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Class Descriptions

Our Improv Core Curriculum gives students the opportunity to immerse themselves in our signature style of theatrical, emotionally-grounded, improv comedy. Our Music Improv Curriculum offers students the most comprehensive Music Improv training in NYC. We also host a variety of classes outside the two Core Curricula as well as programs designed specifically for business organizations, children, and teens.

The Improv Core Curriculum

The Improv Core Curriculum consists of four levels. Levels I and II introduce students to the building blocks of improvisation and the techniques of successful scenework. Level III consists of multiple Core Elective courses—shorter courses that focus on more specific topics like physical characterization, building narrative, etc.—and students are encouraged to enroll in multiple Electives at the same time. Level IV is a performance workshop that teaches students the Chicago City Limits show.

Improv Level I: The Basics
“Say Yes to Saying Yes”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $350

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
This class focuses on the basics of comedic improvisation. Students learn how to initiate scenes, build upon their scene partners' offers, and create scenes with a solid foundation. Topics covered include: agreement (“yes and”); active listening; using the environment; basic narrative skills; understanding stage status; and making your fellow improviser look good.

Improv Level II: Intermediate Scenework
“Making A Scene”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $350

Prerequisites: Completion of Improv Level I or permission of Training Center staff.
Course Description: This class focuses entirely on the nuances of scenic improvisation. Students do scene after scene, learning to look for connections and patterns that give the scenes depth. Topics covered include: emotional and status initiations; using external game to enhance narrative while avoiding its pitfalls; finding the internal game of a scene; how to recognize the “what” and the “underlying truth” of a scene; and narrative pacing and resolution.

Improv Level III: Advanced Skills Workshop
“Honing Skills”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $350

Prerequisites: Completion of Improv Level II or permission of Training Center staff.
Course Description: Take your skills to the next level with this advanced improv class. Scenes, narrative techniques and improvised music skills are explored. Character work focuses on creating compelling, believable characters. Class culminates in a public performance on the CCL stage.

Improv Level III: Improv Core Electives
4 Weeks / 3 Hours - $250

Prerequisites: Completion of Improv Level II or permission of Training Center staff.

Storytelling Workshop – “The True Story”
Course Description: This class focuses on story telling. Students learn to create strong stories in any improvisational context, from conducted stories to scenes to full musicals. Topics covered include: creating strong and detailed platforms; identifying a significant event; finding and resolving conflict; using reincorporation to build patterns within a narrative; and crafting simple, satisfying resolutions.

Character Workshop – “Who Are You?”
Course Description: This class focuses on how to create strong, compelling characters based on emotion and relationship to the environment. Students expand their character palate by strengthening their existing repertoire and learning how to instantly create strong, specific new characters. Topics covered include: physicalization of emotion and status; creating reality-based characters on the spot; committing to spontaneous character choices; and responding emotionally in character.

Physical Workshop – “Body of Work”
Course Description: This class focuses on how to use the actor’s instruments—the body and voice—in an improvisational context. Topics covered will include: creating character from a physical attribute; using the body to imply status; advanced environment work; and improvisational choreography.

Scenework Workshop – “SOS: Save Our Scene”
Course Description: OK, you’ve done all the right things. You established an environment, set up a compelling relationship, didn’t block, agreed on everything, found the “game,” and still the scene went nowhere. Now what? Help is on the way. At Chicago City Limits, actors perform over 300 shows a year. This class taps into the skills and techniques these seasoned improv pros have developed to help right the ship. You will be shown ways to ground a scene in reality, lift the level of excitement and anticipation, heighten relationships and discover endings to scenes that are compelling and satisfying. These are not a series of quick tricks and old jokes, but good solid improvisational techniques that breathe new life into scenes.

Improv Level IV: Performance Workshop
“The CCL Show”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $350

Prerequisites: Completion of at least 2 Improv Level III workshops.
Course Description:
This class teaches the scenic forms that appear in the Chicago City Limits show. Topics covered include: learning to play the scene, not the game; using external games to your advantage; making instant connections (in forms like Jeopardy and Torture the Actor); and how to master pacing for an extended show.
NOTE: This class is a feeder class to our National Touring Company. Class performance will be attended by some or all CCL Directors.

 

The Music Improv Core Curriculum

The Music Improv Core Curriculum also consists of four levels. Levels I and II give students a grounding in the basics of song-building, melody and structure. Level III consists of multiple Core Elective Courses—focusing on topics like songwriting from improv, constructing more complex rhymes, etc.—and students are encouraged to enroll in multiple Electives at the same time. Level IV teaches students the music of the CCL show, including improvising full-length musicals.

Music Improv Level I: The Basics
“Making Melody”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $295

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
This class focuses on building a strong foundation for the basics of musical improvisation. Topics covered include: creating organic melodies; how to remember a melody once it’s created; understanding and differentiating the common sections of song structure (verse, chorus, pre-chorus, bridge); and how to kick a rhyme’s behind.

Music Improv Level II: Beyond The Basics
“Sing, Sing a Song”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $350

Prerequisites: Completion of Music Improv Level I or permission of Training Center staff.
Course Description:
This class focuses on the use of advanced song structures in building solid foundations for musical improvisation. Topics covered include: understanding song and rhyme structure; the tagline song; the duet; the trio; the opening number; the plot-song; the metaphor song; and the game song.

Music Improv Level III: Music Improv Core Electives
4 Weeks / 3 Hours - $250

Prerequisites: Completion of Music Improv Level II or permission of Training Center staff.

