Sunday, October 26, 2008

More of a break than I'd intended

I'd kind of forgotten about the main reason for this blog—to get back into the habit of writing again. So I think I'll probably force myself to go back to some sort of daily posting, starting today. 

Met Scott Connerly at the Filling Station to chat about improv and corporate gigs. It was fun—to catch up and to geek out about theory with another local geek. 

How do I know what I think until I see what I say?
—E. M. Forster

In part, it's fun because sometimes it's answering questions about your opinion that tells you what you think. 

If I were about to embark on a career teaching corporate improv workshops, I'd go about it very differently than I did when I was actually trying to make a career of it. Back then, I created custom workshops based on the general skill clients said they needed to work on, typically either teamwork/bonding or collaboration/creativity. I had a decent grasp of basic improv and experience in a creative corporate environment—and because one of the things I'm reasonably good at is connecting dots, I was able to pull off workshops in a competent way. So I made it over the low bar. 

Now, I'd work on creating and marketing a differentiated approach to corporate improv. Because it has become so popular, it's not enough anymore to just be competent. (OK. To be really honest, it is. But who's happy with that?) I'd do it this way: 
  1. Articulate a point of view. Besides improvisation, what situations call for teamwork, collaboration, leadership or presentation skills? Is there an existing approach or paradigm that works or translates easily? What could I smash improv up against to come up with a fresh approach (e.g. coaching sports, high school life, cooking)? 
  2. Create a set curriculum for each workshop. Customizing every workshop just isn't profitable. That was my biggest lesson from teaching Improv Toolbox, which I customized for every class. If you're spending 3 hours teaching plus at least three developing class content every week, it's not worth teaching for fewer than 10 people. Part of making things work as a teacher is maximizing your return on investment. 
  3. Market at least versions of each topic. Starting with a 15-60 minute lecture/master class (for large groups) and a 90 minute-3 hour workshop. 
I'd do the same with improv workshops. 

When I taught my Improv Toolbox class—like most basic improv classes in small- to mid-size improv communities—I took a pretty generic approach. I drew from a bunch of different schools of thought to give students different paths into the work. Nothing wrong with that, but what made it mine wasn't the material (theory or exercises). It was how I diagnosed the work students were doing, my teaching style and the way I put exercises together. That's fairly useful in a town with no training center, but wouldn't fly on the festival circuit or in a bigger city.

think about the teachers you're most interested in working with: Typically, they're selling an approach, not just a basic skills class. Look at Jill Bernard's VAPAPO or  Fireball Theory or Dan Izzo's Fire It Up! (created for Improv Inferno)...or any classes at a specific school: Second City, Annoyance, Theatresports, iO! or UCB, for example. All express their strong, unique points of view about improvisation. That's the gold standard, really—a class or workshop with your stamp on it. Something no one else could conceive of or teach. 

Anyway. 

Coming this week: 
  • Tuesday: Exit 16 has their second school show of the year tomorrow (so tomorrow's entry will most likely be something about putting together a run list for a  mixed experience-level, 12-person, 90-minute, short-form/long-form hybrid show).
  • Wednesday: Tantrum will get together to play a little with Viewpoints. Must read book before then. 
  • Saturday: Comedy on the Square at the Corbin. 

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