Discover the Best Improv Classes in NYC
Improvisational theatre, better known as improv, is a form of ensemble theatre that is spontaneous. The performance itself is both unplanned and unscripted. The dialogue, actions, storyline, and characters are all developed as the scene unfolds. It is not always comedic but often is, making improv popular among comedians.
Improv in the West can be traced back to ancient Rome, in 391 BC, where it was performed as part of the Atellan Farce. These comedy performances involved masked performers who improvised dialogue using pre-planned characters. Improv continued to develop as street performers used it to show off their quick, comedic thinking to earn money.
In the 20th century, improv was professionally developed. Styles like improv games (short form), improv scenes (long form), and improvised plays (narrative form) were developed. Improv-focused comedy clubs formed and in the later 20th century and early 21st century, improv-based television shows began airing. Improv is now a desired skill among theatre actors, so it has become a part of many drama curriculums.
Today improv remains a popular form of live entertainment. It is an accessible activity due to the low barriers of entry, making it an activity enjoyed by many. You can take in-person or online improv classes to learn the basic principles, or you can turn to free resources online. There are plenty of on-demand tutorials that teach you the basics of improv like listening and spontaneity. Television shows where hosts engage in improv games in front of a live audience are available online that you can watch as a form of demonstration.
Why You Should Learn Improv in NYC
Whether you’re looking to learn improv because you want to begin theatre acting or because you would like to improve your interpersonal skills, there are many benefits to taking an improv class in NYC.
Improv is a great activity for anyone dealing with stage fright or a fear of public speaking. It requires you to create a storyline and character in front of a live audience in real time, encouraging quick thinking. Since there is no script or pre-planned dialogue, you must rely on yourself to come up with ideas that fit the scene. This can all seem intimidating at first, but with enough practice, you’ll grow to be more comfortable and confident in performing in front of others.
With improv, you’ll learn to face failure. This may come from not knowing how to continue a scene or not creating a character that works well within the scene. It’s okay to fail in improv. In fact, instances of failure will only help you improve your improv abilities as you learn from your mistakes. Once you move past your fear of failing, you can focus more of your attention on the principles of developing an entertaining scene.
Improv also provides mental benefits. It has been shown to reduce social anxiety by reducing uncertainty intolerance. When you’re uncertain about a situation, it can cause anxiety. By engaging in improv, you’ll be working on becoming more comfortable in uncertain situations. As you become accustomed to reacting to uncertain situations, you’ll begin to feel less anxiety when placed in them in the future.
In-Person Improv Classes & Schools in NYC
In-person improv classes are offered at schools across New York City. They are typically open to learners of all levels, from beginner, to intermediate, to advanced. These classes can introduce you to others with an interest in improv and allow you to work with an experienced instructor who will guide you through the principles of improv and scene work.
In Manhattan, just blocks from Madison Square Park, is The Magnet Training Center, which offers several improv classes. If you’re just getting started with improv, you have the option of taking their Principles of Improv class. Principles of Improv throws you right into gaining improv experience, as you work your way through warm-up-style improv games. You’ll then work on two-person scenes, before advancing to group scenes, group games, and even monologues.
Another beginner class at The Magnet Training Center is their Improv Intensive. This level-one class puts you onstage immediately, making it perfect for fearless learners. You will explore the fundamentals of improvisation with a partner while working on exercises based on the concepts of agreement, commitment, spontaneity, and listening. This class is particularly focused on turning you into a confident performer. At the end of the class, you will perform in front of friends and family at a class graduation performance.
If you take the first two level improv intensives, you can move on to the Improv Level Three Intensive. This advanced-level class teaches the fundamentals of long-form improv, also known as the Harold format. Once you’ve mastered this fun and simple format, you’ll perform a Harold in your class graduation show in front of friends and family. If you have a teenager that you’d like to enroll in an improv class, The Magnet Training Center has a class called Improv for Teens. This is a fundamental course for teens aged 12 through 17.
You can take classes in a variety of acting and theatre techniques at the Barrow Group Acting School in Hell’s Kitchen. They often update their schedule with adult improv classes that teach the fundamentals of improv. Their more advanced improv classes teach long-form improv basics and techniques. If you’d like to learn how to improve character development in your improv scenes, consider taking one of their playwriting classes.
The Barrow Group Acting School also holds classes for teens and tweens. If you’re looking to enroll your child in a class alongside your own, they have multiple options focusing on improv among other acting and theatre classes. These include introductory improv and sketch comedy classes as well as a summer camp. The last day of these classes is open to family and friends.
Virtual Improv Classes & Schools
In-person improv classes are a great way to get hands-on instruction while also witnessing demonstrations up close. Attending in-person classes can also be a good way to socialize and make friends with other people that have an interest in improv.
However, in-person classes are not always available in your area or may not fit into your schedule. If this is the case, consider checking out virtual improv classes. These remote classes can be attended from anywhere, including your own home. They are taught by an experienced live instructor and are focused on a variety of aspects of improv. Remote classes can also be more comfortable for some people because you are performing through a screen rather than directly in front of others.
There are a few online improv classes available for you to take on CourseHorse.
Beginners looking to learn improv while also socializing in a fun and friendly environment should check out the class Improvise, Socialize, Revitalize. This one-hour class, offered by Kissin Improv, is led by an instructor who will offer feedback as you practice your improv skills. If you’d like to take a longer course, this class is also offered in a four-session format. Not only will you be able to practice your improv skills, but you will work toward mastering the principles of improv that can help you in any work, performance, or social situation.
Additional improv classes are offered online throughout the year. Check back on CourseHorse regularly to see their updated schedule of new and returning improv classes. Previously offered online classes have taught the principles of improv while also encouraging participants to work on improving their confidence and communication skills.
Private Group Improv Classes in NYC
Are you looking to schedule a fun improv class for your business or organization? Does your team need a fun activity that will help them work on their communication and ability to collaborate? CourseHorse offers improv classes for private groups that they can deliver to you.
Their virtual Team-Building Improv Workshop accommodates up to 40 participants looking to work on strengthening their abilities as a team to listen, collaborate, and problem-solve. You and your group will work through improv games and exercises and leave the workshop with a better ability to communicate with each other effectively and make quick decisions individually and as a team.
Smaller groups of up to 20 people can sign up for the virtual Corporate Improv Workshop. This class encourages you to gain confidence in yourself as you work through comedic improv games and exercises. You and your group members will create funny scenes together as a way of practicing collaboration.
CourseHorse also offers a class called Public Speaking through Stand-up. This online class is taught by a professional comedian and focuses on developing better public speaking skills. Your group will do this by working on creating funny jokes that can be told in a stand-up routine.
If these classes don’t meet your group’s needs or interests, you can reach out to CourseHorse through the contact form on their website. They can work with you to determine what class does meet your needs and size. Their classes can accommodate varying group sizes. If you don’t know your group size when signing up for a class, you can select the minimum group size before updating the number before your class.
CourseHorse classes may be delivered over a variety of platforms, but they recommend using Zoom.