also about asking yourself, “Do I want people to know about this? Is it important to me?” There’s nothing wrong with working with a limited audience or traveling by word-of-mouth, but if you want to build yourself up so that your work can be found nationally (or internationally) and create more opportunities, you’ll need to have content ready and available online. It’s also going to give you the feedback you need so you know what works and what doesn’t. These are all suggestions on creating an online presence for you or your group. Hopefully this is helpful for anyone interested in establishing an online presence or in need of the first steps to marketing themselves.


Ryan Nallen is a writer and performer in Chicago. He is a graduate of iO, Second City Conservatory, and the Annoyance. He plays with his independent team Risky on the Rocks, the Harold team Denver at iO Chicago, and with the Incubator team Desperado at The Playground Theater. He is an Associate Producer for Big Little Comedy, on the Marketing Committee at the Playground, and a Midwest Representative for the National Improv Network. You can also follow his online ramblings at @TheRyanNallen.

5 Ways an Improv Troupe Can Communicate Better

I get asked this a lot…How do we deal with someone in the troupe that is hard to work with? How do we kick someone off the team? Should we add new people? Should we get a coach? How do we make these decisions? Improv is such a positive force we sometimes forget to set some ground rules because we assume everything will work itself out because we are all easy-going people. Well this is not the case all the time. We are also artists that have strong passionate feelings about things. Sure, improvisors are awesome we all know that, but a troupe needs to communicate and be on the same page or else it will quickly fall apart.

A troupe needs to set up expectations up front so when you come across a situation it’s easier to figure them out in a diplomatic way. Below I have listed some things that will help guide you and your troupe into communication bliss.

1. Get Organized From the Start:

I’ve mentioned this in a blog post before. Your troupe should start an improv bible. Now the bible in the blog mentioned is focused more on the improv aspects of your troupe, which you should have, but in addition to that bible, start a bible on the rules of your team outside of performance. Here’s an example of what you’d have in there:

A. How do we pay for a things – rehearsal space, coach, etc… – Dues Based? Monthly Dues? When we show up for rehearsal? I would personally recommend a monthly dues based system. Why? It’s easy and holds every member accountable. So if they miss a rehearsal you don’t get screwed out of money to pay for the space or the coach. This saves you a lot of tracking people down.

B. Troupe Positions – Sure you’re all improvisors in an ensemble but get organized – Like a Boy Scout or Girl Scout Troupe they have Senior Patrol Leaders, Patrol Leaders, Scribe etc. What are you in your troupe? Positions I think you need to have – 1. Booker – Books the rehearsal spot, coach and submits to festivals etc. 2. Treasurer – Handles all money to pay for space, coach and handles dues. 3. Marketing – Handles all social media posts, invites and team events. And switch roles every few months so you’re not always doing the same job, unless you guys are happy with your jobs then you can keep them as long as you want. But figure out how you’ll handle that.

2.  Set the Rules of Your Troupe:

If you miss rehearsal are you allowed in the next show? How many rehearsals can you miss before you are unable to be a member of the team? How does the team vote ? Meaning how will people deal with who is on or off the team or what new rules will be added or taken away? Does the coach/director vote? Does the coach/director make those decisions? Or is it a team matter only? Have this written in stone so there is no confusion and have everyone understand it and have it be accepted unanimously. If all else fails ask your coach for advice.

3. Get Serious! Get a coach!

PLEASE!!! Get a coach or a director. If you are serious about improv and growing as an artist you need an outside eye. Do not have another teammate give notes or step out and coach you. You need to grow as a team and you can’t do that with one member hopping out and coaching too. It’s a weird dynamic that doesn’t work. If you don’t have enough coaches in your community then someone has to decide not to be on the team and just take the role as a coach. But the best thing about a coach, is as a veteran, they can give you advice on what to do if you’re having issues with an ensemble member. They can be a great mediator. Trust me they’ve been through it all before.

4. Troupe Boundaries 

You have to talk about what is okay and not okay to do. Is it okay if we have physical contact? How far can that go? What are we as a group comfortable with? Some people don’t like to be touched and that’s okay. Know that now so you can figure it out and move ahead as a troupe. You don’t want to find out a month down the road when you kiss someone onstage that they were uncomfortable with that now and are quitting the team.

