We are happy to announce that Improvisor Ryan Nallen will be joining the NIN team. Ryan has been contributing very resourceful blogs for the last year and will now join our NIN team helping spread the word and making the site even better. I had a chance to interview Ryan:
Tell us about your improv background…What schools have you gone to?
I’ve been improvising now for around 7 years. I originally went to college to wrestle at the University of Illinois Champaign Urbana. I had taken a theater class because I was told it was a blow off (easy) class by my student advisor. For the final exam we had to do a student written play and half way through I forgot my lines. I just started rambling and making things up to justify what was happening. The class laughed at the nonsense coming out of my mouth and afterward my teacher pulled me aside and said, “You should look into doing this. You have a natural talent.” After the season finished, I decided to take that teacher’s advice and quit the team. I have been acting and improvising ever since. As for my training, I am a graduate of iO Chicago, the Second City Conservatory, and the Annoyance Theatre.
Who are you favorite improv instructors?
Thats a tough question for me because I feel like every teacher I have had has taught me something valuable or has provided me with great insight based on their own experiences. You can always learn something from somebody and I try to maintain that belief with every class or workshop I take.Tell us about Switch Committee and how you guys formed? Why do you travel to festivals?
Switch Committee had originally formed out of iO. Dave Karasik and I were in level 1 together and enjoyed playing together so we decided to form a group inviting other people we’d played with who we felt we had good playing chemistry with. Since the group has formed, we have had 2 runs at iO, performed at almost every venue in Chicago, and have traveled to and taught at over 10 festivals around the country. I really love traveling to festivals because I enjoy meeting new people who love doing the same thing I love to do. It’s something very special to get people from all over the country together to sit and watch each other do make believe. Traveling to new places to meet and see how other people are improvising is very exciting to me. Also, it’s like a vacation and who doesn’t love a vacation?
You’re becoming a part of the NIN team. What has NIN meant to you?
First of all. Thank you! This is awesome and I’m honored! I think NIN is an invaluable resource to the improv community. The purpose of it and how the people involved work so hard to bring performers and teachers from all over the country together speak volumes about the kind of support and collaboration that exists in our small world. Through NIN I have been able to connect with people and festivals that I might not have been able to connect with otherwise. It’s given me a central place to go to find festivals and more importantly groups and people with shared interests. It is because of NIN that I can say I have improv friends in almost every state in the country.
Where do you see improv heading?
We are in a weird, but GOOD, growth phase right now. A lot of theaters are growing, moving, and getting larger, which is fantastic for the performing arts community in which we belong. For example, in Chicago, iO and the Annoyance recently moved to new locations, Second City is expanding, and multiple other theaters like The Playground and M.C.L. (Music Comedy Live – formerly Studio Be) are rebranding and establishing new programs. Then you’ve got other shows popping up in attics and garages (the S%$& hole) generating the entire support of the community simply because they’ve created a judgement-free environment inviting pretty much anyone (sketch, stand-up, improv, musicians, etc.) to come and play free of charge.
With that, there will always be a show to see. I’ve seen it first hand here in Chicago. You don’t need thousands of dollars or a theater license. All you need is a space to play in and people who want to play in it.
How do you feel about the national improv scene?
I think its great. I absolutely love traveling to festivals and seeing what other people are doing in terms of their form and playing style. It’s also great to see the support that everyone has for one another. Rather than “oh I don’t know you you’re from another state” its “hey we love doing the same thing tell me more about you and your group.” It’s like a family and everyone is eager to watch each other play. Nationally its continuing to grow as well with more theaters and festivals popping up and existing theaters moving/expanding. I see it continuing to grow and people continuing to try new things. I see it getting bigger with more opportunities for people to perform both locally and nationally. It’s very exciting!
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.