I am so blessed to know Laura Hall and have been studying Musical Improv with her. Laura and her husband, Rick Hall, teach musical improv at theatres, festivals, comedy clubs, and universities around the world. In Part One of our podcast, we chat about her passion for music and how she took a pay cut when she went from waitress to musical director at Second City. We mention some mutual friends like Jane Morris, who directed the first show she created at Second City., and Deana Criess Tolliver, who introduced me to Musical Improv. Part Two of our talk covers the challenges of teaching musical improv online and her upcoming video classes, which teach musicians how to play with improv groups, like what she does on Whose Line.
Join me and meet acting and writing coach Aretha Sills, who comes from improvisational theater royalty. Her grandmother was Viola Spolin, the “mother” of improv, and her father Paul Sills started The Second City. Her mother, Carol Sills, was the editor of Viola Spolin’s “Improvisation for the Theater” and worked with Paul on many of his shows and productions. Hear Aretha talk about her father and the work he did in Door County, Wi., where Aretha recently returned to live. Aretha also speaks about shifting to on-line teaching since the pandemic. I’ve had the wonderful pleasure of studying several sessions with Aretha and she is a magical teacher. I know you will learn so much listening to her in this podcast.
David Leventhal is the Program Director and founding teacher of Dance for PD. He tells about his journey to becoming a dancer and his career with the Mark Morris Dance Company. Learn how he helped start this amazing program in 2001 when a local support group leader who had a dance background approached the Mark Morris Dance Group with the idea for specialized dance for Parkinson’s classes – even before there was tangible evidence about the benefits of exercise and movement. I’ve taken several of these classes and the combination of simple movements and beautiful music creates a sense of wellbeing, calm, and energy.
Join me and meet the dynamic Tara Langella who shares her history in theatre and voice-over work. She describes how she got “hooked” on acting when she saw her uncle, Frank Langella, die on stage as Dracula and then re-appear alive for the curtain call. Her uncle has been one of her biggest fans. Tara trained in classical and contemporary theatre at Stella Adler Conservatory. As she began studying acting and recognized her gift for vocal acting. She shares her talent with accents and was so much fun to interview!
Marcus Sams is a beloved improviser and teacher in the Bay Area for 20 years. He is a dynamic, generous fellow who has developed incredible technology for on-line improvisers. In addition to fantastic classes on Improv, Marcus has developed techniques to move Online improv games out of the “Hollywood Squares” boxes into productions that look like TV & film. The Fixed Lens Improvisation Technique, a.k.a. F.L.I.
I was fortunate to meet Ellen Schnur at the Yes, and Mental Health Conference held at the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago, September 2017! We recently reconnect through Beth Boynton, and the seminars Beth has been co-hosting with Ellen on Medical Improv. Ellen and Landon and I did a fun improv scene that you can see here.
Ellen is passionate about experiential learning and helping everyone on the team to “Be the Difference” and work better together. After 25 years in business and training, she grew tired of the endless PowerPoints and toxic cultures. She dared herself to take classes at 2nd City – fell head over heels with improv and moved on to iO and many other theaters. She began studying Applied Improvisation and best practices in leadership, team, and work cultures. Ellen is now Chief Possibility Officer at her company, ImprovTalk, Inc. and collaborates with Jim Mecir, ten year MLB veteran pitcher, born with a club foot, who is the most resilient and inspiring teammate she has ever met.
Join me and meet the multi-talented musician, improviser, actor, and author, Will Hines. Founder of The World’s Greatest Improv School Will is a beloved teacher in the improv world. He started at UCB in NY and then LA. I really enjoyed chatting with such a relaxed and authentic person. We talked about mutual improv teachers like Jimmy Carrane and Jay Sukow.
Daniel is a delightful artist, actor, writer, and improviser that I met in a Susan Messing workshop this summer. He has taught thousands of young and old folks acting and improv and produced many plays. Daniel is one of only four people who graduated — twice— from the Player’s Workshop Of The Second City; once in 1992 and then a few weeks ago after the studio reopened. Daniel is also a 1995 conservatory graduate of the Second City Training Center.
Join me and meet the multi-talented improviser, actor, and true gentleman Brian Palermo. In his early days at the Groundlings, Brian was lucky enough to play with, learn from, and direct a gaggle of Big Name Comedy People that include Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, Lisa Kudrow, and many others.
I met Brian at the Vintage Improv Festival this fall and loved his style of teaching. In our chat, we talk about his career in film and TV and his many years with the Famous Groundlings improv group. He is a beloved improv teacher; he’s been a regular in The Crazy Uncle Joe Show – which is The Groundlings’ weekly long-form set – every Wednesday for 19 years! The longest-running long-form set in L.A. https://www.groundlings.com/shows
Join me and meet Meet Francine Wolfand Leigh Shein of Pants Optional Comedy. They share their lengthy experience in improvisational theatre and tell us about how they are adjusting to virtual shows on Zoom to entertain and keep people laughing.
Pants Optional Comedy is an online improv comedy short-form show with an emcee and actors from Ohio, Florida, and the United Kingdom. The show was conceived in May 2020 when producer, Francine Wolf of ZaZu Productions, LLC, was quarantined at home and live and on-stage acting was halted. Having toured with a one-woman improv show, “Half-Baked Boomer,” for the previous two years, Francine thought it would be more fun to do improv with seasoned improvisers and friends.