Workshops

We crowdsourced our 2021 workshop roster!

In July, we solicited workshop proposals from anyone who wanted to teach one, and then had festival participants rank their top five choices each. The following workshops are the ones that got the most votes. For more on our methodology, click here.

Workshop format

  • Workshops at this year’s festival will last one hour each. This format will allow students to experience the style and philosophy of the greatest possible number of instructors at the festival. Workshop numbers will not be capped, but we anticipate an average of 8-10 students per workshop.
  • Workshops cost $15 each. For $50, you can purchase an all-access pass that will allow you to take as many workshops as you like.
  • Online workshops will also be available for those who prefer that option, as well as for our online-only performers and anyone else outside of Tampa. We will offer one online-only workshop, and four online sections of workshops also taking place in-person at the festival, for a total of five distinct online workshops.
  • All-access passes are valid for all workshops, online and in-person.

Workshop schedule

Friday, October 22

All Friday workshops will take place **in person** at the HCC Mainstage Theatre in Ybor City, Tampa. All times are ET.
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
IMPROV TO SKETCH
PATRICK NEWSON, PRESTON O’FFILL
4:15 PM – 5:15 PM
IMPROV FOR THE BAD SHAKESPEARE ENTHUSIAST!
GREG PHILIPPI

Saturday, October 23

All in-person workshops on Saturday, October 23 will take place at the HCC Rehearsal Hall. All times are ET.
In-Person
10:00 Am – 11:00 AM
IMPROV WITH A NET
CHRIS GEORGE
11:15 AM – 12:15 Pm
KEEP IT WEIRD!
ALICIA K. GARCIA, DASH RUIZ
12:30 PM – 1:30 PM
MAKING RELATIONSHIP A GAME
DYLAN ROHDE
1:45 PM – 2:45 Pm
FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW
ESTEVAN J. (CHUY) ZARATE
3:00 PM – 4:00 PM
MYSTERY WORKSHOP
MYSTERY INSTRUCTOR
ONLINE
11:00 AM – 12:00 PM
MAKING RELATIONSHIP A GAME
DYLAN ROHDE
12:15 PM – 1:15 PM
IMPROV TO SKETCH
PATRICK NEWSON, PRESTON O’FFIlL
1:30 PM – 2:30 PM
IMPROV FOR THE BAD SHAKESPEARE ENTHUSIAST!
GREG PHILIPPI
2:45 PM – 3:45 PM
IMPROV WITH A NET
CHRIS GEORGE
4:00 PM – 5:00 PM
THE MATH OF IMPROV
BILL BINDER
Click the links to jump to a specific workshop description. Or just scroll down and read them all!

The Math of Improv
Bill Binder
Saturday, October 23
4:00 pm ET – 5:00 pm ET
ONLINE ONLY

Left-brained thinking is great for analytical, logical, critical thinking. But it can also be a bit judgmental, which is why beginning performers turn it off for a while so they can learn to embrace the imaginative, creative parts of their brains without self-doubt. Once that creative part of the brain learns to thrive, however, most of us never allow the left brain to come out to play. That’s only playing with half the tools available to you. Improv – like any art – is filled with beautiful patterns and symmetries; volume, stage position, and status – they’re all variables which can be toyed with in a beautiful equation. This workshop teaches players not to be ashamed of their analytical gifts, but to learn how to apply them in all of their work to build stronger more cohesive shows.

Instructor Bio

Bill Binder began performing in Michigan in 1994 where he performed for six years before moving to Phoenix, Ariz. Bill helped organize the first Phoenix Improv Festival in 2002, spent two years training at iO West in Los Angeles and was one of the founding members of The Torch Theatre. Currently Bill is an instructor at The Torch Theatre and producer for the Phoenix Improv Festival. He tours teaching and performing across North America.

Keep it Weird!
Alicia K. Garcia and Dash Ruiz

Saturday, October 23
11:15 am ET – 12:15 pm ET
HCC Rehearsal Hall

We can all admit that life is pretty weird…and so is improv!  Sometimes, we fight the weird, but what if we learned to embrace it? This workshop will examine both sides of the weird spectrum: How to add a little weird to your scenes without going overboard and how to play with weird while still keeping scenes grounded and accessible for the audience. It’s a very fine line but we’ll teach you how to walk it.

Instructor Bios

Ali and Dash are the co-owners of Society Circus Players, and perform together as the duo ¡Punctuation.Marks!. Their goal has always been to provide a great audience experience by taking a look at the more ridiculous side of everyday life. The first improv show Dash attended was coincidentally Ali’s first performance; neither of them have looked back since. Together they’ve performed in numerous festivals and shows around the country, and taught workshops on a variety of different topics.