5. Team Vision

What kind of team do you want to be? Again, set expectations – Do you want to be a traveling troupe that goes to festivals or just a local troupe. If most of you want to travel but there are a few that don’t then you really need to figure out if this troupe goes forward. Agree on what you want out of the troupe. How many shows or rehearsals do you want a month? Where? I know it sounds like a lot but figure it out.

PHEW! That’s a lot. Hey guys and gals, remember improv is fun! YAY! Sure  this looks all serious but  it’s necessary. You will save yourself a lot of time and heartbreak by putting these things in place. It holds you all accountable and there is no questioning what is right or wrong if rules are in place from the get go. Hopefully with these 5 items in place communication will be a breeze.

If you have any questions or you think I’ve left something out please feel free to comment. Go Improv!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for grown ups in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network as well as performer in The Sunday Company at The Groundlings and a member of the critically acclaimed Harold Team King Ten at iO West. Feel free to follow me @nickarmstrong on Twitter or on Facebook. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what’s up. 

To e-mail nick e-mail at nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com and for workshop information visit www.nickarmstrong.com.

 

Go To Camp

10685966_10204122700242136_484299118_oI’ve heard about Camp Improv Utopia for a few years. It always sounded like a really great opportunity I should probably taken advantage of sometime but when it came to going – for whatever reason – I always stayed in my own little world.

And then Nick Armstrong invited me to come out and play. And he made it super easy and super fun for me to do it. And that action of saying yes reminded me of the yes I said years ago in my first improv class – it had this feeling of scariness and newness. I was surprised by my fear and the feeling of a wall I didn’t know I had up coming down and I pushed myself to step out into a moment that I knew at the very least was going to be wholly different from anything I had experienced before.

And what a moment it was. In terms of expectation, I knew the instruction was going to be excellent – five of the most talented and skilled leaders of what we love to do where going to be there. But what I didn’t expect, what was absolutely transformative to me where the people. The community of players who came together that weekend were open and friendly, hungry to learn and ready to play and that energy was incredible to be a part of.

10676862_10204122700362139_1884060643_oFurthermore, this feeling of inclusion and community – permeated throughout the camp. It was invigorating to see real collaboration over the weekend – instructors in conversation with folks from all over the country sharing ideas, exercises, and mentoring. Artistic directors, festival managers, and newer improvisers sharing stories of their home theaters and learning and playing and doing bits together. Each class, each meal, each moment was an opportunity to connect and these wonderful improvisers were not only open to it – they were excited for it. And they made me excited for it too.

It’s been hard for me to write this piece because it has been hard put into words what Camp Improv Utopia did for me. Because it quite simply transformative. This incredible sense of community reconnected me with why I love improv. I love this art form because at the heart of it, you get this unique opportunity to connect with other people. And at camp, just like on-stage, when we slow down, we listen, and we connect, something beautiful can come alive and something transformative can happen.

I will tell anyone who will listen to me – you need to go to camp. And if you need help getting there, let me know. Do not underestimate, as I did, the rare opportunity we get in our lives to push ourselves into being more aware and more awake to each other and to build something great together. Nick and the Camp Improv Utopia East community reminded me of not just the importance of but necessity of that.


In Philadelphia, Maggy serves the Artistic Director for Figment Theater where she coaches and teaches regularly. She was the director of Davenger, a PHIT house team that won Best New Act at the 2013 WitOut Awards.

The Improv Movement is Upon Us!

On my way back to California from Camp Improv Utopia East over Labor Day weekend it all finally came together for me: The improv movement is here and is not going to stop. Recently, the bigger improv theaters, iO, Second City, The Annoyance and UCB have all embarked on getting bigger and better spaces. That tells you something about the state of improv when the big theaters are looking to grow. There are tons more improvisors than ever before. But guess what? It’s not just in the big cities.

Mostly overlooked is the improv movement that’s happening in our country and beyond. Pretty much every state has an improv theater or festival now. On our site alone we have 74 theaters listed, 80 festivals, over 700 improv troupes and over 1,300 members. Sure we have tons more work ahead of us, but we accept the challenge.

