The Unified Scene will be offering classes in improvisational comedy throughout the year — for beginning and novice students to even the most advanced students — on both weekday evenings and on weekends during the day. Don’t see an available class or one that fits your schedule? Keep checking back: we’ll continually update this page as new classes are available. Or join our email list to be one of the first notified when new classes are announced. Currently available classes are below: 

Winter 2018

Classes & Workshops.


Sunday 12.17


JUST ADDED | Starts Jan 10th

JUST ADDED | Starts Feb 21st


JUST ADDED | Starts Mar 5th


JUST ADDED | Starts Apr. 24th


JUST ADDED | Starts Jan 8th


JUST ADDED | Starts Jan 27th

Sunday Feb 25th

Sunday Mar 18th


JUST ADDED | Starts Jan 9th

Sunday Jan 28th

Sat & Sun  Mar 3-4th

JUST ADDED | Starts Nov 5th

Free Improv Workshop

Free

Sunday, December 17th, 1 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Ever thought “Hey, this improv crap looks fun. But I’m not sure I could do it. Wouldn’t mind giving it a test run before I do.” Well, now’s your chance: we’re offering a free (that’s right: FREE) 2-hour improv workshop at The Unified Scene Theater on Sunday, December 17th, from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Come on by. Kick the tires. You might surprise yourself — and have fun doing it! Space is limited, so let us know you’re coming by emailing us at info@unifiedscenetheater.com and say, “yeah, what the hell, I’m coming.”

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: A Pulse

Introduction to Improvisational Comedy | Level 1

Mondays, 7-9 p.m., January 8th — January 26th (six classes on Monday evenings, with a graduation show on the evening of January 26th; NOTE: NO CLASS ON January 15th, Martin Luther King Day)

$250

Perhaps you’ve seen improv comedy on television: the TV show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” popularized “short-form” improv comedy in both Britain and America. And some of the most prominent names in comedy – Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell (among numerous others) – have been trained almost exclusively in this style of comedy. Students will be taught the basics of improv through exercises and games that demonstrate the fundamental principles behind this fun and exciting art form, such as:

  • Agreement (at every point)
  • Commitment (at “Level 10”)
  • Being “in the moment” and “transparent”
  • “Checking your ego at the door”
  • Collaborating (with enthusiasm)
  • Listening (to everyone, and to everything)

What does it all add up to? A buttload of fun and awesomeness.

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: None, except a willingness to leave one’s comfort zone and have a blast in the process…

Intro to Long-Form Improv Comedy | Level 2

Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m., January 9th — February 27th (a seven week class that meets weekly on Tuesdays with a graduation show in week eight, on February 27th)

$250

Before you can speak a language, and, more importantly, use it to communicate with others, you have to learn both its vocabulary and its grammar to be understood. Long-form improvisational comedy operates the same way: it, too, has its own vocabulary, as well as a “grammar” that those performing it should be fluent in so they too, can communicate with fellow performers — and not end up confusing audiences. But how do you learn the vocabulary and grammar of long form? Attempting to learn-while-doing, the “total immersion” philosophy, does have its benefits, but that process takes place in front of less-than-forgiving audiences, and requires a lot of stage time to finally internalize — a luxury most performers/troupes don’t have.

Enter this class: it’s here you’ll learn the kinds of useful moves you and your troupe members can make in a long-form show to not only add flavor and texture to your performance but which will also help you find the fun — and  follow it — to the delight of audiences. As individuals or as troupes, you’ll be exposed to everything from editing (perhaps the most difficult skill to learn in all of improv) to time-jumps, to heightening to “game style” improv, as well as exposure to some of the more popular forms and styles of long-form improv. And you’ll come away with a more comprehensive understanding of long-form, of its potential to be a highly focused uniquely narrated entity, rather than merely “one damned thing after another.”

This course is ideal for those novices new to long-form who might not be ready to tackle The Harold, or who are hoping hoping to expand their range of options when performing, and for people or even entire troupes wanting to create more cohesion while getting reps in to prepare for your next performance.

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: Introduction to Improv, taken at either The Unified Scene Theater or at a recognized improvisational comedy theater

 

Storytelling for Performance | Level 4 

Wednesdays, 7-9 p.m., January 10th — February 7th (a four week class that meets weekly on Wednesdays, with a graduation show in week five, on February 7th)

$250

Storytelling has been around since the beginning of time as a way for us to relate to each other and give meaning to our experiences. However, in more recent years, oral storytelling has grown as a performance art, allowing us to perfect the art of telling, and shape our stories into compelling narratives that educate, entertain, inspire and often transform perception.

