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Long Form Improv – Sample Scene-work Workshop

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Long Form Improv – Sample Scene-work Workshop

My improv philosophy is that there isn’t a definitive approach to improv, and that improv is a artform that is constantly morphing, expanding and it’s relatively new. The knowledge about improv that we pick up in our improv journey are more suggestions than absolute truths. If improv was a video game, this tools would be “cheat codes” to make improv easier and more satisfying.

Warm up: George, Word Association, Mild Meld, Big Booty, Ninja.

Two-person three line scenes (warm-up).

Two-person short scenes where before initiating the scene partners make a mental decision about the relationship we have with the other improviser.

Initiate scenes inspired by the physicality of our scene partner and what that communicates to us about his or her mood, emotions, profession, or whatever other information we can obtain by their physicality.

Practice the importance of knowing what we want from the other scene partner (this works better when what we want is not material but more associated with emotions such as respect, love, compassion, etc).

Gift our scene partner game (pan y queso). This is to practice helping our scene partner with information that informs his or her character and makes it easier to play and to keep the scene going.

Two person scenes where we quickly determine the who, what, where of the scene (with 3 “referees”).

Organic/Naturalistic improv: Attempt two-person scenes where improvisers are as natural as possible and nothing extraordinary happens during the scene. This scene is the opposite of “this is the day where that thing happened”. The world doesn’t come to an end during this scene, this is how 99% of life happens as opposed to the 1% of life where exciting and unexpected things happen.

Editing scenes in a montage: “Walking through doors”. Improvising as if we were walking through fog and we could only see the next step.

  • Things to try: “let’s go there” from the sidelines.
  • Easier: from the sidelines we edit the scene by saying “Now I would like to see the following: these improvisers are in xyz location, the situation is the following…”.

Improvising “paranoid”: listening as if our scene partner had second intentions, we don’t take anything at face value. What our scene partner is saying actually hides something else and we don’t take anything literally from our scene partner.

Practicing the game of the scene: establishing the base reality and then detect the first unusual thing that happens in the scene.

Student becomes the coach: two person scene where a third person acts as the coach/director and after the scene he or she comments on how the scene went, things the coach liked and things the coach would do differently.

Holding on to your thing: holding on to the choice made at the top of the scene and not losing that point of view or “thing” brought by the character at the top of the scene.

Dream scenes: one of the workshop participants selects two scene partners to act out a “dream” scenario that tickles him or her as a selfish wish. For example, I would like John and Joan to be good cop and bad cop, during a break in the cafeteria of the police station.

Ejemplo de Clase de Impro en Español

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Aca van algunas de las cosas que quiero trabajar, no se si va a dar el tiempo para todo pero es la idea.

Mi idea sobre la impro es que nadie todavía escribió el libro definitivo sobre la impro, es un arte vivo y es relativamente bastante nuevo. Lo que uno va aprendiendo, los ejercicios, son sugerencias. Si la impro fuera un video juego, estas herramientas serian “cheat codes”, o trucos para hacer la impro más fácil.

Calentamiento: George, Asociacion de palabras, Mind Meld, Big Booty o algun otro calentamiento mas fisico, v.g. Ninja.

– Escenas cortas de 3 lineas para precalentar.
– Escenas cortas donde antes de empezar la escena uno ya hace una decision mental de que relacion tiene con nuestro companiero de escena.
– Empezar escenas diciendo algo sobre cómo nuestro compañero de escena esta físicamente parado o sentado y que nos dice eso de su estado de ánimo, profesión u otra cosa que nos inspire su aspecto físico.
– Practicar la importancia de saber que uno quiere de la otra persona (esto funciona mejor cuando lo que uno quiere tiene que ver con emociones).
– Darle regalos a tu compañero de escena (como pan y queso). (Esto es para practicar la importancia de darle “pies”, “regalos” a la otra persona).

– Escenas de 2 personas donde determinamos rapido quienes somos, donde estamos y que estamos haciendo o de que estamos hablando (con tres referis).

-Tratar de hacer escenas donde somos lo mas naturales posibles, por ejemplo una pareja esta en la cocina y hablan naturalmente de algo y no pasa nada en la escena, no hay conflicto, no se cae el mundo, etc.

– Como editar una escena: ir caminando a través de puertas (walking through doors). Improvisar como si estuviéramos caminando en la neblina (stepping into the fog: solamente podemos ver el próximo paso).
– Probar desde las sidelines con el “vamos alla”.
– Mas facil: desde las sidelines uno va a editar la escena diciendo “ahora me gustaría ver lo siguiente, estos improvisadores están en este lugar, etc.”

