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Longform Improv Classes

The iO Training Center Program is a five level, year long program that has been taught in Chicago for over 40 years, and has inspired countless schools of improv all around the world.

Our improv classes are designed for students of all level and skill. Whether you have years of performance experience under your belt – or you’re brand-new to this whole thing – our longform improv program will teach you the skills and techniques to develop your voice, style and unique form of self-expression. Click the each drop down below to learn more about the goals and curriculum of each of the five levels.

Each student also receives an iO student ID which grants access to ALL iO shows for free for the duration of your class.

We are committed to creating an inclusive, welcoming environment where students can learn and practice the art of longform improvisation. Students of all abilities and backgrounds are encouraged to try longform improv! If you’ve never taken an acting class, or don’t think you’re “funny” enough – that’s great. Come try improv at iO. There are no prerequisites to create something that has never been seen before, and will never be seen again.

Classes are 3 hours long, and meet once a week for 8 weeks. All classes are held in-person at iO Theater, unless specifically noted otherwise.

2024 TRAINING CENTER SCHEDULE
Session 3: April 29 – June 23 – IN-SESSION
Session 4: June 24 – August 18 (no classes week of July 4th) – REGISTRATION NOW OPEN!
Session 5: August 19 – October 13 – Registration begins July
Session 6: October 14 – December 15 (no classes Thanksgiving week) – Registration begins September

View All ClassesContact the training center

Level 1: Intro to Longform

Level 1 introduces students to all of the concepts necessary to become adept improvisers and performers. Students will learn how to build and apply the basic fundamentals of improvisation through a series of exercises, games, and storytelling. Level 1 is the appropriate starting point for the inexperienced student, but even those with some improv or theater experience will find value in the lessons of Level 1. The class will culminate in students learning and performing iO’s signature piece, The Harold, one of the most sophisticated and rewarding forms of pure improv ever created. 

While ‘Yes, And’ is the guiding ethos in improvisation, students will go above and beyond that simple principle and learn how acceptance, agreement, honesty, connections, listening, and commitment will help them discover the truth in comedy. Our expert instructors foster a safe and joyous environment for students to play, experiment, and relish in the experimentation of improv. 

Level 1 is an 8-week course that meets once a week for 3 hours. At the end of the term, each class will have a short 10-minute performance demonstration open to the public.

Monday Evening

Starts Monday, June 24th
7pm-10pm

Tuesday Evening

Starts Tuesday, June 25th
7pm-10pm

Saturday Daytime

Starts Saturday, June 29th
12pm-3pm

Sunday Evening

Starts Sunday, June 30th
6-9 pm

Level 2: Character, Environment, and Teamwork

Level 2 expands upon the principles explored in level 1 and teaches students the skills to make strong, bold and committed choices to elevate their characters, scenes, and performances. This level focuses on the importance of creating something artful and beautifully compelling on stage, challenging students to be more than just talking heads in their improvisation. Students will be engaged in exercises that encourage them to use physicality, environment, and stage picture to inspire their improvisation and raise the status of their improv from simple games and scenes to high performance art.

The principles of Level 2 separate iO’s training center from other improv schools by focusing on bold decision making and group support. Students will work together to commit to each other’s choices and elevate those choices, creating truly unique and inspiring moments of improvisation. 

Level 2 is an 8-week course that meets once a week for 3 hours. At the end of the term, each class will have a short 10-minute performance demonstration open to the public.

Monday Evening

Starts Monday, June 24th
7pm-10pm

Tuesday Evening

Starts Tuesday, June 25th
7pm-10pm

Saturday Daytime

Starts Saturday, June 29th
12pm-3pm

Sunday Evening

Starts Sunday, June 30th
6-9 pm

Level 3: Scenework

Level 3 redirects the focus back on to the essential building block of longform improvisation, the two person scene. The exercises in this level will help students slow down and find grounded real points of view and relationships to explore in their scenes. Rather than act like cartoon characters, Level 3 helps students understand that by listening and reacting to what someone is saying to them, they can create compelling and emotional scenes that will naturally evolve into comedy. Students will learn to develop the natural instincts that will help their scenes flourish and connect with audiences and will receive individualized feedback from their instructor about their strengths and opportunities for growth. 

