You never know what you're going to see at an improv comedy show—and that's the beauty of it. Read on to see what you should expect at a show or class and to learn just how it is that actors can put their scenes together so fast.
Even when their characters are arguing, improv comics are working from a philosophy of trust and agreement—necessary ingredients for acting together with no script. Improv comedy encompasses a broad array of styles, with the major division between short form—quick, self-contained games—and long form—a series of multiple, interconnected scenes featuring distinct beats. Accordingly, a given performance might resemble a one-act play, a Saturday Night Live–style sketch scene, or a high-energy game show. Most rely on audience suggestions to spark the flow of fresh ideas, however, and some even weave brave audience members into the action.
Perhaps the most famous long-form style is the Harold, in which performers build continuous scenes that develop and intermingle in surprising ways. The unusual name arises from a joke, according to developer Del Close's biography, The Funniest One in the Room. As Close asked his collaborators what to call the new form, someone sarcastically yelled, "Well, Harold's a nice name." Appropriately for a form devoted to spontaneous absurdity, the name stuck.
This comic form also has roots in one of America's darkest eras: the Great Depression. While working for the Works Progress Administration, Viola Spolin needed a way to teach basic theater precepts to unschooled actors of various ages and backgrounds, so she created a series of theater games that focused on the playfulness at the heart of acting. In the 1950s, her son, Paul Sills, applied her principles at the short-lived but influential Compass Players on Chicago's South Side, and, later, at The Second City—one of the most prominent comedy companies of the 20th century, with alumni including John Belushi, Tina Fey, and Steve Carell.
From 18 studios scattered around Los Angeles, Lori Moran Music Studios’ armada of instructors offers all-ages voice, piano, guitar, violin, and composition classes. With teachers who have worked on films such as Dreamgirls and Dance Flick, world-touring operatic productions, and Grammy-nominated choral CDs, the school can cater to virtually every musical taste—from classical to jazz to pop. Students choose the emphasis of their lessons, whether they want to work on their public performance skills, write their own songs, sight-read scores, or simply be able to play musical chairs during a power outage. Many will also get the chance to show off in recitals, concerts, and showcases.
Tucked away in a refurbished 1940s barbershop, Studio DeLucca founder Khobe DeLucca and her team of jewelers festoon baubles of recycled silver and gold with gems sourced from artisans and fair-labor suppliers. Collections of stackable jewelry, such as amethyst bracelets and turquoise-drop necklaces, add a subtle sparkle to wrists and décolletages. Cocktail rings decorate favorite fingers with stones such as ocean jasper and green chrysoprase, and diamond-paved cigar-band rings exhibit old-world craftsmanship that hearkens back to the sparkling sidewalks of ancient Rome. A workshop series teaches novice lapidaries basic techniques to craft their own necklaces, earrings, and enamel jewelry.
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Southern California Helicopters’ meticulous introductory flight-training program prepares students for supplemental instruction using classroom materials and hands-on experience. Neophyte pilots begin aviation explorations with 30 minutes of ground instruction, where a knowledgeable instructor imparts lessons on navigating the instrument console and understanding right-of-way at a four-way stop. With book smarts cemented, students climb into one of the school’s helicopters and ascend into the open skies, one-on-one with a pilot, for a 30-minute flight. At a safe altitude, instructors shift control to the pupils, giving them the opportunity to experience a thrill usually enjoyed only by weather balloons and mice that have stowed aboard a radio-controlled zeppelin.