Improvisar “paranoico”. Escuchando como si nuestro compañero de escena tuviera segundas intenciones, como si lo que dice en realidad esconde algo más y no sólo lo que dice literalmente.

Practicar el juego de la escena: realidad de base y después vemos cual es la primera cosa inusual que pasa en la escena.

Otra cosa que quiero probar es hacer escenas de dos personas y poner a uno de coach/director y que el coach despues de la escena comente como fue la escena, que cosas le gustaron, que harian diferente.

Holding on to your “thing”: the choice you made at the top of the scene. No perder el punto de vista o “cosa” que trajimos con nuestro personaje al principio de la escena.

Dream scenes. Me gustaria que esta persona y esta persona hagan la siguiente escena.

Performances: Cash me outside at:

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Underground Lounge at 8 pm on 4/3/17 (Stand up)

The Revival Open Mic at 9:30 pm on 4/8/17 (Stand up)

Annoyance Theater – Solo Character work – at 6:30 pm on 4/9/17 (Character work)

Spitballin’ at Shakers at 8 pm on 4/10/17 (Character work).



Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro on 2/1/2017

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Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017


Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017


Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017


Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017


Improv Workshop at La Sede Teatro, 2/1/2017


During my recent visit to Buenos Aires, I taught a Chicago-style improv workshop to a group of students at La Sede Teatro, a renowned improv comedy theater in Buenos Aires.

The Director of La Sede Teatro is Ricardo Behrens. Ricardo is a bonafide improv guru and one of the pioneers of the improv comedy scene in Latin America.

One of the most popular shows at La Sede Teatro is Shakespeare Inedito.

It was amazing and truly an honor for me to be teaching in Argentina, my native country, in the artistic home of Ricardo Behrens, La Sede Teatro.

Prompts from today’s show at Sketch on the Rocks

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Favorite tool: my boyfriend

I believe that: iphones will enslave us.

Should men hold doors for women: Yes and women should hold doors for men, whoever goes first.

Your name: Julia.

Circle one: (theme music)

Epic, War, Breaking News, Romance (the person circled “Romance”).

A title of a movie: “October Sky”

A piece of fruit or vegetable: Strawberry

Do you believe in God? I believe some people do

Name your God: I just share other people’s.

Real or made-up youtube channel: Pickle Fights.

Line of dialogue: that’s not what you said on Tuesday.

My political preference: Hodor 2016.

Character’s name: Jamie Lacroix. He hates sparkling water.

I like the most: Warm summer days.

Character name: Karen Fitzgerald. She’s afraid of pudding.

Favorite line from a movie: There’s a colonial woman. She’s churning butter!

Interesting Things: Movie Maggie’s Plan, Dan Ariely Video.

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I saw the movie Maggie’s Plan, and I enjoyed it immensely! Great movie! Woody Allen-esque. If you like Woody, you will like this style of movie. Talky but smart. Good character work from everyone. Ethan Hawke is in it. Bill Hader is in it. The girl from SNL Maya Rudolph or something like that. I won’t google her name, she is in it. The woman from that other bunch of movies, great actress is in it. Anyways, really good movie, especially if you are into character acting.

Dan Ariely: this is a great talk, very insightful. Psychology and dating and relationships. Most of what he says is backed by science.  Many of the things he says are counter intuitive but at the same time valuable, useful.

What’s up guys! I have been busy, but here is an update.

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I just came back from a show at the Playground, I had fun, and on Monday I had class at the Annoyance with Bob Fisher, super nice guy 🙂

So I have been working on initiations lately, but Bob is trying to stretch us in terms of character range, so that’s going to be fun. CIC is still going strong, I am doing level 2 with Kyle Bethea and he is very good! Everyone in this community (improv community) is really good and there is a reason why they are where they are in terms of teaching positions and performing.

I have been dieting, since February I lost about 20 lbs, it’s pretty crazy. The only thing that works is counting calories and weights… that’s the key my friends. I may go into what I do for diet once I have more time. Also, I am reading the book Presence by Amy Cuddy, interesting book 🙂

I love the opportunity to play with my improv team, these people are awesome and I love them.

What I have been up to

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Anyways, I am feeling awesome so I thought I would write a little something about my improv happenings and other stuff.