In our four-week class plus a graduation showcase, we will teach you the art of storytelling for performance including:

  • Identifying the stories in our lives that make for great content. Everyone has stories to tell and you will shut down the inner censor that might be telling you the opposite.
  • Learning the narrative structure of a story, and how to apply these critical elements to yours
  • Practicing with peers to help shape each other’s pieces week-over-week.
  • Gaining feedback, critical to getting better
  • Shaping your story for an audience.
  • Working with coaches who help guide your piece into an 8-10 minute performance piece.
  • Performing on stage in a graduation showcase and having the opportunity to invite friends and family to see you perform

Instructors:

Kathy Baird Westfall has been in the Washington DC area for over three decades spanning a career in marketing and advertising alongside her passion for performance in acting, improvisational comedy and storytelling. In her day job, she is the Managing Director for Content + Social at Ogilvy & Mather where she helps brands and nonprofits tell their stories to connect with audiences. She is a frequently sought out speaker at panels and conferences, surrounding marketing, advertising, storytelling and women’s leadership among other topics. She has also served as an adjunct professor at Georgetown University Master’s in Public Relations and Corporate Communications Program where she taught digital and integrated marketing strategy and most recently improv for leadership to the global executive program.

An active member of the DC Storytelling scene, Kathy has taken classes at Better Said Than Done and Story District. She has taught storytelling in both corporate and professional settings as well as workshops in the duststorms of Burning Man. Her storytelling performances have included the 9:30 Club, the Capital Fringe Festival, The Auld Shebeen, The Unified Scene Theater among others.

Kathy is Lakota/Oneida and originally from South Dakota. She believes firmly in radical inclusion and art forms that allow us all to participate. There is not a person who exists who does not have a story to tell.

Shawn Westfall His career as both improv teacher and performer is storied: for 11 years, Shawn was the exclusive teacher of improvisational comedy at the DC Improv; in fact, he inaugurated the first improv comedy class there 12 years ago, helping grow and build the curriculum into the DC Improv Comedy School, which now boasts a roster of teachers and hundreds of students. His classes (and the numerous performances they’ve generated) have been featured in the pages of The Washington Post, The Washington Post Express, Washingtonian magazine, as well on NPR and Washington Post Radio. Of course, he’s been performing improv for nearly two decades, and currently performs in a two-person improv show, ShawnMikael(s), that’s played to audiences all over the Eastern seaboard, racking up a number of accolades during its short time in existence: the show it mounted as part of the 2011 Capital Fringe Festival found the duo being named “Best of the Fest” by DC TheaterScene; in addition, the duo have twice entered the Harrisburg Comedy Improv Throwdown, taking home the winning trophy two years in a row against stiff competition from troupes from Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, and New York City. Currently, the troupe performs a monthly show in the Columbia Heights sections of Washington, DC that’s sold out the last 32 months in a row.

 

Character = Plot: An Improv Workshop | Elective 

$30.00

Saturday, January 27th, 1-4 p.m.

So many improvisers find themselves attempting to solve the plotty little problems of their scenes, when in fact these plotty little problems are superfluous to what makes scenes compelling and interesting. As one nationally recognized improviser once said, “audiences don’t walk out of an improv show thinking, ‘man, I’m so glad they fixed that bike.’” What makes improv scenes compelling? The same thing that makes movies, TV shows, plays, novels, and short stories compelling: the unforgettable characters operating at their center. We barely remember the plot of “Catcher in the Rye”; we won’t ever forget Holden Caulfield.

In this one-day, three-hour workshop taught by The Unified Scene Theater co-founder Shawn Westfall, you’ll learn how making strong, committed character choices in an improv scene benefits not only your scene, but you as an improvisational actor, as well as techniques for instantly becoming “someone wonderful right away.” You’ll come away with many more practical tools for your improv toolbox, ones you can readily and easily reach for the next time you find yourself in one of those unfulfilling, dynamically flat “talking-heads” improv scenes. Finally, you’ll see all the heavy lifting that a character choice can do for your scene, and discover how effortless improv can be when you simply stop being you.

Your Instructor: Shawn Westfall

 

JUST ADDED

Free Improv Workshop

Free

Sunday, January 28th, 1-3 pm

Ever thought “Hey, this improv crap looks fun. But I’m not sure I could do it. Wouldn’t mind giving it a test run before I do.” Well, now’s your chance: we’re offering a free (that’s right: FREE) 2-hour improv workshop at The Unified Scene Theater on Sunday, January 28th from 1-3 p.m. Come on by. Kick the tires. You might surprise yourself — and have fun doing it! Space is limited, so let us know you’re coming by emailing us at info@unifiedscenetheater.com and say, “yeah, what the hell, I’m coming.”

