Improv Training Center
Level 1 Intensive
A two-week intensive option encompassing all of the material covered in Level 1.
Class meets seven times for 3.5 hours per class.
Level 1: Introduction to Improv
In this class you are introduced to all the fundamental skills of improvising, while improving your ability to listen and explore the power of building off of other people’s ideas. Level 1 is a survey of the entire program, exposing you to the elements of scene work and the various skills involved in creating well-acted, comedic improvisation.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate that their listening has improved over the course of the term and that they are willing to build off of their partners’ ideas, in addition to having gained some proficiency with the technical aspects of actually doing so on stage. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.
Level 2: Character & Game
With the basics of listening and building off of other people’s ideas under your belt, you will now go far deeper into all aspects of creating and playing characters founded in strong points of view. You will learn how to identify, create and play comedic games in your scenes, as we break down the elements of a comedic improv scene, demystifying what goes into making a scene funny and its comedic characters believable. Passing this level qualifies you to move on to Level 3 of our Improv Training program, as well as take any classes in our Industry Improv program.
Passing Criteria: Students must be able to consistently create believable characters with clear points of view, consistently identify the game of the scene and have gained proficiency in creating and playing games over the course of the scene. Attendance at 5 of 7 classes on your day, regardless of make-ups.
Level 3: You
Building off of and advancing all of the skills from Levels 1 and 2, this class will help you figure out what your own comedic point of view is, what your instincts are as a performer, and how you can continue to stretch yourself and increase your versatility. We will do this while forwarding all of your skills as an actor/improviser: listening, building ideas, creating and playing characters, creating and playing comedic games, etc.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate that they have improved in their ability to listen and build on others’ ideas, create and play believable characters, and identify and play games in scenes. Students must also be able to articulate aspects of their own point of view and translate it into their work on stage. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.
Level 4: Advanced Scene Work
Based on solid acting, character work and scenic game play, this level aims to vault you forward to high degrees of proficiency and consistency in all aspects of your scene work, building up the necessary skills to not just create rich comedic scenes that stand alone, but that can also serve as the main substance of a long form piece.
Passing Criteria: Demonstrate proficiency with advanced techniques for creating and playing characters and identifying and playing games in scenes. Students must be able to consistently perform scenes with believable characters, execute comedic games and focus on what is going on between the characters on stage in the moment that we are watching them. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups.
Level 5: Harold
You will learn all of the elements of the long form piece iO was founded on, The Harold, including openings, beat structure, non-scenic group games, organic group work, advanced support moves, and how to use variety and texture to create a show that explores an idea that the group creates together. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate an ability to create and execute all of the elements of a Harold: openings, beat structure, non-scenic elements, editing/pacing, and variety and texture. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes, regardless of make-ups, and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.
Level 6: Advanced Harold
Armed with the ability to execute all of the elements of a Harold, you will now learn how to improvise the structure of your shows, leading to wildly inventive pieces that challenge you to express yourself to the fullest extent of your creativity, and help that creativity evolve. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages.
Passing Criteria: Students must demonstrate an ability to navigate all of the elements of a Harold when those elements are not in a training wheels structure. Students must have demonstrated an ability to make choices within a show to drive it structurally using the various elements at their disposal from Level 5. Attendance at 5 of 7 of your scheduled classes and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.
Level 7: Graduate Level - Creating Your Own Show
In this final level, the teacher takes on the role of director, working with you and your classmates to help you create a show based on your very own improv form. This level includes four performances on one of the iO stages and all shows will be considered for longer runs upon their completion.
Passing Criteria: Attendance at 5 of 7 your scheduled classes and attendance at 3 of the 4 shows.
Youth Program: Teens (13-17) (6 weeks)
iO West’s Teens classes introduce the fundamental skills of improvisational comedy, the hilarious art form that sparked the success of comedians like Tina Fey, Jason Sudeikis, Seth Meyers, Amy Poehler and many more! Classes will focus on teamwork, characters, storytelling, and truthful comedy through imaginative games and scene work. Through their study of improv, students will learn valuable skills that are not only must-haves for television, film, and commercials but for performing, comedy, and life. All classes culminate in a final performance where they will have the chance to show off their improv chops in front of an audience!
