UCB Improv: Is it for you?
I did some improv work in college, random classes, that kinda thing. When I got my first agent in LA they highly recommended having a well know school on my resume. So after a hard vetting process and a ton of research, I picked iOWest (that's a huge lie, I just liked that they had a bar in the school/theatre). I had a good time there, it was very low stress and one of the first classes I'd been to that didn't require homework outside of class (other than seeing 3 shows, which is pretty standard for improv class). I had to miss the final performance however because I got booked for some job I don't remember. Regardless, a fun experience.
Last year I decided to try a new one out because I hadn't been "in class" for a hot minute. UCB is so widely known for gems like Amy Pholer, Matt Besser, Kate McKinnon, and a shit ton more. So with that hot ticket in mind, it is a really hot resume builder. A year later I finally got my shit together to take the next level. At the end of July, I graduated from the 201 level. I had a lot of actors ask me about it so I thought I'd give you a full post on what this particular school was like, and whether it's worth the money for you.
So here's whats up...
Improv class: $499 (like....just say it's $500)
Time commitment: I did the once a week 3-hour class, 8 weeks in length, but there are also intensive classes where you complete the whole thing in a week...who has the time?!
Structure: Your teacher takes you through the UCB Improv way, they have specific lessons they are to teach you each week. It's pretty structured and the main thing that differs teacher to teacher is verbiage and coaching styles. I highly recommend looking for a teacher that is light easy to laugh. I had a substitute in one class who was so dry and stone-faced, we all felt like we sucked the entire time and tried wayyyy too hard.
Outside Work: seeing a minimum of 3 shows, which are free with your student ID. Con: most shows are late at night, so if you're someone who goes to bed early (ME) you can see other classes graduation shows which are at all times of the day.
"Graduating" and/or Moving Up: there are 4 levels in UCB Improv. In the first, you just learn to be free in scenes, listen, play, and be present on stage. After that, you learn and build on the UCB Harold system of "game" so it gets more mentally challenging (but way more entertaining). To graduate from your class and move on to other levels, you have to miss two classes or less, have seen your 3 show minimum, and perform in your assigned class Graduation Show.
So here are my thoughts...I really liked it. It was really freeing to not be judged on your acting but instead just "play". I decided to check out the second level this summer to have a deeper understanding of their work and spend some time thinking a little less while performing. There is NO better place to practice your listening skills. You literally only have the words that come out of your or your partner's mouth to build the scene, so if you're not listening and thinking FAST, your scene dies a sad and confusing death. I think this is also a great class to get into if you miss doing theatre...but don't actually want to do theatre. Being on stage is the greatest feeling and being reminded of that really felt incredible.
In terms of the negatives, it's expensive. Although it runs on par for the average cost of a monthly acting class, it's a lot up front and continues to cost per level. Also, if you take a class during evening hours, parking there is a bitch so you have to pay $5 to valet your car (valeting your car for improv class is the most LA sentence I've ever written by the way). Shows are free to attend but they are mostly at late evening hours (another time to pay to park) and aren't sure convenient if you work at 6 am like yours truly.
So basically if you're thinking about spending some dollars and getting a resume booster while having a pretty good time, I would recommend you try them out. They also have Sketch classes if you want to up your writing game...that may or may not be on my wish-list too.
Have you taken improv class here or elsewhere? Let me know and let's discuss the different styles! I had no idea how precise all the schools were!