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: A Pulse

Improv for Business Leaders (Present and Future) | Level 4

Wednesdays, 7 p.m. – 9:30 p.m., February 21st — Wednesday, March 28th (a five week class that meets weekly on Wednesdays, with a graduation show in week six, on March 28th)

$250

We hear many reasons why students sign up for an improv class. Everything from “I need better people skills” to “I need to do something fun outside of my job”. What if improv skills could actually enhance your job? What if you could take the fun, joy and life skills experienced with improv and apply these to your work on a daily basis?

Our Improv for Business class will teach you to do just that. We will address a variety of realities and fears business professionals face every day using the lens of improv, including:

  • Public speaking: Learning how to feel more comfortable and confident in public speaking situations
  • Going “off script”: Handling unexpected conversations, and delivering presentations without just reading from PowerPoint slides
  • Teambuilding: Creating healthy, supportive team relationships whether as a leader or team player
  • Positive culture: Bringing a “Yes, and…” attitude to the workplace and infusing that spirit across the office
  • Listening: Understanding the importance of listening to your colleagues, clients and business partners so that you don’t miss critical information, both which is said and unsaid
  • Emotional Intelligence (EQ): Recognizing and owning your own emotions and others and leveraging those for authentic communications in the workplace
  • Creativity: Tapping into your creative side to reduce fear, unlock barriers and generate new ideas at work
  • Body Language: Building awareness of physicality and body language to understand how nonverbal cues often provide more insight than words in daily communications

This course is designed for anyone who works in a business environment, anyone who wants to work in a business environment, or frankly for anyone who works and deals with others at all.

Bring yourself, a notebook and an open mind. All egos must be checked at the door.

Instructors: Shawn Westfall and Kathy Baird Westfall

JUST ADDED

Free Improv Workshop

Free

Sunday, February 25th, 1-3 pm

Ever thought “Hey, this improv crap looks fun. But I’m not sure I could do it. Wouldn’t mind giving it a test run before I do.” Well, now’s your chance: we’re offering a free (that’s right: FREE) 2-hour improv workshop at The Unified Scene Theater on Sunday, February 25th from 1-3 p.m. Come on by. Kick the tires. You might surprise yourself — and have fun doing it! Space is limited, so let us know you’re coming by emailing us at  info@unifiedscenetheater.com and say, “yeah, what the hell, I’m coming.”

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: A Pulse

Introduction To Improv WEEKEND INTENSIVE

Saturday and Sunday, March 3rd-4th (a two-day long weekend intensive — Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.; 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.; with a graduation show on the evening of March 4th (8 p.m.)

$250.00

Perhaps you’ve wanted to try out Intro to Improv class, but have been running into scheduling challenges? We understand: scheduling a class over the course of six weeks, especially in busy Washington, DC, can be a challenge. We’ve got your problem solved, right here: an entire six-week class, 12-hours of improv, crammed into a weekend intensive: two three-hour morning sessions and two three-hour afternoon sessions, allowing you knock out an entire improv class in one weekend rather than six weeks.

Perhaps you’ve seen improv comedy on television: the TV show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” popularized “short-form” improv comedy in both Britain and America. And some of the most prominent names in comedy – Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell (among numerous others) – have been trained almost exclusively in this style of comedy. Students will be taught the basics of improv through exercises and games that demonstrate the fundamental principles behind this fun and exciting art form, such as:

  •  Agreement (at every point)
  • Commitment (at “Level 10”)
  • Being “in the moment” and “transparent”
  • “Checking your ego at the door”
  • Collaborating (with enthusiasm)
  • Listening (to everyone, and to everything)
  • What does it all add up to? A buttload of fun and awesomeness.

 

Instructor: Shawn Westfall
 
Prerequisites: None, a free weekend, and a willingness to leave one’s comfort zone and have a blast in the process…

Introduction to Improvisational Comedy | Level 1

Mondays, 7-9 p.m., March 5th – April 16th ((six classes on Monday evenings, with a graduation show on the evening of April 16th)

$250

Perhaps you’ve seen improv comedy on television: the TV show “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?” popularized “short-form” improv comedy in both Britain and America. And some of the most prominent names in comedy – Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Will Ferrell, Kristen Wiig, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carrell (among numerous others) – have been trained almost exclusively in this style of comedy. Students will be taught the basics of improv through exercises and games that demonstrate the fundamental principles behind this fun and exciting art form, such as:

  • Agreement (at every point)
  • Commitment (at “Level 10”)
  • Being “in the moment” and “transparent”
  • “Checking your ego at the door”
  • Collaborating (with enthusiasm)
  • Listening (to everyone, and to everything)

What does it all add up to? A buttload of fun and awesomeness.