Intro to Comedic Sketch Writing (7 Weeks)
Instructor: Matt Craig -- Do you feel like you have funny ideas but no concept on how to translate them to paper? Then this is the class for you! In this 7-week class, former SNL writer Matt Craig teaches a simplified structure for writing comedic sketches. In this comprehensive class, Matt will cover all the basics of sketch writing covering form and structure to content and application. A perfect workshop for beginning students looking to take an all-encompassing introduction to scene writing or for experienced writers looking to bolster their already existing arsenal, participants will walk away with a strong understanding of how to write well-executed and consistent sketches as well as how to apply these techniques to stage projects, online videos, webisodes, spec scripts, writing packets, pilots, screenplays...just about any writing project you can imagine! Sign up today! Space is limited!
Sitcom Staff Writing (7 weeks)
Instructor: Kevin Kelton -- Writing a great comedy spec script by yourself may get you hired on a TV sitcom staff. But once on the inside, you’ll be writing and rewriting with a large staff of other people, and the skill set needed is very different. This course will simulate the experience of writing on a sitcom staff. During this course, we will work together as a staff to write one episode of an existing network sitcom, going from beat sheet to outline to first draft. Together we will pick a show to write, read production scripts to study its style and voice, and break a story to write as a team. Between classes, students will have at-home writing assignments that will contribute to the overall script. And by seeing your individual work reworked and polished by the staff, you’ll start to learn what works and how to write to a collective creative vision.
Sketch Writing Level 1 (7 Weeks)
Instructor: Mark Vannier -- This class teaches the basics of sketch writing. What makes the premise of your sketch funny? Learn heightening and writing efficiently in your scenes. Different types of sketches will be introduced as will rewriting sketches, and writing with others. There will be home-work assignments each week. No prerequisite to start this class (Level 1 Improv is recommended).
Sketch Writing Level 2 (7 Weeks)
Instructor: Joe Canale
Improv to Sketch (4 Weeks)
Instructor: George McAuliffe -- In the first two classes students will use improvisation to generate sketch comedy material for stage and/or video. iO West Training Center director George McAuliffe will direct your improvisation to create sketches that are original, interesting and funny as opposed to formulaic and stale. The scenes created in class will be the source of your writing assignments. Once the material is generated, students will use the skill of improv to break through writers block, develop a clear point of view and give your writing an honest feel. The class limit is ten students. You should have completed classes at iO West, UCB, Second City or The Groundlings to register for this class. There will be an opportunity for students to showcase their work at the end of class.
Writing Program Electives
Pilot Writing Level 1 (7 Weeks)
Instructor: Mark Amato -- CREATE YOUR OWN SERIES - People always complain about what's on television but nobody does anything about it. Until NOW! More and more networks and executives are starting to look beyond their typical yearly development for fresh, unique and original voices with a script with the potential of becoming the next cutting edge series. The philosophy is simple: build it and they will come. But creating the next HIT spec takes a lot more than just having a great idea. The "magic" goes in crafting a catchy concept, engaging characters and an involving story that brings the brilliance to light. Learn from a seasoned television writer with three network pilot sales under his belt, not to mention years of experience on staff as well as a studio executive, to take you from concept to reality. In a writer's room setting, this seven-week course takes aspiring creators through the process of what it takes from realizing a brilliant idea into a sellable pilot script that will get others to take notice.
Pilot Writing Level 2 (7 Weeks)
Instructor: Mark Amato -- This seven week course is designed for students looking to take their pilot writing skills to the next level. Emphasis is placed on three main elements starting with CHARACTER, STORY and STRUCTURE while connecting the three to a relevant THEME. A pilot script doesn't simply need to sell your idea, it needs to showcase to the reader a viable franchise that has the legs to run five to seven years... and hopefully beyond. The difference between good and great is often the difference between taking an idea with promise and creating a sales document that will leave your words LEAPING OFF THE PAGE. This class is recommended to students of the introductory pilot course or for those writers with more extensive experience writing scripts looking to hone your craft and take your writing to the next level.
Solo Performance (7 Weeks)
Instructor: Andrea Kittelson -- This seven-week course walks writer-performers step-by-step through the process of crafting an innovative solo show that showcases each writer-performer’s unique strengths.
