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by Darren Held

Two comes after one. That’s true in real life, as well as in improv classes.

However, two doesn’t necessarily come immediately after one. 1 1/4, or 1 1/3 or 1 7/8 all come between one and two, for example. And yes, before you get all snarky, I do have a point.

Many people – especially over-achieving, goal-oriented people – like to check things off their list and get to the finish line as quickly as possible. So they sign up for a Level 1 improv class and expect to take that class (once), then take Level 2 (once) and so on. Only it doesn’t exactly work that way with improv classes.

At Held2gether, our Level 1 class consists of 12 hours of instruction. That is barely enough time to scratch the surface of the rules of improv and introduce some games. Everyone gets to try stuff every week, but in 12 hours there’s no way for people to practice skills and games multiple times. And the only way to develop the skills necessary for Level 2 is to practice the skills learned in Level 1 several times.

What that means is, people generally need to take Level 1 three or four times to really have the fundamentals down so that they aren’t over their heads in Level 2. Sometimes people argue that they’re willing to flounder and be over their heads because they just have to move up to Level 2. The problem with that is, you’re not floundering alone – everyone in the class should have the same basic skill set, so that all the exercises can work properly.

The appropriate time to take Level 2 isn’t after you’ve taken Level 1 a set number of times, but rather when you’ve mastered the fundamentals taught in Level 1 and understand the rules, the reasons for the rules and how to apply them. If it makes you feel better, members of both Held2gether improv troupes take Level 1 classes periodically just to brush up on those fundamentals. That’s how important the basics are.

And just so you know, it’s not just H2G who does it this way. At Groundlings, for example, the Basic course is 36 hours (that’s three times longer than our basic course) – and most people STILL take it a minimum of two times before moving on to the next class. So try not to see your improv education as a race. Honestly, the people who become the solidest improvisors are the ones who take their time really developing their core skills and confidence before moving on to the next level, whatever that level is.

Level 1 improv classes start all the time, right here in Long Beach! We also have 1/2-Day Workshops if you just want to see what this improv thingy is all about. Sign up at the website!

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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