I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and after reading Mick Napier’s blog, which you should check out. When I was reading the blog I kept thinking to myself why you should train at as many places as you can. Two of those reasons are:
1: To see what theater’s philosophy you click with the most and…
2: To fill those improv gaps that theaters can’t fill.
In Mick’s blog he accurately points out the missing elements of each major improv theater, including his own. Does that mean they’re bad…Hell no. That just means they focus on different philosophies, which they all do really well. It’s just when you focus on a certain way of improv other things may get lost in the shuffle or slip in the cracks.
When I was going through acting school there was different methods you tried, Stanislavsky, Meisner, Chekov. But I, for some reason, gravitated toward Meisner. But again, I’m glad I had the others as training because even Meisner has some holes too and I was able to access the others to help me get through those moments. Meisner was my main focus that I connected to, but I was able to use the other methods if I needed them.
It never hurts to try iO, Second City, The Annoyance, Groundlings, ComedySportz, UCB or whatever theaters are in your hometown. There are usually more than one theater in each major city now. Go try them all! You’d do yourself a disservice if you didn’t. You don’t have to go to all of them but at least try two or three. Ask your friends what they think of each place and see if it’s something that interests you. Or go see a show at the theater and see if the work they are presenting is something you like. Then take a class.
I’ve heard some theaters have Non-Compete clauses for their performers…Meaning they don’t allow their performers to play anywhere else. This always hurts when I see this, first off in most states it’s illegal unless you are a full-time paid employee of that theater. But more importantly it hurts the performer. A well rounded performer is a better performer and a better improvisor. If you look at the great improvisors, Craig Cackowski, Tina Fey, Tj and Dave, they have all had training at different theaters. And guess what they still perform at those theaters when they can.
I’d love to hear your experiences on this matter please feel free to drop a line and tell us your experiences, successes and failures of training at different theaters.
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. He has also taught workshops around the country. We are always looking for better ways to serve the community. Drop us a line and let us know what you want! To e-mail nick e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information visit: http://www.nickarmstrong.com or http://www.improvutopia.com