While the class is appropriate for actors who want to tell their own stories, this class is not limited to autobiographical narrative or to an abstract display of multiple characters. There are so many possibilities within the genre that are fully explored. There is an emphasis on metaphor, symbolism and other literary and theatrical devices that heighten and explore chosen themes.
The course begins the participants taking an inventory of their own skills, exploring objectives, zeroing in on themes, becoming familiar with a variety of structures and exploring and using what makes them and their show unique.
The course culminates with a showcase either on the Main Stage or in the DCT wherein every writer-performer presents either all or part of what they create.
This class is limited to ten participants. No submission or audition is necessary, but enthusiastic exploration is.
While the class is primarily geared for performers who want to write their own solo shows, the class is open to playwrights who want to craft solo pieces for others.
The cost is $300, which includes the book “How to Put on Your Own One Person Show,” personalized attention and the culminating showcase.
Harold Workshop (3 Weeks)
Instructor: Levin O'Connor -- This on-going workshop for experienced improvisors will prepare students for Harold team auditions. Each workshop will focus on a variety of aspects of iO's signature form. Group openings, games, scene work, beat structure and theme's will be just some of the pieces of the harold that will be examined in this brand new workshop!
Advanced Character Workshop (2 day)
Instructor: Dave Hill -- "Getting Into Characters...and staying there!"
In the advanced level of this workshop, you will take the principles and skills from the intro level and apply them to deeper and more advanced situations in improv. By creating characters inside of multiple long form styles we will explore the evolution of characters throughout a full piece by focusing not just on character creation but on the place of character work in shows as well. The end result will not only be a better understanding of how to use characters to drive shows but also experience at staying in characters we create and helping them evolve over the course of more than just one scene.
Requirements: Completion of the intro level of this workshop or completion of Level 6 of the iO training center.
Storytelling (4 Weeks)
Instructor: Margot Leitman -- Learn how to use your untapped humanity and embarrassing moments in a way that can reach a wide audience. You will finish this class able to fill in the blank, "----------- is the story of my life."
Each student leaves class with a six-ten minute showcase-able set of autobiographical material. The first half of the class is filled with fun exercises to derive all the life experience that already lies within you. From that hilarious material, you will find your final piece. The second three weeks of the class focuses on polishing and perfecting your story, which will stand alone in the class show, but can also be a part of a bigger solo work.
Learn to dig inside your own life to find humorous, relateable, material, which unifies an audience by making them laugh at their own experiences through your brave performance. Additional focus is on getting through the fear of being judged for our honesty, and true life experiences. In the past, many students have gone on to produce autobiographical one person shows, win at the Moth Storyslams, perform on the storytelling circuit, or complete their memoir.
Character Workshop (2 Days)
Instructor: Dave Hill -- No matter the scene in improv it's always more fun when you've created a great character! In this workshop we'll explore several different keys to creating fun and interesting characters as well as how to help them develop throughout a scene. Finally, we'll give these skills a playground for you to test them out with some character-friendly long-form work!
Come and get some character with one of iO's most experienced teachers!
Here's what some of Dave's students had to say about the last workshop:
"...all of the diagnostics we did helped me discover more about who I am and [how] I can use those traits to heighten or play when building characters....I am so happy I decided to take the workshop and it was such a wonderful experience!"
"Everything I've learned in [these] classes has already proven useful in a myriad of ways. Good character work really does make so many other things, from finding the game to coming up with second beats in a Harold, so much easier."
Pamela Thomas Career Workshop
Pamela Thomas has worked in the entertainment industry for over 20 years as a casting director(SNL) producer(Kids in the Hall) personal manager to writer/performers(Maya Rudolph,Emily Spivey) and development executive (Universal Studios,HBO). She has a wealth of information to share on marketing your talent,finding representation and putting together a professional multi-media portfolio following your bliss in the field of comedy.
In this two day workshop you will be guided to the next level of your lucrative career. Pilot season is ahead of us with more production anticipated than in the last 5 years. Let Pam Thomas give you the tips that will change the way you present yourself covering everything from demos,killer writing packets,websites and getting your foot in the doors that are life altering.Luck and timing will only take you so far if you aren't 100% prepared. Lets get prepared! Bring materials you want reviewed and improved.