So you say you’re looking to push your improv skills to a whole new level, while perhaps even pushing the proverbial envelope? We all know the Second City and iO training centers are great places to get your chops, but if you wanna get ‘em busted, too, why not explore the curriculum offered by The Annoyance Theatre in Uptown. What’s that? You didn’t know they offered classes? It’s true. Their marketing department may leave something to be desired, but their quality of instruction certainly does not. The program is run by Chicago comedy legend and Artistic Director Mick Napier, and offers a curriculum in both scenic improvisation and comedy writing. They also have a teen improv course and special offerings and workshops throughout the year in such topics as music improv or comic book writing.
The improv program features five different levels, from beginner to advanced, with a capstone performance at the end of the fifth level. According to the the course description on their website, the first level, AP1, covers scene initiation, environment, object work, and beginning character development. AP2 highlights scenic relationships to environment, other characters, self, and general character development. In AP3, the focus is on scenic development, scenic elements, styles, and individual feedback and goals. AP4 provides intensive individual feedback, performance goals, identifying and breaking patterns and habits, and multiple-person scene work. And finally, AP5 offers intensive individual feedback, ensemble development, a class performance at the end of the term, and performance feedback.
The writing classes at Annoyance are unique in that, unlike other training centers, the writing students are crafting sketches they themselves will perform in a show after the final level of the program. This mimics the process of the most heralded sketch comedy teams in town, from those that appear at the Annoyance itself to the casts of the Second City’s e.t.c and Mainstage shows. The writing program offers three levels. As described on the Annoyance site, Writing 1 focuses on comedic theory, idea generation (including the use of improvisation), the basics of writing for performance (dialogue, characters, scenic formatting and structure) as well as an introduction to the tenets of live performance. Emphasis is placed on understanding the mechanics of theatrical scenes, character development and the student’s practical creative process.
Writing Two builds on Writing One with an increased focus on the individual student: writing for yourself and performing your own work. Students develop their own characters and material, as well as begin to work collaboratively on joint projects. Additional emphasis is placed on the ability to revise material, as well as staging material they have created. Writing Three is the construction of a show. Students are led by a teacher/director through the process of creating ideas, developing written scenes, rehearsing, and ultimately performing a show at the Annoyance Theatre. They work individually and collaboratively to generate, hone and produce scenes and short plays; culminating with their live performance in front of an audience.
If you studied at Second City, you’ll probably recognize that the course offerings at Annoyance are a little lighter on the wallet, but you’ll also immediately notice a difference in course content and the style of instruction, as well. Say goodbye to the performance games, bid adieu to performance styles like iO’s “Harold.” Annoyance emphasizes one thing: scenic improvisation. And the first rule of Annoyance improv is… there are no rules.
Registration for the fall term is currently underway. The Annoyance Studio Space is located on the second floor of 4802 N. Broadway in Uptown. Class information is available at 773.561.4664 or on the Annoyance website.
Venue: The Annoyance Theatre