During camp I met, for the first time, many theaters and festivals I’ve never come in contact with like The Baltimore Improv Group, The Providence Improv Festival, District Improv Festival, Arcade Comedy Theater, Figment Theater, Philly Improv Theater (PHIT) and so many more. What makes me smile the most is that these improvisors, who work their 9 to 5 jobs accounting, administrating and waiting tables, have this inner passion that is screaming inside of them to go forth and make improv. Getting a space, in a pizza parlor, a bar, on the street…Wherever they can! They don’t see this as a financial endeavor but an improv endeavor. You see it radiating in their eyes when they talk to you about what they’re doing in their towns and how important it is, not to them, but to their cities and communities. They’ve discovered this great thing that makes them happy and they want to give it back.

That’s what it’s all about. That’s what the National Improv Network was founded on. That’s why we do all this. It isn’t for fame or money. It’s for us as a community. We want to be heard, we want everyone to know about this art-form and we will scream it to anyone that will listen. NIN is happy to do our small part in all of this, but we are here and improv is here throughout the country because of you! YES YOU! reading this right now! It’s for real now and it can’t be denied. And we want to get better at it, we want to do more with it and we want to connect like never before. The pieces of the improv puzzle are coming together. We still have work to do, there are still some bumps in the road but we have the passion, the numbers and the strength!

I’ll leave you with this. And this is what I say to my campers at the end of camp. Take what you’ve learned and go back to your communities. Help them grow. Share with everyone you can, help anyone you can and work together.

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught improv workshops around the country.

Announcement: The NIN Sister Festival Project Launches

The National Improv Network (NIN) is launching a project that puts improv festivals together to help them grow, share and become known nationally.

How does it work?

Preferably a festival from one side of the country pairs with a festival from the other side of the country. For instance our first pairing is The Phoenix Improv Festival and The Detroit Improv Festival. The great thing about this pairing is they are on opposite sides of the country and their festivals fall at different parts of the year. Heck if you know festivals in other countries you should do that too. We have some listed on NIN.

Why?

Our goal is to get festivals together so they can help each other cross promote, help each other out and share information. What works at a fest, what doesn’t etc. Also, it’s likely The Detroit Improv Festival doesn’t have the same contacts and submissions as the Phoenix Improv Festival so during the off season of PIF they will help DIF promote their submissions and vice-versa.

So what do you do next?

Go to the Festival page on NIN and look up a festival you may want  to parnter with. We will be sending an e-mail to our festival members with this blog too so they know what’s going on. If you feel more comfortable having us introduce you to a festival please e-mail me at nick@nationalimprovnetwork.com. I’d be happy to get you in touch.

If you’ve partnered with a festival let us know! We will promote it on our site and spread the word as well. So join the movement and help our community grow even more. Yes and!

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

 

Performing and Coaching Improv Online – The Pros and Cons

Last Tuesday I was asked to be a part of a google hangout  improv show for a website called e-improv. e-improv is a website that streams live improv shows via Google Hangout. The show I was in was called Let’s Get Serious Guys! Hosted by the lovely Juliette Everhart from the Kansas City Improv Community and The Recess Players. We were also joined by Founder and Artistic Director and old student/friend of mine Dylan Rhode from Backline Improv Theater and The Omaha Improv Festival in Nebraska. Like anything in improv I always like to do new things and I saw this as an opportunity to give it a try. I’ve also coached online improv with a Kansas City group that Juliette is on and I’ll go into detail about that experience as well.

The Show: e-improv

For the show on Tuesday, I was exciting and nervous all at the same time. Playing with people you haven’t played with, but also it’s online! Will I be able to hear them? Will I miss some moments? How will it go? The first part of Juliette’s show was an interview session which she asks Dylan and I to come up with a theme in improv that we enjoy…

For Dylan and I it was easy, “Community” since we are both in the building community game we felt compelled to talk about it. Then after that we go into an improv jam for 10 minutes. We get a suggestion from a book and then here we go. I will say this, I had a fun time…Was the improv great? Not the best, I’m sure all three of us would agree, but still a fun time.

Technology still needs to catch up I think. Sometimes the delays in technology slowed the timing down and it was hard to hear. Talking over each other is nearly impossible to do online because of the way it is set up…Maybe that’s a good thing! 🙂

My overall view of it is that online improv will never replace a brick and mortar establishment, but what I do love about online improv is the fact that you can do it with anyone in the world at anytime and that is the best takeaway from this experience. What a way to build a worldwide improv community. I don’t think the founders of the site, which I intend to do a follow up blog with and interview with them, are intending to do.

When you spend so much time in front of a screen that it causes a tired, strained feeling in your eyes, you may be suffering from a condition known as computer vision syndrome. This problem is so common that is it said to affect somewhere between 64 and 90 per cent of office workers.

