Classes.

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& Jams. Oh My.

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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: 

The Ruckus | The Most Dangerous Improv Class Ever Devised

Tuesdays, 7-9 p.m., May 16th through June 27th (six weeks of instruction with a graduation show on June 27th)

We at The Unified Scene Theater are proud to bring you, in partnership with John Lang of Baesely Coaching, a new class in improvisation, one unlike any you ever taken or perhaps even heard of before: The Ruckus.

What is The Ruckus? The Ruckus is the most unique improv comedy class ever devised, one, mind you, not for faint of heart nor for anyone sensitive to loud noises or bright light. Part improv comedy class, part professional-development class, part leadership-training class, part storytelling class, part guerilla improv class, one part immersive-theater training, one part experiential-marketing class — and in all ways a personal growth class — The  Ruckus is designed to test you in ways that normal improv comedy classes can’t, or won’t.

Dispensing with normal improv class curriculum, every week this class will ask you to — literally — leave the comfort zone of a normal improv comedy theater, in this case The Unified Scene Theater, and venture out into the streets to “raise The Ruckus”: to publicly spread contagious, harmless joy to the people around you via the group-dynamics of improvisational play, in ways that are authentic and honest (no dissembling, no lying, no “characters”). Following a few exercises and tools for discovery (about yourself, about how you operate in groups, and about the world around you) in the theater, you’ll decide, weekly as a group, what The Ruckus looks like once you exit the theater, and you all will execute it as a team.

Each week will focus on a different theme, including:

  • Presence: In the streets, on the stage, as a leader
  • Risks and rewards: Identifying and facing uncertainty and discomfort
  • Teams: Self as team member, Self as team leader
  • Staging: Defining the desired audience, identifying the “market location,” beginning the show
  • Leadership: Exploring and developing the unique qualities of each class member

Think of it as improv comedy’s answer to Navy-Seal Training: you’ll be tested in ways you’ve never been tested before. But you’ll emerge on the other side emotionally and intellectually stronger — fearless even — with a better understanding of who you are individually and in a group, what you’re capable, and how you’re able to affect positive change in the world around you. You won’t just merely be “breaking the fourth wall”: you’ll be breaking down all of them. And we need a lot more that these days.

The Ruckus: come create one with us…if you have the guts. 

Prerequisite: at least one course in the elements of long-form improv; experience as a performer of improv. And yeah, guts.

About your instructors: 

John Lang

He is the founder of Baesely Coaching and Experiential learning in Washington D.C. where he and his team make games designed to foster contemplation and spark levity. John and the Baesely team work with leaders, via individual and team coaching, to help them clearly define and create measurable desired end results.

John has studied improv at the DC Improv and Washington Improv Theater, and The Peoples Improv Theater in New York City, as well as Second City in  Chicago. He is a graduate on Georgetown University’s Transformational Leadership program. He likes polka music and very bad beer. You should hang out with him.

Shawn Westfall

Shawn Westfall has been teaching improv comedy for 16 years, and performing it for longer than that. He instituted the very first class in improv at The DC Improv, creating what would eventually become The DC Improv Comedy School. He is the co-founder and Artistic Director of The Unified Scene Theater. His students include main-stage members of Second City and UCB NY, as well as current and former writers for “Saturday Night Live.”

He also spent 20 years as and advertising creative at various agencies around the country, and has an MA in English Lit, an experience he’s often described as “a gargantuan waste of time.”

He once met Craig Finn, the lyricist and lead singer of his favorite band, The Hold Steady, on a cold New Year’s Day 2014 on the streets of Montclair, New Jersey. “Hey, Craig!” he said. “Oh, hey…” Mr. Finn said, and continued walking. It remains the most important moment of his life.

One-Day Workshop: Improv For Fiction Writers

$25.00

Saturday May, 20th 2 – 5 p.m  Space Limit: 10 people

The challenges of being a fiction writer are many: hard work for little pay or recognition; the day-to-day difficulties of conjuring up imaginative worlds and populating them with believable characters. And, again, having to do without the benefit of collaborators in a profession that sometimes seems too solitary. And then there’s that pesky old “writer’s block.” Maybe you’re stuck creatively, blocked, as the saying goes, about what to do next? Or maybe you don’t have a clear idea about what the main character in your novel wants or needs? Or maybe you’re having trouble coming up with ideas for creating characters quickly?

Perhaps improvisation can help? It’s become a tool that many musicians and performers rely on to get unstuck creatively, snapping them out of what might be considered a creative rut and and quickly helping them make unanticipated discoveries. Writers, particular fiction writers, can find these tools useful as well: by literally “fleshing out” and embodying a narratively troublesome character, you can make discoveries about how he or she would behave, about what he or she wants, which in turn informs the next narrative plot-point. And, since it’s collaborative, you get additional perspectives on your character or situation you’re working on. And since creativity always happens inside a community, you get to meet and collaborate with other like-minded writers and narrative-crafters, who in turn can provide you with a new way of looking at how you work, how your character functions inside your narrative. Plus, the fellow-feeling that arises from working with others can extend far past the improv class.

In this one-day workshop, taught by The Unified Scene Theater’s Artistic Director Shawn Westfall, himself a professional creative writer, we invite you to bring us your fictional or artistic challenges: is there a character giving you trouble? Is there a plot point you need help with? We’ll get up on our feet and do a few scenes, improvising from the information provided, collaborate in real time to make discoveries that might provide some welcome insight. In addition, you’ll meet other writers, have fun, and garner a few creative takeaways to help you get unstuck whenever you feel your fictional/narrative/creative wheels spinning.

Your Instructor: Shawn Westfall

 

Introduction to Improvisational Comedy

$250.

Introduction to Improv Comedy, Mondays, 7:00 p.m. –  9 p.m.,  –  May 8th — June 26th (six weeks of instruction, with a graduation show in week seven, on June 26th; NO CLASS on Monday, May 29th)

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…

Character = Plot: An Improv Workshop 

$25.00

Saturday, June 3rd, 2-5 p.m.   Space Limit: 12 people

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

 

Introduction to Improvisational Comedy

$250.

Introduction to Improv Comedy, seven weeks starting on Saturday, March 18th, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., and continuing through Saturday, May 13th (six weeks of instruction on Saturdays with a graduation show to be held on the afternoon of May 13th; NO CLASS on Saturday, April 1st and on Saturday, April 15th [Easter Sunday])

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…

Introduction to Long-Form Improv

$250.00

Eight weeks starting on Monday, March 6th and continuing through Monday, May 1st (seven weeks of instruction with a graduation show to be held on the evening of May 1st; NO CLASS on Monday, March 13th)

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

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.