Every improv school has their set roster of teachers. A lot of performers at the theaters/schools do teach at the respected school or coach independently. Most of these teacher/coaches do not have a teaching degree. Most of these teachers/coaches attained their teaching/coaching work because they became known as a good improvisor. A good number of teachers/coaches have not been teaching/coaching for very long. I am pointing these things out because it is rarely discussed and it is something to think about when training with folks.
Again. In bullet point form. Things to think about when looking to train with people:
- Are they known for being a good performer?
- Does them performing great consistently make them a good teacher?
- If the improvisor is known for their great skills, which skills do they excel at specifically and how will that help you in your improv training? (if they are well versed in passing on that skill effectively)
- Do they have a teaching degree?
- How long have they been teaching?
- What other classes/teams do they teach?
- How many other classes/teams do they teach?
The best way to get this info on teachers/coaches is to ask around. Talk to your pals who are taking classes or are rehearsing with practice or performance groups. These are questions to think about, not standards. I’ve had coaches/teacher who has not been coaching or performing long without a teaching degree and is a great teacher/coach…I’ve also had a teacher/coach who is a seasoned a performers who does have a teaching degree and is a great teacher/coach. I think it’s really about who you gel with and what you’re looking to work on at a given moment.
I have noticed that there are many different styles teachers/coaches use to teach and guide improvisors. Some teachers/coaches focus on only one of these things, some flip flop and use these tools as they see necessary:
- Give examples: what they would do in a scene
- Ask you questions: see if you’re understanding the game/scene/form
- Ask questions to the group: group answers/brainstorming
- Ask questions and they give their answer with an example
- Give individual attention: tell you specifically what is working or not working for you in a scene
- Give group attention: overall summary if they feel the group is working
- Some teachers/coaches come in with a game plan: they know exactly what they want the class/group to focus on. They have exercises/forms/etc ready to go.
- Some teachers/coaches fly by the seat of their pants and see what happens in the group organically
- **They just want you to have fun (this really should be the goal for every teacher/coach/improvisor)**
These are a lot of things to think about when teaching and I’m sure I left some things out. I think it’s good for you, as a student, to know which styles are/are not working for you. If they’re not working for you ask Why? Maybe you need to take a teacher’s note and sit on it or ask for clarification. Improv is a very organic creature and can sometimes get tricky in your brain. Don’t be afraid to ask questions.
Questions to think about for yourself when looking for a teacher/coach/class:
- What are you looking for in a teacher?
- What tools/skills are you looking to enhance?
- Why are you studying improv?
- Are you looking to strengthen your scene work?
- Are you looking to get on a performance team within the theater?
- Are you looking for an outlet to have fun in life?
- Are you looking for an outlet to have fun in acting?
- Are you looking to improv specific skills for yourself or to work better in a group?