I think they are trying to just build community and you know what…I’m on board with that. It never hurts to do something that brings improvisors together. Hey if you have fun and it makes you laugh, then follow that.

PROS – Meeting and playing with people from all over the improv community that you would never get the opportunity to play with.

CONS – Technology makes improv connections hard and there is limitation in physicality. You are pretty much doing talking head scenes.

Coaching Online:

I was really hesitant to do this. Call me old school. I coached a team in Kansas City, MO. So in the spirit of yes, and… I did it and I don’t regret it. Yes, you are limited in what you can do as a coach.

It’s hard to get physical or get up there with them to demonstrate and there are certain exercises you can’t do. But I coached them for almost a year, off and on, and I saw an improvement in them and they felt an improvement in their play. My motto is this, if they feel they’re getting something out of it and I see improvement then it’s worth doing.

PROS – Getting coaches from around the country to teach you their style and philosophies along with some of their exercises. Coaching online can help improvisors grow.

CONS: Limited in what you can do with teams and technology can some time crap out on you. Also, it can be hard to hear or see things depending on visibility of the camera and mic set up.

 

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

Theater Spotlight: Westside Comedy Theater

I was able to interview Artistic Director of The Westside Comedy Theater Sean Casey. What grabbed my attention from them is there 110 percent support of their improvisors. A few weeks ago they encouraged their house teams to go to festivals across the country and guess what? They would foot the bill for submission fees! It’s all about support and that’s what I’ve witnessed at Westside Comedy!

What’s the history of Westside?

It’s hard to talk about the history of the Westside without bringing up the history of Mission IMPROVable, because really the Westside’s the brick and mortar home for MI. We’ve ass-ended into a pretty amazing standup scene and have been open to all the new voices in sketch, storytelling, web video screenings, etc., so I don’t want to take anything away from that. But at the end of the day there was a theater that did mostly comedy in Santa Monica, and Mission IMPROVable bought it to create M.I.’s Westside Comedy Theater.

Backing up a bit, back in the 90s, when Chumbawumba was KING, a group of friends were doing improv at UMass Amherst in a group called Mission IMPROVable. It’s still there, although what the student group is and what we are is different now, and I imagine if anyone had it all to do over again, we’d all agree to pick a name that was much bigger pun. The group moved to Chicago (I was not part of this first wave, so I call these the ‘Dark Years’) and did what many of us do – go batshit crazy taking as many classes and doing as many improv shows as you can. The difference was they understood there was a business underneath there somewhere. They created a delightful high energy short form show and tried it out on the college market. The crew was tight and this was right when Whose Line had juuuuuust become popular, so it caught on. After a year of touring, they brought in some real talent like myself and a few others, which was smart. Not because I’m a huge dick and think the show only got funny when I came on. That’s just not true. But they got comfortable, early on, letting other people share the light of their campfire. I think this is important and why the group continues to flourish. I had no part in setting that original tone, but I echo that sentiment as much as I can in running the Westside. I should also drop a shout out to Liz Allen, our coach, and amazing human being.

We toured cross country, traveling to gigs by van – 6 people packed in with stretches of 10+ hours between gigs. Nothing. NO THING will forge you closer together than tiny confines and the endless fields of America. Road Trip times forever. Spending that much time together, there’s no ability to not be yourself. You want group mind? Try smelling farts and correctly guessing what that person ate for breakfast. Or not guessing because everyone was at breakfast together. That show continues. The latest cast is excellent, BTW. As much as we can, we will always source our best people from the cast of the Mission IMPROVable show because anybody who survives on the road and finds peace, comedy and themselves through that is pure gold forever and ever.

So, what happens after tour ends for you? I think the record is 3 and a half years on the road before burning out. It’s not that the colleges change, or the bars, or CiCi’s Pizza; at some point you’ve learned all you’re going to learn from that show and the endless variations of crowds and venues and you’re good. So, in ones and twos we decided to move to LA. We had a sketch pilot going forward over at MTV and wanted to be someplace, uh, without 6 months of Winter. It was a slow transition – people, as individuals, had to make that choice. I think it took about a year and a half for everyone to sort of decide if they were in or out. Meanwhile, a whole new touring group came together in Chicago. We were officially bi-coastal, if you count Lake Michigan as a coast, which I do, thank you Great Lakes Avengers.