‘Every line is golden and every detail is golden.’ The principles of level 3 help reassure students that they already have everything they need to create a great scene. Students will stop “inventing” and start truly improvising with guidance on how to respond with real emotions and committed character choices. 

Level 3 is an 8-week course that meets once a week for 3 hours. At the end of the term, each class will have a short 10-minute performance demonstration open to the public.

Monday Evening

Starts Monday, June 24th
7pm-10pm

Tuesday Evening

Starts Tuesday, June 25th
7pm-10pm

Wednesday Evening

Starts Wednesday, June 26th
6pm-9pm

Saturday Daytime

Starts Saturday, June 29th
12pm-3pm

Level 4: Longform

Level 4 synthesizes the lessons from all of the previous levels and allows students to begin creating longform pieces that are cohesive, thoughtful, and artistic. Students will learn a variety of classic longform pieces in an effort to understand how structure can inform their art. Each form taught will offer students an opportunity to learn how a form can be a motivator of creativity and authenticity, and not just a rigid structure to adhere to. The skills in this class will help students perform longer sets and will encourage true improvisational exploration of ideas, concepts, and thoughts–urging students to actually say something with their art. 

Learn the rules, obey the rules, then break the rules. Additional focus will be given to iO’s signature longform style, The Harold. Developed and performed at iO for the last 35 years, the Harold is now taught and performed all over the world and is a sophisticated and rewarding form that lends itself to all styles of improvisation. Students will learn the intricacies of performing the Harold with the understanding that the form is just a launching point for inspiration and not a destination in and of itself. 

Level 4 is an 8-week course that meets once a week for 3 hours. At the end of the term, each class will have a short 10-minute performance demonstration open to the public.

Monday Evening

Starts Monday, June 24th
7pm-10pm

Tuesday Evening

Starts Tuesday, June 25th
7pm-10pm

Wednesday Evening

Starts Wednesday, June 26th
6pm-9pm

Saturday Daytime

Starts Saturday, June 29th
12pm-3pm

Level 5: Advanced Longform

Level 5 pushes students into a true ensemble mindset and challenges the groups to create their own unique longform piece. Inspired by their work in Level 4 and all the previous levels, students will work together under the guidance and assistance of their instructor to brainstorm and generate a new, unique form that will be performed on stage. This level allows for a lot of personalized notes and diagnostics from the instructor and really helps students grow as individuals while also operating in an ensemble state of mind. 

At the end of this 8 week course, the students will spend the following 8 weeks performing their devised piece on stage at iO every Sunday night. Following the completion of level 5 and their performances, all iO graduates will be eligible to audition for the House Team program at iO, allowing for the opportunity to continue their education and performance opportunity on a coached ensemble with weekly shows sponsored by the theater.

Monday Evening

Starts Monday, June 24th
7pm-10pm

Tuesday Evening

Starts Tuesday, June 25th
7pm-10pm

Saturday Daytime

Starts Saturday, June 29th
12pm-3pm

Intensive Programs

For those who don’t live in Chicago, or those seeking a condensed learning experience over a shorter period of time, iO Theater offers a variety of seasonal intensives.

Our Summer Intensive is a 5 week, 4 day a week, 6 hours a day program designed to cover everything from our regular training center program. Students of all background are welcome to sign up.

iO also offers short 1-week intensives in the spring and fall.

Email us with all your quesitons about travel, lodging, and studying at iO for 5 weeks.

Summer Intensive Program

July 8th – August 9th from 11am- 5pm Monday-Thursday. Registration now open!

Spring Break One Week Intensive

April 15th – April 19th from 11am-5pm Monday-Friday. Registration now open!

Summer One Week Intensive

August 12-16th from 11am- 5pm Monday-Friday. Registration now open!

Winter Break One Week Intensive

December 16-20th from 11am- 5pm Monday-Friday. Registration now open!

Fall One Week Intensive

October 21-25th from 11am-5pm Monday-Friday. Registration now open!

