The Horizon West Theater Company is offering classes for those looking to improve their funny side.
The company will be hosting improv classes from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. on June 26 and July 10. The first class was held June 19 after press time, but the following classes are open and available for individuals ages 16 and older.
Courtney Robicheaux, instructor of the improv classes, also is the treasurer and a board member for the HWTC. A thespian since she was a teenager, Robicheaux, 36, took her first improv class in high school.
“Basically, the art of improv is acting without a script,” Robicheaux said. “There’s games that are played (to teach improv). You learn the games, and then you act out scenes based on the game rules without a script.”
Robicheaux said there are myriad games used to teach improv. One of the first lessons of the HWTC improv class involves the art of storytelling, and one of the most common improv games is a collaborative, story-telling game where one person starts a story and others add to it to create a full story.
“Every story has a beginning, middle and end,” Robicheaux said. “With improv, obviously, it is timed. Some of the games are really short. Some of the games are longer, so you need to be able to tell that beginning, middle and end within that time construct. … We start off with simple (games) like telling a story one sentence at a time within a lined-up group of people.
“It really shows how creative people can be,” she said. “If you do the scene correctly — you do your beginning, middle and end — (and) you play the games, then that is actually more satisfying than what we call ‘saying a gag line,’ because it is very easy to make a funny line and say something out of the blue to make somebody laugh. But, it could actually … kill the scene. There’s no progression forward just because that person said something funny.”
Learning about improv goes well beyond comedy and even can teach some useful life skills. The nature of improv forces someone to think creatively and react quickly under pressure. The collaborative aspect of improv also teaches people about teamwork and communication, Robicheaux said.
“What the class actually does is to help people start to learn quicker on their feet and get their imaginations and creative juices going,” she said. “It helps a lot socially, too, because it’s kind of (about) the art of conversation and how you engage with other people. … Does it help you think on your feet better? Absolutely. Will it help you meet new people? Absolutely. Will it help you develop your comedic talent? Absolutely. Those are all positives of improv.”
Robicheaux added the way she teaches improv doesn’t strictly focus on comedy but rather on the art of improv itself. She also said for thespians and aspiring actors, improv is a good way to improve upon one’s acting abilities.
“It’s just a different way to develop your art (in) theater,” she said. “You’re breaking out of a scene. You’re developing your own characters without having to read (about them) first.”
The improv class is just one of the many programs the HWTC will be offering over summer. The theater company also is hosting workshops on auditioning, musical theater dance and more.