So I am at Cic level 1 and I just signed up for annoyance ap5 coming up in late May I believe. I like this improv thing and I take it as a sort of school. I feel I am getting better at the being
real part of improv. I feel calm and in control in a lot of scenes. As is often the case, it’s hard to pin point how this breakthroughs happen. If you have seen me play and I sucked, I am sorry but I have been feeling good about myself in scenes.

Been dieting folks! This guy can’t afford to be too overweight at this stage of my life. I also want to look good in a tank top come summer, and rock a nice tank top and see Los Fabulosos Cadillacs at Ruido Fest.

This is it for now, if you are a hater I would like to wish you the best and a kiss on the forehead. Bye.

Sample 3 hour improv workshop

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Warm up (names + movement) around the circle. Verbal and physical. Then pass the name around.

Then the 2 steps behind warm up, first verbal (story) then physical (mirroring). Then both, verbal and physical.

Character development: leading with body part to create a character, what would that character think, etc.

Home, who, work, movement style.

Character interview.


3 line scenes.

2 person scenes (relationship + place).

Emotional reaction (heightening). Wants.

Themes, gifting, heightening, wants.

Object work. Sequencing.

3 person scenes (subdued 3rd character).

Matching point of view in 3 person scenes to make them into “2 person scenes”.

4 person scenes where each character knows how he / she feels about the other person.

Charades (knock knock).

4 square.

Freeze tag.

Back to Basics: Being Real

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One issue I have been having in improv is going to crazy places and unbelievable characters at the beginning of shows. Then Case, our MUD coach who had been seeing our shows, saw it and he had us do exercises to work on this issue. This is improv 101 I think, but we had to go back to the basics. React as you would normally react, as yourself, even in those imaginary circumstances. There is no need to create anything funny or a context that is funny.
When we start a scene and there is the impulse to justify something, to verbalize a relationship or verbalize what the issue REALLY is about, then we would do it, we should do it. It is helpful to start “real” so that we can get crazier or funnier in the latter part of the show. This is what forms like the deconstruction or even the Harold are about: grounded scenes in the beginning to anchor the show, where we see normal human behavior. One could argue this is true of the whole show, but we have a license to be nuts later in the show, and not so much in the beginning of shows.


An exercise to work on this (hat tip to Case who introduced the exercise to us) is to have three players on stage, one in center stage who will give an improvised short monolog and two players on the sides (one in each side) would initiate a scene, one at a time (so as to make two person scenes), where the person who just gave the monolog would react as they would normally react as themselves. In the opening monolog, the person giving the monolog can talk about anything, with the only condition that he or she is him/herself giving the monolog, not a character. In the scenes that follow, the person that gave the monolog has a goal which is to stay as himself/herself and not to create anything too big as far as character. This exercise’s goal is to work on having more organic scenes at the beginning of shows.


Justifying: one of the things that we also worked on was to justify or make assumptions when one of the improvisers feels in his/her guts that a specific as far as context, relationship or underlying issue between the characters needs to be called out.


Feb 13 – Megan Johns Class – AP4

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What a fun class! I feel I am making progress and I am doing good work. The key for me is having an understanding of who I am as I go into a scene, once I do that, I am able to navigate the scene. Annoyance focuses on character based improv, and I am enjoying this approach a lot. Other schools of improv focus more on forms as opposed to Annoyance that focuses on individual performance. Anyways, I am having fun creating characters and acting 🙂

Annoyance Ap4, Feb. 6, 2016.

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6:59 PM
What kind of stuff was covered today ?
Basically characters and keeping characters throughout the scene, physicality, accents, phrases that the character may use again and again, etc.
I feel it’s basically a lot of what we have done with Jimmy Pennington.
7:53 PM
Yeah and lots of specificity stuff!
Speeeeeehcifics! -Uhlir

Megan Johns class 1/30/16 – class 1 of AP4

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I enjoyed this class! Challenging but at the same time enjoyable and helpful.

Notes I got:

Do longer declarations rather than short verbal interjections.

Emotionality (I made up that word) should be more up/down rather than stable. Even-keeled is good and makes people want to play with me but also I should bring emotional variety.

Keep doing what I am doing in terms of physical characters (those were the best).

Some scenes need stakes raised.

Mostly we did a lot of scenes. One of the things that Megan emphasized was using all of the stage rather than the hotspot that most improvisers use.

Megan talked about coming with something for ourselves and then connecting with our scene partner, acknowledging the scene partner’s deal.

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