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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: 

JUST ADDED

Free Improv Workshop

Free

Sunday, June 25th, 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, April 23rd 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

$250.

Introduction to Improv Comedy, seven weeks starting on July 10th  through August 21st (six weeks of instruction, with a graduation show in week seven, on August 21st)   Every Monday, 7:00 p.m. –  9 p.m.

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…

Storytelling for Performance

Wednesday, July 19th through Wednesday, August 16th, from 7-9 p.m.. (four weeks of instruction, with a graduation show in week 5, on the evening of August 16th)

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

This class will run for 4 weeks on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, July 19th
  • Wednesday, July  26th
  • Wednesday, August 2nd
  • Wednesday, August 9th

The final showcase will held on the evening of August 16th from  7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

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.

 

Storytelling for Performance

Wednesday, June 7th through Wednesday, July 12th, from 7-9 p.m.. (four weeks of instruction, with a graduation show in week 5, on the evening of July 12th; NO CLASS ON WEDNESDAY, JULY 5TH)

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

This class will run for 4 weeks on Wednesdays from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on the following dates:

  • Wednesday, June 7th
  • Wednesday, June 14th
  • Wednesday, June 21st
  • Wednesday, June 28th
  • NO CLASS ON WEDNESDAY, JULY 5th

The final showcase will held on the evening of July 12th from  7:00 – 8:30 p.m.

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.

 

Introduction to Long-Form Improv Comedy

Tuesdays, 7:00 p.m. –  9 p.m.,  June 6th, 2017 through July 25th, 2017 (six weeks of instruction, with a graduation show in week seven, on July 25th; NO CLASS on Tuesday, July 4th, 2017)

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

 

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, 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…

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.

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.