Workshops and Specialty Classes

Looking to work on a specific improv skill? Interested in trying some sketch or pilot writing? Friends and alumni of iO are always offering different workshops through our training center. Class lengths and number of meetings vary by each class, so learn more about our different workshops below.

Check back frequently as our workshop offerings are always changing.

Writing
The iO Sketch Program Level 1 with Josie Benedetti

Starts June 30th

Talk Show Portfolio with Howard Johnson

Starts June 23rd

Sitcom Spec Script Sketch Packet with Howard Johnson

Starts June 23rd

Musical Improv
Check back for more music improv classes coming soon!

Meet The Instructors

Faculty

Jessica Rogers

Jessica Rogers has been performing, directing, and teaching improvisation throughout Chicago and around the world for more than two decades. She facilitates corporate trainings and can be seen on Thursday nights playing with The Armando Diaz Experience.

Jessica Rogers has been performing, directing, and teaching improvisation throughout Chicago and around the world for more than two decades. She facilitates corporate trainings and can be seen on Thursday nights playing with The Armando Diaz Experience.

Faculty

James Dugan

In his nearly 20 years of improv experience James Dugan has performed at The Second City, iO and The Annoyance. He can currently be seen in Clued In, Hitchcocktails, The Armando, Whirled News Tonight and in his duo Jaymes Gretchky.

James was born in Northern California but moved to Chicago to learn what this whole “winter” thing is. In his nearly 20 years of improv experience he has performed for The Second City, iO, The Annoyance, and any other stage in Chicago that will give him the chance. He currently can be seen with Clued In at Second City, Hitchcocktails at The Annoyance, The Armando and Whirled News Tonight at iO, and all over the country with his duo Jaymes Gretchky.

Faculty

Bill Arnett

Bill Arnett is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Bill Arnett is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Faculty

Emily Anderson

Emily Anderson has been performing improv in Chicago since graduating from Northwestern University. She studied and later performed at iO, The Second City, and The Annoyance Theatre, and appeared at Lookingglass Theatre in Her Honor, Jane Byrne.

Emily Anderson (she/her) has been performing improv in Chicago since graduating from Northwestern University with a degree in Theatre and Creative Writing. She studied and later performed at iO, The Second City, and The Annoyance Theatre, and appeared at Lookingglass Theatre in Her Honor, Jane Byrne. She is also a faculty member at The Second City and has enjoyed leading workshops and classes across the country. At iO, she was mentored as a teacher by Susan Messing and Liz Allen, and is a cast member of Whirled News Tonight.

Faculty

Brad Pike

Brad Pike is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Brad Pike is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Faculty

Clayton Margeson

Clayton Margeson is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

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Faculty

Jonathan Lee-Rey

Jonathan Lee-Rey is an actor, writer, and filmmaker. Jonathan is the Executive Artistic Director of Stir Friday Night, a teacher at iO theater, and the Community Outreach Manager of Stepping Stone Theater.

Jonathan Lee-Rey is an actor, writer, and filmmaker from Yonkers, NY with a splash of the Bronx. Currently, he is based in Chicago where he is the Executive Artistic Director of Stir Friday Night, a teacher at iO theater, and the Community Outreach Manager of Stepping Stone Theater. Formerly he was on the iO Harold team Velvet and a member of Generation LatinX. He also made shorts with the iO Network team Free Trial Run.

Faculty

Gretchen Eng

Gretchen has taught improv around the world. She performs/produces The Armando and Devil's Daughter, frequently traveling with her duo partner James Dugan (as Jaymes Gretchky.)

Gretchen oversees professional development for iO and has taught improv around the world (and at Roosevelt University, where she is a professor in the Chicago College of Performing Arts). She grew up doing comedy around the city and currently performs/produces The Armando on Thursdays and Devil’s Daughter on Fridays, frequently traveling with her duo partner James Dugan (as Jaymes Gretchky.)

