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Hello Friends all over the world! Our next session of Online Classes at Florida Studio Theatre started this week with a full slate of Improv, Storytelling, and Sketch classes over Zoom. You can register via our website at https://ift.tt/3ezdo8F or by contacting Josh Ford at 941.366.1350, jford@floridastudiotheatre.org. Prices can be pro-rated for classes that have already started and many scholarships are available. Below is a list of classes I’m teaching. Come join me! MONDAYS Improv 401: Intro to Long Form Online, 7-9PM EST, $149/8-Week Session WEDNESDAYS Improv 601: Free-Form Online, 5-7PM EST, $149/8-Week Session Comedic Storytelling 301, Online 7-9PM EST, $149/8-Week Session THURSDAYS Improv 201: Finding the Funny Online, 7-9PM EST, $149/8-Week Session I hope to “see you” in Class! Will Luera https://ift.tt/1ihBTd9

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Stand-up debut tonight!!! I’ve been doing Improv Comedy professionally for 22 years, Sketch Comedy on and off for about 20 years, Comedic Storytelling for about 15 years but I never did Stand-up…until tonight! Sarasota Friends, come watch me at the McCurdys Comedy Theatre Open Mic tonight at 9pm as I debut my first 5 minutes in front of a live audience. Come by and say Hi! Will Luera http://bit.ly/1ihBTd9

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Sarasota Friends! The next session of Florida Studio Theatre Improv classes begins next week and I am teaching a bunch of classes! All information is below. To register please contact Pam Smith at psmith@floridastudiotheatre.org or 941-366-1350. If you have any questions, please let me know. Thanks! —————————————– MONDAYS 7pm Improv 501: Narrative Long-Form – Will Luera, Studio C • Building off of Level 401, students will evolve from game-based play to narrative play. They will explore a handful of core forms that help develop the single world of nature of Narrative Long-Form. Students will learn how to create a world, develop characters, and perform stories over a series of scenes. TUESDAYS 11am Brain Games – Will Luera, Studio A • Boost brain power and enhance memory while exploring the spontaneity of improv! Students will explore creativity, build self-confidence, and collaborate with others all while playing popular improv games. Led by professional FST Teaching Artists, students will engage in a variety of exercises and games that are sure to get bodies and minds moving. WEDNESDAYS 2pm Improv for Everyone – Will Luera, Studio A • Discover the freedom of spontaneity and prepare to laugh! Improv for Everyone will teach students to think quickly on their feet, explore creativity, hone their comedic voice, and build self-confidence. Over the eight-week course, students will focus on the tenets of improvisation by learning how to play together, make others look good, be confident, support each other, and have fun, all while learning some of the classic improv games made famous by shows like “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” By the end of the session, every student will learn they already have what it takes to improvise successfully both onstage and off. THURSDAYS 7pm Improv Academy: The Improvised Movie – Will Luera, Studio C • A workshop that focuses on the unique improvised movie format. Learn how to translate movie edits and terminology to the improv stage so that you can put on your own unique improvised movie. The workshop will look at how to execute various different camera shots, genres and special effects using only the tools of improvisation. The class is modeled after the successful show, “Blue Screen” which has been showcased at several festivals including the Del Close Marathon. Will Luera http://bit.ly/1ihBTd9

ImprovBoston and the Summer of ’98

After having received the news from Artistic Director Ron Jones at a TheatreSports show on Friday night, I showed up at the Inman Square space the next Monday night ready for my first rehearsal. I have vivid memories of alums Brian Robel, Aaron Crutchfield, Eddie Mejia, Jan Davidson, Greg Wymer and Michelle Proude hanging out before rehearsal as Ron, Eric Gearheart and Mat Gagne worked on one of the lighting instruments. One of only four lights the theater had at the time. Along with Don and Amy, this was to be my new performing family.

Back then, the ImprovBoston cast performed on Fridays at 8pm and Saturdays at 8pm and 10pm. The shows were great but the size of the audiences didn’t necessarily reflect that. We were cancelling half of our shows and when we weren’t, we were at maybe 50-60 percent capacity. Then, something serendipitous happened.

In the late 90’s, the show “Whose line is it anyway?” made the jump from the UK and was becoming very popular in the US. I feel like you could see it on four different channels at any given time. It was verbally funny, physically hilarious, family friendly and with just enough sexual innuendo to keep all types of audiences interested. It was perfect. Thanks to “Whose Line”, the public became re-aware of live improvisational comedy and of how much fun it could be while also setting a new bar for the improv comedy ensembles around the country, like ImprovBoston.

Beginning the spring of 1998, with audiences emerging from hibernation after the winter, ImprovBoston started to become a very popular destination. Audiences wanted to see those same games that they saw on television and we wanted to meet the demand. Ron Jones ironed out the basics so that we became a more orderly crew and the cast at that time gelled at the perfect time.

