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Peter Rogers's Blog
Artist-in-Residence at Chez Firth

Wednesday (9/28/11) 4:06pm - ... wherein Peter posts information about improv classes in Austin.

Someone asked me where they could take improv classes in Austin; I figured my reply might be of general interest.  At the very least, I figured I'd post this so that I could link to it the next time somebody asks me about learning improv in Austin. :)

So, here are the improv theaters I know about in Austin:

List of Theaters.
The Hideout Theatre
Their take on improv is based heavily on Keith Johnstone, and a lot of their shows feel like improvised plays -- narratives with a beginning, a middle, and an end.  You can check out their show calendar here, find out about their classes here, and check out a free intro-to-improv class here.

gnap! Theater Projects
This is the theater-production company that works primarily out of Salvage Vanguard Theater.  Gnap's improv shows also tend to be narrative, but beyond that, all bets are off -- they range from straightforward genre work like Dusk (AKA 'improvised Twilight') to crazy experimental shows like The Sandbox (don't even ask me for a description).  You can check out gnap's show schedule here, and their schedule for 2012 here

Merlin-Works
This is the improv school that works primarily out of Salvage Vanguard Theater, in partnership with gnap.  The school is run by Shana Merlin, and it shares a lot in common stylistically with gnap's work.  It's also the only place in town (as far as I know) teaching musical improv -- that is, you improvise songs out of nothing.  You can see the school's class schedule here; it includes their regular free intro-to-improv class.

Coldtowne Theater
Coldtowne Theater is often described as "Chicago-Style", and is based more on the work of Del Close.  Many of their troupes perform a format called "The Harold".  A Harold doesn't try to tell a story with a beginning, middle, and end -- instead, you see individual scenes that draw inspiration from each other, or explore and heighten ideas introduced in other scenes.  Their show calendar is here and their class listings are here.  Also, they have a free intro-to-improv class on the first Monday of every month.

The Institution Theater
The Institution draws a lot of its improv outlook from Chicago's Annoyance Theatre.  Often, this style of improv focuses less on making a story go anywhere, and less on the organic structure of the Harold, and it places more emphasis on creating strong characters and sticking to them no matter what happens.  Their show calendar is here, and there is info about their classes here (including some upcoming free intro-to-improv classes).

The New Movement Theater
The New Movement chose a name that hinted at revolution, and that's no accident.  They are a theater that emphasizes doing their own thing, and developing their own style independent of the theaters listed above (click here for some more information about their take on improv).  They have a show schedule here and a class schedule here.


Conclusion.
So... that's a lot of theaters.  If you're curious about taking improv classes, all this information may feel a bit overwhelming.  Honestly, I would just recommend checking out shows.  When you see a theater putting on improv that you like to watch, that's probably the place where you want to take classes.  And be sure to check out the free intro classes when you can -- that can tell you if the theater's instructors are a good match for you.

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