At The Actors' Colony, professional actor and film-maker Tobe Sexton gives his students the basic skills, professional skills, and experience to perform—and for that matter, audition—for stage or film. Actively working in the industry for the last 30 years, Tobe know how to connect with other professional actors to get them where they need to be. In weekly or twice-weekly classes designed for specific age groups, students use scenes from stage plays, television shows, and indie films as springboards for experimenting with a range of acting styles. Class sizes are kept small, which guarantees each student a chance to work with the material in every session.
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.
GO-FAME Youth Theatre Company started as a means of transporting children to another world. Its first production, Alice in Wonderland, taught 60 students at Minnie Gant Elementary School how to travel down the rabbit hole while providing them with an expressive outlet. With their newfound skills, that cast of first through fifth graders performed for full audiences at the University Theater at CSULB in October 2005.
Since then, GO-FAME has expanded into a theatre program for all youth in the community, but its mission remains the same: to encourage youth to explore the arts and expand their skills. When they walk out on stage, students leave behind their old selves and step into the role of performers, and GO-FAME teaches them how. Several weeks of acting lessons and rehearsals preempt annual productions for friends and family. Past performances have included Rogers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella, Dear Edwina, and The Paper Bag Bandit.
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Actor Steven Nelson, a professional with 15 years of experience, works alongside fellow instructors Curtis Andersen and Amber Robins to teach students the fundamentals of acting and improv. Workshops cover subjects ranging from cold readings to audition techniques. On-camera acting courses use a projection system to help actors study their own performances onscreen.
A nonprofit cooperative, imaginese Free Productions is a conglomerate of artists and dreamers working together to achieve goals, complete projects, and help others do the same. They work in a variety of media and art forms, including acting, directing, painting, and music. Through shared resources and equipment, as well as weekly workshops and courses, they hope to create a positive creative working environment in which to nurture and accomplish all manner of artistic endeavors.