Rhyme Workshop – “Sublime Rhyme Time”
Course Description: This class focuses on rhyme. Students learn techniques to ease the fear of the rhyme “not showing up”. Topics covered include: how to avoid looking for the "right" rhyme; various rhyme structures; internal rhyme; and delaying rhyme.

Sondheim Song Workshop – “Sondheimprov” or “Into the Words”
Course Description: This class focuses on improvising in the style of Stephen Sondheim, whose complex use of rhyme and melody can be used to enhance song structure and content. Topics covered include: expanding the rhyme structure; delaying the obvious choice; working with a wider melodic palate; and using melody to enhance thematic material.

Songwriting Workshop – “Songwriting from Improvisation”
Course Description:
This class focuses on how to write songs using musical improvisation as a creative tool. Students record and perform songs in various styles and structures, and are given a finished CD following the session. Lyricists and instrumentalists have the option of working in pairs.

Improv Pianist Workshop – “The Keys to the Keys”
Additional Prerequisite: Basic–advanced piano skills and permission of the instructor.
Course Description: This class is for piano players wishing to play throughout the improv community. Topics covered include: underscoring; supporting the pace and energy of a live performance; setting up a clear musical progression; understanding song structure; how to help push toward the end of a song; and how to make stylistic and thematic choices. Students will work with improvisational singers from the CCL roster as well as students from the upper level music classes, creating songs with a strong sense of structure.
NOTE: Individual students may be hired to play for performances by other classes and/or the CCL National Touring Company.

Music Improv Level IV: Performance Workshop
“The CCL Musical”
8 Weeks / 3 Hours - $350

Prerequisites: Completion of at least 2 Music Improv Level III workshops.
Course Description:
This class teaches the musical forms that appear in the Chicago City Limits show. Topics covered include: how to perform the CCL Musical; how to create a Blues verse; and how to create a verse in a musical narrative structure such as Paddy McGee.
NOTE: This class is a feeder class to our National Touring Company. Class performance will be attended by some or all CCL Directors.

 

Non-Core Courses

 


Teen Improv Intensives
5-Day: 10am-4pm, $525

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
Teen Improv Intensive classes are designed for kids 12-17 with or without prior theatre or improv experience. Students will have the opportunity to explore their abilities as performers, improve self-confidence, and just have fun. They will learn techniques of improv with some on New York’s finest improv performers, creating material from their own experience and outside suggestions, to be exhibited on the final day of class in a performance for family and friends.

 

Improv for Actors I
"Facing the Actor's Nightmare"
8 week / 3 hour - $350

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
This class focuses on improvisational techniques that actors can use in auditions and when working with text scripts. Through classwork and assignments, students gain the confidence and skills needed to face the unexpected in auditions and cold readings, create three-dimensional characters on the spot, and book the jobs they've been missing. Topics covered include: how to immediately personalize and strongly deliver copy; establishing “ownership” over material; creating character history through improvisation; and how to keep repeated material feeling fresh.

Improv for Actors II
"Playing Comedy"
8 week / 3 hour - $350

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
This course, designed for improvisers and actors alike, explores various types of comedic theatre. Students read and perform scenes from Shakespeare, Chekhov, Shaw, Durang and others with a focus on developing their uses of language and character. Highly recommended for upper-level improvisation students and actors who want to explore different theatrical uses of comedy.

Improv for Business Professionals
"Think Quick!"
4 week / 3 hour - $250

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
What do people working in a business environment and improv actors have in common? Lots of things! To be successful both have to adapt quickly to an ever-changing landscape, make quick and informed decisions, and express their ideas clearly with skill and confidence. In short, they must work at the top of their intelligence and creativity. The basic tools of improv actors—listening, thinking out-of-the-box and building upon ideas—are essential skills for anyone working in a business environment. Improv for Business Professionals provides students with tangible skills for success in a business environment. The class focuses on key techniques used by improvisers to generate ideas, organize them, and present them in a cogent, compelling manner, along with ways to optimize working in a group. The class is engaging, informative and fun. It is ideal for anyone in law, advertising, finance, publishing, education, or any field where a creative approach can spell success.

Masterclass Workshop
"Buffet-Style"
8 week / 3 hour - $350

Prerequisites: Permission of instructor.
Course Description:
Upper-level students will work with a series of instructors on a variety of improvisational skills such as narrative forms, musical improvisation, character development, and advanced scene work. An ideal class for students looking to diagnose the strengths and weaknesses in their game and recieve feedback from a variety of seasoned improv pros.

Intensive Sketch Writing Workshop
"Putting Pen to Page"
2-Day: 10am-4pm Sat-Sun - $250

Prerequisites: None.
Course Description:
This two-day intensive focuses on the key components for the creation of sketch material. Throughout the session, the core concepts of improvisation will be used to unlock creativity, discover new approaches, alter perceptions, overcome obstacles, and affect an audience. This class seeks to fulfill two goals: (1) the completion of a strong first draft of a "performance ready" sketch, and (2) a clear understanding by the student of the process so they can create additional sketches on their own.

The Playground

1 Day / 3 hours

Prerequisites: Has taken a CCL class before.
Course Description:
Play nicely with others! Playground provides CCL students with an opportunity to work with other improvisers.  These 1 day, 3-hour sessions are open to all CCL students, and are a great opportunity to keep skills fresh between regular class sessions, work with new people and gain input from other instructors.