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: None, except a willingness to leave one’s comfort zone and have a blast in the process…

JUST ADDED

Free Improv Workshop

Free

Sunday,  March 18th, 1-3 pm

Ever thought “Hey, this improv crap looks fun. But I’m not sure I could do it. Wouldn’t mind giving it a test run before I do.” Well, now’s your chance: we’re offering a free (that’s right: FREE) 2-hour improv workshop at The Unified Scene Theater on Sunday, March 18th from 1-3 p.m. Come on by. Kick the tires. You might surprise yourself — and have fun doing it! Space is limited, so let us know you’re coming by emailing us at  info@unifiedscenetheater.com and say, “yeah, what the hell, I’m coming.”

Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisites: A Pulse

Love And Anger: Loving and “Fighting” in Improv Comedy

$30.00

Sunday, March 24th, 1-4 p.m.

“Take away the love and the anger 
And a little piece of hope holding us together
….Take away the stone and the timber
And a little piece of rope won’t hold it together…”
                                    — Kate Bush, “Love and Anger”

Let’s face it, conflict is funny. It’s what drives most narratives, and is the source of both drama and comedy. And we see a lot of it in improv scenes: Lovers, partners, husbands, wives, quarreling and bickering, with no physical contact. Friends or co-workers either being passive-aggressive or overtly aggressive, with scenes crescendoing into outright anger. And sure, it’s fun to take that journey. But what we are seeing is the middle of the envelope: when the origin story of the two people who love each other has long been forgotten, or the covert warfare of the two friends who’ve grown to dislike each other is close to spilling out into the open, but stops short of outright physical contact.

This workshop is going to deal with the outside edges of that envelope: using exercises and scenes we are purposefully going to create contexts in which loving physical contact (“pre-kissing,” stage kissing, caressing) is involved, or which angry physical contact (stage combat) is involved. You’ll learn strategies and tools for creating romantic scenes that result in near-kisses or kisses (the kind that make audiences go “whooo!”), as well as scenes that find the characters coming to blows (scenes that make audiences go “ooooh!”). And you’ll learn that there’s comic potential in both these spaces, despite their both being so infrequently explored.

Of course, this course will all be done within the realm of physical boundaries and safety: you won’t actually be “making out” with your fellow actors or hitting them at full speed. You’ll learn time-honored theatrical techniques for implying these things for audiences, with parameters, boundaries, and physical safety being at all times paramount. However, you will be in physical contact with your fellow actors. If you, understandably, have reservations, for whatever reason, about this, you might want to reconsider signing up. If you have any additional questions, don’t hesitate to reach out.

Instructor: Shawn Westfall
 
Pre-requisite: experience, via classroom or performance, in the basics of long-form improv. 

Advanced Improvisational Comedy: The Harold | Level 4

$250.00

Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m. , April 24th — June 5th (a six week class that meets weekly on Tuesdays with a graduation show in week seven, on June 5th)

It’s a strange name for an improv class, we know. But it’s the name given to this particular improv structure by its inventor, Del Close, for years the primary teacher of improv at Second City. And it’s the most popular form of improvisational comedy: most improv theaters around the country host a “Harold team” or a “Harold Night.” What’s a “Harold?” It’s a way of taking the sometimes-unfocused choices in improvisational comedy and turning them into a highly focused entity, one that, instead of simply playing a “game,” tells a story with a beginning, middle, and an end. And not just any “story”: Think of it as a play you and your scene partners are writing on you’re feet even as you perform it — a play that’s also friggin’ milk-our-your-nose, incapable-with-laughter funny. In this class you’ll learn to do precisely that. You’ll learn to the basic structure of a Harold, the essential components of scene work that make Harolds successful, and how commitment and character-choices can help you and your scene partners quickly discover what’s uniquely funny about your scenes, and “follow the funny” to its culmination. And you’ll have a damned blast doing all that. We promise.

Your Instructor: Shawn Westfall

Prerequisite: Either the Introduction To Long-Form Improv class taught at The Unified Scene Theater, a class in the basics/essentials of long-form improv at a recognized improv theater, or permission of the instructor

Attendance Policy

Due to the collaborative nature of this art form, attendance is crucial to both a positive experience as well as to establishing “group mind” and cohesion when it comes to getting on stage and creating the “fun” of improv out of whole cloth. That said, if your schedule doesn’t allow your attendance in that you know you’ll be missing classes, you might want to reconsider taking the class when you’re more available. There is an attendance policy in place in all TUS classes, and not adhering to it will influence both your placement in the graduation performance showcase at the end of class, as well as your placement in any subsequent TUS classes.

Refund Policy

Full refunds are allowed up to three full days prior to the start of the class. Any withdrawal during that window will result in a cancellation fee. Absolutely NO refunds will be issued once the class has started.

80 T Street Northwest, Washington, DC 20001

Rhode Island Ave & T St, NW

7-ish Blocks from Shaw Metro Station 100 Feet from Capital Bike Share

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