Confession: I am not an actor.
I am someone who likes to act and I have written short plays, directed teens in short plays and acted in two plays here in Los Angeles.
Living in a community that has dozens of live theater companies in such a small geographic area, we are surrounded by acting classes of all shapes and sizes. Even so, the right “sized” class can be hard to find for many people. The ideal Improv class is one that professional actors attend and recommend, but it also accommodates and even caters to the every day person. When I spoke to a professional actor friend of mine, who is in her 60s, she said, “Improv scares me!” I got that reaction from a few people. It seems to be a common reaction when speaking of being tossed into a room of total strangers, asked to act silly and spontaneous while trying not to compare yourself to folks who have been doing this for years.
Mr. Applebaum Sets the Tone
I sat down for a chat with The Actor’s Improv Studio founder, owner and head teacher Bill Applebaum to discuss his philosophy. Bill cut his teeth in Chicago in years that started with 7’s and 8’s. Why focus on age? His impressive work in the Chicago theater world included The Second City Theater and he was one of the founding members of the Second City ETC Theater in 1984.
Bill was talked into moving to LA by none other than Gary Marshall, to work on the TV version of “Nothing in Common”. He has written for such shows as The Carol Burnett Show and been in several commercials and feature films. If you want to know more you can always peek at his IMDB. There is a Wiki too, but come’on…we are here to talk Improv. He is obviously a talented man. He is also a comforting teacher, but more on that later (I took a class).
Right off the bat Bill shared his philosophy of Improv with me and that is when I knew I had to take a class with him. “Improv is not a competition, and it had become a competition, ” speaking of his experiences at the height of the improv wave in the early 80s to mid 90s. He saw a place for an acting school that taught people how to access their creativity for use in Improv, traditional acting, comedy and even every day life. Bill believes that improv is a tool that gets one to listen to that voice that says “Do this!” or “Try that”. It can help people be more spontaneous and take chances they may not have taken before.
In college , upon reading ” Courage to Create” by author Rollo May, Bill had a thought, “the courage to die..to fail…”. At the time, his feeling was that everyone has the courage to create, what we need is the courage to fail while being creative. Bill believes that fear can keep people from failing towards success. I really jive with this philosophy and have experienced this in my life again and again.
“Tick, Tick, Tick”
One of the fun parts of doing an improv class is, when else does one get the chance to hand a ticking “bomb” to a fellow human and have them react realistically, without blowing up? I felt like a character from my favorite Bugs Bunny cartoon.
I have done some improv work before with my friend and acting coach, Joshua Galtisky of the “Sacred Actor” and “A Lit Sky Productions”, where I did two collaborative plays. Improvisational work taught be to trust my instincts, make bold choices and even inspired me to write. I have found this work invaluable in making me who I am in my “second act’ of life.
When I walked into the Actor’s Improv Studio on the night of my first class, I was welcomed by a group of actors who all knew each other. However, I did not feel any sort of strangeness and they quickly allowed me into their conversation which was full of laughter and silliness. They were my kind of people! Class started with warm up exercises and I found myself jumping right in with both feet and doing things that made me push my boundaries. I especially liked passing the invisible object around. This activity used a skill that is invaluable to me as a writer and web designer. Creating a tangible thing from the ether.
Throughout the 3 hour class I was struck over and over with moments of…”S#!@, am I going to be able to do this one?” Each and every time I surprised myself and my fellow classmates reacted positively to some of my choices in different scenarios we were placed in. It was also nice to be able to see the skills of these actors who have been honing their comic timing and spontaneous dialog for a long time. It was inspiring!
Bill is committed to working with individuals to determine what it is they really need to help them get better at these skills and focus on their strengths. His approach to feedback used humor and firm clear compassionate coaching. There are no class levels, which is unique in the LA area. He truly feels that it is important for the experienced improv students learn from the inexperienced and vs/vs.
Whether you just want to dip your toe in these waters or dive right in, The Actor’s Improv Studio has a variety of options. Classes are capped at 10-12 students to keep the intimacy and allow time for one on one feedback. You may even get to opportunity watch film of yourself and laugh and cringe with the group. This part was invaluable.
Improv Classes: The Monday and Tuesday night class focuses on Improv as a tool for people to learn to trust their instincts, be spontaneous and make strong choices. These are great classes for people who want to learn how to improvise and access their creativity. These classes are on-going.
- Classes are Monday,or Tuesday or Thursday nights in NoHo 7:30p.m. – 10:30p.m.
- Price: $180.00 per month for one class a week, or take two classes a week for only $270.00
Improv for Everyone: Thursday night class is taking on a new focus – an improv class geared more for new or inexperienced improvisors who want to grow and develop their skills! These classes are great for helping people embrace their creative impulses and have some fun!
- Classes are Thursday nights in NoHo 7:30p.m. – 10:30p.m.
- Price: $180.00 per month
Improv For Commercials: This intensive, informative four week workshop teaches the art of using improvisation as it relates specifically and practically to commercial auditioning. You don’t have to know anything about improvising to take advantage of this class! Booking commercials is about making great choices – and improvising helps you make great choices.
- Classes are Wednesday nights in NoHo 7:00p.m. – 10:00p.m.
There are often guest speakers and private coaching is available. For info you can go to the website OR click and email them at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.
Try it on for Size
Taken a million and 2 Improv classes and don’t want to commit to one without tasting the fare first? Well, Bill has created an appetizer for you! Email or call to schedule a FREE PARTICIPATING AUDIT . Yep. That’s right! FREE. You can’t beat that and I am willing to bet you will not regret taking 3 hours of your life to try it out. I know I will be taking more classes to keep myself fresh and ready for whatever comes my way. It was also great fun and the talent in the room was fantastic! Are you ready to use your fear and anxiety over Improv to make magic? Maybe I will see you in class! Location: 10707 Magnolia Blvd. North Hollywood, CA 91601
Phone: (818) 790-3413