• bengibb

Our Approach to Education

Hello! We recently opened registration for our first Level 1 improv class (still spots available - you can sign up HERE) which means the Union Comedy School will officially launch on October 14. We expect classes to be a significant part of our operations, so this is a big step for us. We’ve put a lot of thought into how we’d like our school to feel and function, so we thought this would be a good time to lay out our plans for it.


Classes are an essential part of any improv theater. They’re the typical point of entry for new performers and act as a standardized training ground that produces a unifying creative experience and shared knowledge that transcends student generations. In other words, they’re a way for everyone to get on the same page and ensure that at its core the theater has a clear and consistent set of values, expectations, and stylistic goals.


At the same time, we recognize that not everyone learns the same way and that different students respond better to different approaches, so the curriculum is designed with flexibility to allow instructors to tailor it to the specific needs of their particular class. Empowering teachers in this way also allows them to take personal ownership over the course. We hope this makes their guidance much more impactful. This is especially true when it comes to language, as people are able to convey concepts much more effectively when they use their own words. Finally, we intend to regularly rotate individual teachers through each level so that they have a strong awareness of how each course relates to the others and the curriculum as a whole.


Overview

Union Comedy is primarily a longform improv theater and our school mirrors this focus.


The Core (Levels 1-4)

Designed with a scene-first mindset, the core curriculum starts with simple 2-person scenes and then progressively increases in complexity until it culminates with the classic longform structure The Harold. We’ve chosen The Harold as our introductory structure because its built-in balance of 2-person and group scenes, 3 scene and beat rhythm, and show recall requirements make it a solid foundation for more complex longform structures.

Level 1 assumes students have no prior performance experience, but operates from the standpoint that people can sustain fun and funny improvised scenes almost immediately if provided with the proper framework. To that end, Week 1 ends with semi-prescribed scenes and then these frameworks are gradually removed over the course of 8 weeks as students are introduced to the concepts and skills that allow them to be more self-reliant.

Despite its initially introductory nature, we believe our core classes would be valuable for any performer looking to improve their longform scenework, particularly their 2-person scenes, since our curriculum’s narrow focus allows us to explore scenes in considerable depth.


Here’s a brief overview of each level:


Level 1: Foundation of the Scene

2-person scenes and the basic performance skills and concepts that make them successful, mainly listening, establishing base reality, discovery, justification, specificity, emotional commitment, and point-of-view driven behavior.


Level 2: Scene Development

A more focused look at 2-person scenes with an emphasis on character. Making instinctive choices, unpacking all information from moves, defining and applying worldviews. Exploring and expanding comedic ideas and scenarios through patterns and tags.


Level 3: Elements of Longform

Introduction of collective responsibility for the scene through support moves and group scenes. Creating more complex patterns through game. Introduction to the basic show structure The Harold.


Level 4: The Harold

Dissect each component of The Harold - opening, beat pulls, group games - the goals and approaches that make them most effective. Introduction to show management tools like advanced edits, finesse support moves, and time awareness.


Advanced Courses

Advanced courses at Union Comedy are geared towards the experienced improviser looking to expand their skillset, try new formats, or revisit key concepts in more depth. These classes are entirely instructor driven; the focus, class structure, and required prerequisite experience will be unique to each class. Advanced courses are integral to the artistic growth of our community because they capitalize on the creative interests and knowledge of our most experienced instructors and allow us to quickly incorporate popular new formats and trends happening outside Boston.


Classroom Expectations

Though these are comedy classes, we take the work seriously. We expect students to be on time and focused throughout class, particularly when observing others in scenes and exercises. Due to the nature of improvisation, content can be unpredictable. We expect students to do their best to respect their classmates’ physical and emotional boundaries and to be patient with themselves and others in this learning environment.


Union Comedy does not tolerate offensive content done in an effort to harass a particular individual or to express the performer’s hatred and/or intolerance to a protected individual or group, that being gender, race, age, religion, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity and/or expression.


FAQ

Q: Can I skip class levels if I have improv experience?

A: We're recommending that anyone with less than 3 years of experience in learning and performing longform who wants to take our classes starts at Level 1. Anyone with 3+ years of experience in longform will be able to apply to skip to later levels and will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


Q: Do I need to take classes at Union Comedy to get cast at Union Comedy?

A: No. However, our casts will be exclusively longform teams and other improv schools with different goals and styles may not sufficiently prepare you for our casts. Our intention for our initial casts is to introduce them to the core curriculum in some capacity in rehearsal to ensure that our performers have the shared experience of the school without requiring them to take classes independently. (More info on casts and casting coming soon).


Q: Do you offer scholarships for your classes?

A: Yes, please email bgibb@unioncomedy.com for scholarship information.

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