In LA we were all over the map – some guys were teaching and performing improv at places like IO & the newly minted UCB, some were writing. I was temping at HBO and then working for a coke head scalping tickets. It was a confusing time. Mtv eventually passed on our show (they went with Human Giant, which, in retrospect, was a pretty solid choice) and we were trying to figure out what it was we did and what our future would be. This whole time, our touring company based in Chicago is continuing to do great. We decide to come back together in a major way and focus in on a sketch show, like let’s rehearse this thing for 4 months, like really get into it. We do this. It consumes everyone involved and it goes great. All the performances are sold out and agent/manager types are super cool to us.

3 weeks later, protesting unfair contract negotiations, the WGA declares a strike and everything, I mean everything, in Hollywood shuts down. If you weren’t here for this time and you’ve since moved to LA and were like ‘It’s hard in this town,’ Fuck You, you have no idea. Every shoot, every project in the pipeline, got dumped. Wiped clean like a Biblical flood. Our whole idea at this time had been, “Well, we made this touring show. I bet some company somewhere wants to work with us and build us up as some fun, dopey improv comedy darlings.” Every company was put on ice by the strike. Any momentum we had built up with our sketch show crushing it was gone. Finito.

And then came the Internet, right? Remember when streaming video happened and saved the day for everyone? It did, kind of. With everything Hollywood essentially frozen, all these little projects started happening. You’re getting by with your waiter job or whatever and then there are these shows like Dr Horrible and The Guild and you’re like, “Oh, right, we can make this stuff, too.” And that’s when the seeds of realizing it will always be us and we shouldn’t rely on anybody else ‘discovering’ us and plucking us out of (relative) obscurity take root. DIY and all that. But I think it’s worth appreciating that up through that point, one does feel like that might be possible, that you’ll somehow be at a party and someone will want to read your shitty screenplay and they turn out to be Jeffrey Katzenberg’s cousin or something. Because it happened to somebody once. And that somebody could be YOU. And that is total and complete horse pucky because you spend all your time mucking around with people and not actually making or doing the stuff you’re meant to do.

SO, out of that we decide to start making more stuff in various ways. Some of that stuff eventually becomes Epic Rap Battles Of History and if you’re Pete & Lloyd that turned out super, super well. Honestly, that show started out as a live rap-themed short form improv show and now they just got back from a meeting with President Obama, again. No, fuck you, I said again. Ridiculous.

But to get back to the theater, we absolutely, categorically decide at our annual company weekend retreat that we do not want to own a theater. We want to make a movie. An improvised movie, I think. 2 months later, another shocker happens – the Financial Meltdown or The Great Depression 2 or whatever we’ve ultimately decided to call this time. So, to be clear, all of Hollywood shuts down (Writers Strike) followed pretty closely with all of everything shutting down. It’s at this specific point in time, when people are fairly convinced America’s greatness is behind her and that our entire country is going down the tubes, that we decide to purchase an Improv Comedy Theater.

And it looked weird. The interior was all day-glo colors, all oranges and greens and purples. It was in an alley. It was in Santa Monica, which if you’re from LA you know is about as far away as anybody gets from where all the young comedy people live and still be in the county. There was really no stage. It was a converted warehouse, you could spot the freight lifts tucked in a dark corner. But it was right at the Third Street Promenade, which is a draw, and close to the ocean. People like to live by the ocean. We were able to snag a killer location at a price we could afford in a population dense area that didn’t have any other established competition. But up through that point, nobody doing comedy seriously took the old place seriously. Sound bounced around in the rafters. All the hip shows in town were 15 miles due East. In short, there was plenty of potential, but it was not an assured thing.

The first 2 years of the Westside are all Lloyd Ahlquist & Colin Sweeney. Lloyd ran the theater & Colin ran the Training Center. They were lean years, but it turned out to be cool, as it was tough going for everyone doing anything at that time. I think Colin actually lived in the theater for a bit, like phantom of the opera. After shows were over, he’d curl up in a sleeping bag up in the loft. The rest of us were active, painting and improving the space, doing shows, and we inherited a handful of good shows and good people who were down to make something new. But to be fair, anything new is bound to attract weirdoes and the desperate. Luckily, thanks to hard times, desperation was the order of the day, and struggling had its own dirty nobility. We knew we had one solid show in Mission IMPROVable, a workhorse that had succeeded on stages across the country. We could lean our backs up against that show, knowing it to be solid entertainment that worked live.

