Coaching and Directing
I have been improvising for over 15 years, and on stage for nearly 30. Coming from an acting background, I love working with teams to create work that isn’t afraid of emotions beyond laughter, and using those moments of sweetness, sadness, fear, etc., to build dramatic tension–the release of which will ultimately be deeply funny in a satisfying way. I tend to work with groups who have a lot of fun and also aren’t afraid to roll up their sleeves and push themselves too. I love workshopping the right form for a group, drilling fundamentals, and making up dumb stuff.
Here are some topics that particularly have my interest lately:
Ensemble-focused work, truly letting go of individual goals to make moves and think as an ensemble
Identifying and breaking the cycle of self-judgement that gets in our own way
Playing from a place of inspiration, not obligation (credit to Asaf Ronen for the phrase)
Pushing beyond "yes and" to a place where improvisers instinctively allow information to snowball scenes forward
Moving toward dramatic (productive) conflict
Discovering everything from what's on stage in front of you
Treating subject matter on stage, as well as your fellow players with respect and dignity
Contact me If you are interested in working together.
My standard rates* below:
Ongoing coaching (meet regularly, rate is for a 2-3 hour rehearsal)
2-3 people: $30
4-8 people: $40
8+ people: $50
One offs (just one or a few sessions, rate is for a 2-3 hour rehearsal)
2-3 people: $40
4-8 people: $50
8+ people: $60
* I invest a lot of time into each group I work with, and I tend to make that investment whether I work with you once or for 6 months. I also tend to think about the group as well as the work of each individual, so I spend more time on larger groups. If cost is an issue, please discuss your specific team/project with me as I am often able to adapt!
Past Teams and Projects
8-Bit was a “max team” at Arcade Comedy Theater that had been running for 3+ years when I started working with them. I coached them for over 1.5 years, focusing on what became a pyramid of values- strong, polished technicals at the bottom (hosting, timing, game execution), solid scenic moments in the middle, and then finding more opportunities for surprise and delight for such experienced players at the top. It was wonderful to watch the growth as these players worked more cohesively as a team and found more joy in games they’d played for years.
Jeffrey the Plant
Jeffrey is a former house team at Unplanned Comedy Pittsburgh and had been an independent team for some time. They were close and fantastic performers looking to push themselves and incorporate a couple new players. We explored why they played polite with each other, ultimately taking their form apart to introduce a number of new devices into a looser form that led to more surprising and playful performance.
The Neighborhood is a team of mostly new improvisers who wanted to explore The Movie form. We worked on finding the group dynamic, scene work basics, and explored aspects of The Movie– devices and narrative.
Change Machine is a house team at Arcade Comedy Theater. The team began as an opportunity to explore The Dusty, a signature form of the The New Movement in Austin. It has become a group through which I have been able to explore my own passion and philosophies in the art of improv. The hardworking members of Change Machine are on a journey with me to take nothing on stage and build an entire universe that it truly takes all 8 members of the team to build.
For more on the form, see The Change Machine Manifesto.
S&M is a duo featuring Sherri Ward and Mindy McHale. The first time I saw S&M, I found them to be a unique voice in the Pittsburgh improv scene, and I've really enjoyed working with them to sharpen that. Their work is patient and honest, allowing their life experience and real friendship to be the heart of their show.
A one-off collaboration with Ayne Terceria, Jocelyn Hillen and Karen Forney to explore the possibilities of wordless improvisation. Used aspects of clowning, viewpoints, object creation and music to tell stories without dialog.
Hotel Nowhere is an independent team that approached me about working with them on monoscene. I have been interested in the form for a while, and it sounded like the form would help them work on new muscles and re-energize the group. I enjoyed exploring ideas with them around the intersection of traditional theater and improv, including discovering depth of characters that will sustain over several scenes, effectively employing entrances and exits, making bold choices whose impacts ripple throughout the rest of the show, and protagonist-centered storytelling. They waded patiently through some painful rehearsals (and shows) and also put on some amazing and delightful performances!
The End of the World Show
I conceived of and directed an ambitious show in August and September of 2013 called the End of the World Show. Here is a blurb from the Facebook event:
The End of the World Improv show is a brand new take on the End of the World. Prepare to be transformed (physically and mentally) into a creature from another planet, and view mankind from an outside eye. In the not too distant future, an alien race has taken over Earth and are hell-bent on its destruction. A motley band of humans win an audience with the Alien Counsel to attempt to prove the emotional life, meaningful relationships and humor of mankind is worth saving! Will they succeed? Will man be spared? It’s up to you! You act the part of the alien counsel as the performers play improv games to win you back toward sympathy with mankind. The show features animation by Spencer Diaz of The Walt Disney Company.
The show was a mix of pre-plotted segments (though with largely improvised dialog), short form games, animation, music, a mobile application, and general mayhem. Here is an interview I did before the show opened and a review of our opening night.
A student from one of my Level 1 classes enthusiastically entered a team into a very early incarnation of the Steel City Improv Theater's Cagematch. They would become Lofty Business. As Level 1 students, they had learned the basics of improv, but not much in the way of scene work, and we hadn't gotten to editing and so forth. So this was creating a form that could shine the best light on their dynamic and promote fun while still bringing a satisfying feeling to a 20 minute set.
I coached this Steel City Improv house team from October 2012 through November 2012. I worked with them on Harold fundamentals, an opening that inspired them to tell a story collaboratively, and initiating scenes with legs.
I coached this Steel City Improv house team from May through July 2012. I focused largely with them on working more cohesively as a group, individual improvement on their personal challenges, and heightening Harold.
The Project Improv Experience
(pronounced pruh-jekt) I started this project back in January 2012 as an experiment in combining improvised music, video and scenework. After the success of the debut show, we did a few more shows to discover where we could take the form.
Hush Hush Consensus
I coached this Steel City Improv house team from Oct 2010 through Feb 2011. I worked with them on a unique "hush hush" take on their scene painting opening, improving their Harold technicals (edits, group games, 2nd beats), and scene work (defaulting to positive, listening, holding onto their shit).
I directed and coached Irony City from 2007-2011 perform with the group to this day. With Irony City, I developed my sensibility about short form improvisation–a belief that the most successful short form comes from good scenes and an ability to workshop games until their constraints can be used to push that scene work. I also led them through the development of a few original forms including a narrative improvised play (below) and a short form show tailored to families with young children.