Faculty

Deshawn Mason

Deshawn Mason is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Brad Pike is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Faculty

Andy Carey

Andy Carey is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

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Faculty

Zoe Agapinan

Zoe Agapinan is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Jonathan Lee-Rey is an actor, writer, and filmmaker from Yonkers, NY with a splash of the Bronx. Currently, he is based in Chicago where he is the Executive Artistic Director of Stir Friday Night, a teacher at iO theater, and the Community Outreach Manager of Stepping Stone Theater. Formerly he was on the iO Harold team Velvet and a member of Generation LatinX. He also made shorts with the iO Network team Free Trial Run.

Faculty

TJ King

TJ King is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Gretchen oversees professional development for iO and has taught improv around the world (and at Roosevelt University, where she is a professor in the Chicago College of Performing Arts). She grew up doing comedy around the city and currently performs/produces The Armando on Thursdays and Devil’s Daughter on Fridays, frequently traveling with her duo partner James Dugan (as Jaymes Gretchky.)

Faculty

Chris Littrell

Chris Littrell is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Brad Pike is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Faculty

Miles Potter

Miles Potter is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

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Faculty

Allen Lucas

Allen Lucas is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Jonathan Lee-Rey is an actor, writer, and filmmaker from Yonkers, NY with a splash of the Bronx. Currently, he is based in Chicago where he is the Executive Artistic Director of Stir Friday Night, a teacher at iO theater, and the Community Outreach Manager of Stepping Stone Theater. Formerly he was on the iO Harold team Velvet and a member of Generation LatinX. He also made shorts with the iO Network team Free Trial Run.

Faculty

Nick Rowley

Nick Rowley is a faculty member at the iO Theater.

Gretchen oversees professional development for iO and has taught improv around the world (and at Roosevelt University, where she is a professor in the Chicago College of Performing Arts). She grew up doing comedy around the city and currently performs/produces The Armando on Thursdays and Devil’s Daughter on Fridays, frequently traveling with her duo partner James Dugan (as Jaymes Gretchky.)

View all classes

Click to see a full list of all the classes and workshops currently open for registration.

Not ready to commit? Try our weekly drop-in!

Test it out and see how you like it! Our weekly 2 hour drop-in class offers a low stakes, fun way to try out improv for yourself! Taught by our best teachers- we think you’re going to love it!

Try it out

Improv For All

Improv training isn’t just for performers dying to get on stage; the principles you’ll learn in our classes will apply to any area of your life where you work with other people.

At iO, we believe that the best art is informed equally by all perspectives in a group, no matter your experience in improv, comedy, or acting.

You don’t have to have theater or comedy experience to be a great improviser. Just the desire to learn.  The fundamental building blocks of improvisation make us better listeners, coworkers, and family members, and friends.

Or, ask your boss to fund your improv journey! iO facilitators travel to workplaces of all sizes “on the organizational dime” to improve company culture because businesses see the inherent value of improv as a communication tool. Inquire with your HR representative if your company provides stipends for professional development and write us here geng@ioimprov.com  if you need assistance applying for funds!

Award Winning Instruction

Our teachers are not only the funniest performers in Chicago, they all believe in the power of ensemble and that every student brings something unique to their classrooms. Our program attracts students from around the world because our instructors practice what they preach on stages every night of the week.

Curriculum 40 Years in the Making

Passed down through the hands of generations of improvisers, our program is the gold standard for long form improv training across the world. We treat comedy as art and believe in the power of group mind, authenticity in scenework, and in thematic exploration through the forms that define Chicago improv.

Curated Feedback

Our class sizes ensure plenty of performing opportunity and our teachers offer highly  individualized insight tailored to your own journey as an improviser, classmate, and communicator.

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Training Center Scholarship

Interested in taking classes but financial constraints or some other hardship preventing you from doing so? iO Theater offers 24 scholarships in full each year. Scholarships apply only to our Longform Improv Program and Summer Intensives, not workshops or specialty classes. Click below to learn more.

Apply Here

Open at 6pm
Wed-Sun

How To Find Us

How To Get Here

iO is a five minute walk from the North/Clybourn Red Line and just two minutes from the 72 North Ave Bus. Limited free street parking is available nearby and several pay-to-park lots are located within one block.

FAQ

Have more questions? Check out our full FAQ page.

FAQ Page