The goal was to get a bar in place, to completely revamp the space, and to attract build up our lineup. It required taking on significant levels of debt. It required placing our individual assets against the loan. If it had gone bad, at the very least, all of our credit would have been ruined. You can look at here now for more information. You can also apply for an instant cash loans, just like other types of loans, can vary depending on the lender, your current income level, and your credit history. Well, you can find out more at their official website.

Right as this was taking shape, Lloyd blew up as a Youtube star w/ ERB and Colin headed out to pursue some opportunities which didn’t involve sleeping at the workplace. They had both done heroic work. Like a real dope, I looked at the impending construction, the daunting repayment schedule, and thought, “I’d love a piece of THAT.” I stepped in to run the Westside a few weeks before we entered into 3 months of construction, during which I had to keep the place open or risk being unable to make rent. It was nerve wracking, but I was never, ever bored.

Happily, I had a great team in a few longtime friends from the road. Chris Gorbos oversaw the construction of the bar (and really all the construction) which minted him as our new Bar Manager. He came to the job with a strong intellect and a deep appreciation for drinking. Bryce Wissel was unconvinced he had the gravitas to run the Training Center, but I’ve never met someone who so sincerely embodies that voice you need to hear as you’re coming up through classes. He’s supportive, yet honest. And we got through it. Every day construction crews would do things like dig 2 foot trenches across the entirety of the theater’s flooring and every night we’d drop boards over the gaping holes in the ground, sweep up as much dust as we could, and set out chairs (no longer day glo) for crowds who, inexplicably, continued to come. I had just taken the job. I had no idea how to run a theater or a comedy club. I knew a decent number of folks in the comedy scene of LA, but I don’t think I was That Guy. I had a bunch of opinions based on the past 2 years and all the places I’d been to before, but no real experience. I was given the trust of my friends and partners and it changed me profoundly.

At the end of the Summer 2011, we finished construction and launched the newly renovated space. It was meant to reflect as much of the places we most enjoyed performing at as possible – wide, rather than deep, with a bar in the room for casual service during shows, with a barely raised stage that kept the performers close to their audience. It really worked. Pound for pound, it’s the best example of a converted performance venue I can think of. Yeah, it’s not The Gorge or Red Rocks, but as a live comedy venue, I love it. And for the past three years we’ve spent all our time reaching out to talent throughout the city and continuing to invest in our homegrown people, who are all straight ballers. There’s a lot you get with a nicer space in terms of people wanting to perform and hang out there, but those first 2 years, I think, proved that we were invested in our space and that we weren’t going anywhere. We were going to stay and grow. That’s who we are – the guys who are just as stressed/excited about their show this Thursday as you are about yours. It’s like a player-owned team. We’re all in it together.

I think that about takes us to now. I’m glossing over a bunch. In the interim, we’ve brought up some truly killer shows featuring many of the best names in comedy. Our staff’s grown to include the peerless Mike Betette and local-boy-made-good Byron Kennerly. The theater employs 5 people full-time plus about 30 part timers, teachers, bartenders, etc. We actively court Industry to come out to shows and scout talent, which works out great considering the expensive side of town is actually where these guys live and work. I’m acutely aware of how competitive our area (LA) is in terms of places where people could study and perform. I think people genuinely want a place where they can be seen, be heard, matter and grow. The Westside’s built to provide that. As we grow, we’ll keep providing that because each person we build up is able to pass along that ethic. The people who have been with us since the beginning I would give my non-writing arm for. Really I’d do that for anybody at the Westside, although I’d do it for them, possibly, a little quicker. Closing up, here’s the pitch; LA doesn’t have to be some shitty place with plastic people. It’s gorgeous outside and full of hidden places you have to seek out to find. We are one of those spots and when you find us, we’ll be happy you made it.

What is your theaters philosophy?

‘We’re all in this together’ – The people who own & run the Westside are comedians, who know your challenges and what you’d like a live comedy spot to be. That place between work & home for most of us is Comedy, unless Comedy is also your work. Then you’re screwed. Now we’re the only place that will have you.

You guys are known for going above and beyond for your support of your performers. Not only by giving them stage time and training, but you also support them financially by paying their submission fees to festivals. How did this come about? And why did you do it?