I’ll never forget the summer of 1998. We were slowly moving away from cancelling half of our shows to having consistently sold out houses. While the cast had about ten members at the time, there was a core of us that was there just about every weekend performing every show. Don, Amy and I were still the newbies of that core; Brian Robel added handsome acrobatics; Mat Gagne played an amazingly diverse array of characters; Greg Wymer had a depth of knowledge that was able to make a connection with any suggestion that was thrown at us; Eric Gearheart was the everyman landscaper who would sweat through two shirts in every show; and the newest member was Jen Kirkman, an attractive young actress with a rapid-fire sense of humor.

We felt like superstars! We went from cancelling half our shows to having consistently full houses. Our touring gigs went up, more classes were being taught, everyone wanted to see and do improv and we were one of the main places to do just that. We put on some amazing shows that summer that became a catapult for the success yet to come for ImprovBoston.

Meet…Don Schuerman

The best performer I’ve ever had the privilege of working with is Don Schuerman.

I’ve known Don since 1994 and have been performing with him for almost as long and I have never worked with someone who is such a complete comedian. Actor/Director/writer/musician, the man can do it all and do it well; on top of that, he is one of the smartest performers I’ve ever seen on stage; AND ON TOP OF THAT, he is an amazing and generous human being.

“Play at the top of your knowledge” is a borrowed phrase that has been bouncing around the improv world for a couple of decades at least. I first heard it in 1999 from Joe Bill and he later refocused that same idea with the note to “Play at the top of your integrity”. As a director, when I say “play at the top of your knowledge”, I’m fully aware that the upper knowledge threshold is something different for each one of us. We all enter the stage with different experiences and knowledge bases. That’s what makes improvisation amazing; to make it successful we create a world that is a meeting point of our mutual ideas. No two scenes can ever be the same because who you are at any moment in time is completely different from who you were the last time you did a scene. It’s one of improv’s uncertainty principles. For me, playing at the top of your knowledge is not about playing snobby uppity intellectuals, it’s about playing characters who are trying to get through their world the best way they know how.

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I try to keep abreast of as many topics as possible. Some things will stay in my brain for a while…other facts are more transitional and leave a few days or even hours after I try to force them into a mind crevice. Some of us are just able to retain and regurgitate an amazing amount of information…Don is one of those guys. He is a walking encyclopedia/dictionary/Human Search Engine on an amazing amount of subjects. Regardless of the suggestion from the audience, you know that Don is going to have at the very least an idea of what it is.

However, regardless of the number of references he can drop in a scene, there is still a basic skill that he utilizes that anyone of us can learn from. He makes a scene real by painting it with grounded details and interesting facts. He doesn’t smother a scene with references…he merely drops enough specificity to make the scene real for the audience and the actors. With Don, you can do a scene almost anywhere in the world at any point in time and he will be able to stitch a detailed reality.

Anyone can define a who, what, where and have it be supported by some edits that paint the scene. The true skill is to be able to lay down references and facts that draw upon our collective knowledge to then paint the scene in the mind’s eye. This is what Don does very well. Then, once the scene is set, he digs even further into his knowledge base to build out the relationship of the characters. His attention to detail in a scene is so exquisite that you feel that if you were to commit any more to the scene, you would will the reality of the scene into our dimension.

Many directors advise that you should immerse yourself in as much knowledge as possible. As a young improviser I bought several cultural reference books just so that I could know a little bit about everything. These days, the internet, twitter, facebook and RSS feeds makes it a lot easier to cultivate news and data. I think that the knowledge immersion advice will always be applicable…but I personally believe that you should go further. Don’t just develop your referential and factual knowledge but also develop your experiential knowledge. Force yourself to try new things that build upon your existing comfort zone. Force your brain to have to learn and comprehend a new emotional context or frame of reference. Break your routine, try something new, force yourself to engage in a new environment with new people and raise your upper threshold of experiential knowledge.

I have found that my clearest and longest lasting memories are the ones that lie right outside of my routines. New places I visit, unique meals, people I meet create a fresh foundation in my brain and tend to stay there a little bit longer. These are now fresh pieces of information that I can draw upon later. I can do scenes about cooking Burmese food and road-trips in Alabama because now, I’ve done both of them. If I ever have scenes that will require any of that information, it is there for me to use.

Developing your knowledge and breaking your routine helps you further realize the importance of patterns. You start to see that patterns aren’t just something that exist on stage within a warm-up exercise, scene or a 25-minute set. Patterns begin before your set and continue after it. There are behaviors, situations, relationships, people that exist all over the world that are part of the same patterns and with an increased experiential knowledge base, you can make those more universal connections. It’s this pattern recognition that resonates deeply with the audience because those are the patterns that they identify with in the real world. It’s when we’re able to find and explore those universal patterns that speak to larger truths that improv elevates to a special place that is at the same time hilarious, magical and profound. Like Don Schuerman.