Thanks! I think if you’re running a live theater of any stripe, you realize quickly it’s not meant to be a money-printing operation. Just the simple act of continuing to exist is the miracle. So any success above and beyond that should be pointed back to the Community that makes your lil’ world even possible. We do a yearly retreat weekend where we try to get some distance from the everyday grind of running the theater and tour, and the idea bubbled up there a few weeks ago. We were actually sitting around trying to think of nice things to do. And then we cooked dinner for each other and watched The Normal Heart, LIKE THE TIGHT BROS WE ARE. The submission fee thing was meant to encourage our teams to Go Forth out into the world and meet their fellow improvisor. Plus, we used to do a ton of festivals and they are 100% fun. Especially if you’re like me and you’re basically monogamous with your home stage. Get out, see how the other half lives, right?

I think it came up right after we were trying to figure out how far we could push doing charity shows and linking up with community outreach before people coming to a comedy show had our politics forced on them. That’s one of the places we are right now – I think we were able to attract some truly compassionate, engaged (and talented) people at the theater, and if you get enough of them together you start thinking, “Maybe I should stop pressing Like buttons on FB and maybe DO something with actual real life people in reality.” Ha, I am officially off topic, but if you know me, this is pretty par for the course.

What is your advice to a theater starting out?

Really, honestly – improvvy stuff works in this real world application. If you’re into the whole Live-Your-Life-By-Improv-Rules, you’ll be happy about how this turns out. You all know them, so I won’t belabor the point. On a nuts-and-bolts level, don’t rely on any one area for all your revenue. We’re a 3 legged stool – Classes, Box Office & Bar, with some corporate & rentals to mix it up. If any one of those is threatened, we can still keep going. And I’m not talking about your theater actually getting shut down by the Fire Inspector, or the badass Guru teacher you have actually splitting out and starting her/his own thing. I’m talking mostly about when one of those things threatens to happen, you won’t burn up inside with stress and get so worked up you forget to fix the problems you really have or forget to build on successes. Also, don’t confuse the place you want with the place you have. Finally, debt is a muthafukka. If you’re like me, it’s a chain you wear heavily until you can finally take it off. Money comes with strings attached. Always. You don’t need carpets or a fancy light rig or a big splashy launch. You need talented performers and the ability to stay open. Keep your overhead low. Okay, I’ll keep going – Trust in as many people as you can and pass along a sense of ownership and responsibility to them. Give people a chance to surprise you (in a good way) over and over again. At the very least, you’ll never forget the stories of when everything went sideways. Our webmaster recently decided to create a character and stay in it…all the time. As an exercise, we’re hoping. Is he less effective at his job? No. Would he be fired from someplace else for trying this? Likely. Do I think this Andy Kaufman thing is the next bright light in Comedy? Debatable. But it’ll get him to something else, someplace he wouldn’t have gotten to if you told him to knock it off. I like that. I like having a place that allows for that to happen. If you call the Westside and talk to ‘Franklin’ you’ll get it.

We at NIN hold to the philosophy that working together as a grand community can only make us stronger. I know WCT holds that same philosophy explain why it’s important to you.

Well, apart from not wanting to feel like you’re a mutant alone in your masochistic desire to perform onstage without a script, set, props or anything else that generally makes a show successful, I think we’re propelled to see where the future of Improv, capital ‘I’, is going. I’d like to think it’ll be from a show in LA (at the Westside 🙂 or Chicago or NYC, but I really, truly hope it’ll come from someplace like St Louis, Phoenix or Richmond. Or Grozny. We all have the same set of tools, and I like to think exposure to master performers & coaches ups your game that much faster, but whatever the next level of Improv is has yet to establish itself. Is it a product or is it a process? Is its accessibility what’s holding it back or does that ‘Minute To Learn, Lifetime To Master’ aspect allow it to seep into every town in all the world? I go back and forth on these questions. I know I’m not the only one thinking about them and they make lousy party conversation. That’s why we need NIN and festivals, so there’s a real place and we don’t bother our friends at parties with this stuff.

Nick Armstrong

Nick is Camp Director and Founder of Improv Utopia an improv retreat for adults in California and Pennsylvania. He is also one of the founding members of the National Improv Network and performer and teacher at iO West as well as member of The Sunday Company at The Groundlings. He has also taught many workshops around the country.

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