Improv With a Net
Chris George
Saturday, October 23
IN PERSON: 10 am ET – 11 am ET
HCC Rehearsal Hall
ONLINE: 2:45 pm ET – 3:45 pm ET

Live. Breathe. Be a human. We improvise every day of our lives (or so the saying goes), yet you get on stage and you are robotic, stiff, wooden, and inhuman. We will breathe some life back into your scenes, characters, dialogue, and interactions. We’ll laugh, cry, give each other a hard time, pick ourselves up when we’re down, and just be humans. Using the Chicago Improv Studio philosophy, we’ll learn how the traditional rules and traditions of improv scenework place us in opposition to the real world. Instead, looking to the rules of life, we’ll find a new gear for more compelling and entertaining scenes. Participants will work on engaging each other in scenes, and finding their natural acting imputes that are common to all elements of the craft.

Instructor Bio

Chris George is an actor, improviser, and chemist from Chicago, Ill., and an apprentice of Bill Arnett. 

He is a graduate of the iO, Annoyance, CSz Advanced, and Chicago Improv Studio (CIS) training centers, and is a founder of the National Comedy Theater’s (NCT) Sunday Company, co-founder and former assistant artistic firector of Finest City Improv (FCI) (San Diego, Calif.), and the San Diego Improv Festival.

He is a former faculty member of FCI and Sidestage Improv (now Old Town Improv Company) and has been a guest instructor at NCT, the Dallas Comedy Festival, Spectacles Improv Engine (Orange County, Calif.), Endurance Improv Festival (Madison, Wis,), Jacobs International Teen Leadership Institute (JITLI), Naval Justice School, University of Texas Dallas’ Advanced Improvisation Program, Longshot Theater Company (Biloxi, Miss.), Countdown Improv Festival, Kansas City Improv Festival, Palm Beach Improv Festival, San Francisco Improv Festival, and CIS. 

He is a former ensemble member and the Public Affairs Director of the Odd’s Bodkins Shakespeare Company; past roles include Bottom (A Midsummer Night’s Dream), Antipholus of Ephesus (Comedy of Errors), Birowne (Love’s Labour’s Lost), and Banquo (Macbeth).

Mystery Workshop
Mystery Instructor
Saturday, October 23
3:00 pm ET – 4:00 pm ET
HCC Rehearsal Hall

What’s this workshop about? Who is teaching it? The only way to find out is to sign up!

Improv to Sketch
Patrick Newson and Preston O’ffill
Friday, October 22
IN PERSON: 3 pm ET – 4 pm ET
HCC Mainstage Theatre

Saturday, October 23
ONLINE: 12:15 pm ET – 1:15 pm ET

Last night’s show was great! That one scene we did…That should be a sketch! We’ve all had those epic sets that would make an epic sketch.But how do we take what we did and translate it? Furthermore, how do we utilize improv in general to come up with sketch material? Improv to Sketch will teach your team how to mine the spontaneous to create sketch shows. These shows can be a great way to flex a different creative muscle, open your team up to a whole new revenue stream. And frankly sketch is the natural next step to a well balanced improv career. Join Chicago sketch veterans Patrick Newson and Preston O’ffill as we pass on the knowledge we learned at places like IO Chicago, Second City, and numerous improv/sketch legends.

Instructor Bios

Patrick Newson is a IO Chicago, and Second City Conservatory graduate. Patrick was director of Monday Night Live in conjunction with the SNL Packet class taught at IO Chicago. He has written many successful sketch shows, as well as being head writer on the five year POV at IO Chicago. Preston O’ffill is an IO Chicago graduate. A core member/writer of the Monday Night Live, and Family Dinner casts. Preston was also an actor and contributor to five year POV at IO Chicago.

Improv For the Bad Shakespeare Enthusiast!
Greg Philippi
Friday, October 22
IN PERSON: 4:15 pm ET – 5:15 pm ET
HCC Mainstage Theatre

Saturday, October 23
ONLINE: 1:30 pm ET – 2:30 pm ET

This workshop is a Shakespearean adventure. You’ll be speaking in butchered iambic pentameter, using Shakespearean phrases, bowing before royalty, and dueling in the name of lords and ladies while answering to a Shakespearean name. Tell the tales of kings, queens, and lowly groundlings (not the improv school but the impoverished of Shakespeare’s time) in a fun improv exploration of life in Shakespeare’s world. There will be several cheat-sheet handouts to add value to exercises and scene work. Hazzad!

Instructor Bio

Greg Philippi is an improviser, writer, actor (SAG/AFTRA) and musician. Greg studied improv at UCB LA, Second City, iO West, iO Chicago (for musical improv) and Monkey Butler Comedy improv.

Greg has appeared on Netflix and on WE entertainment television shows and in several pilots. He has co-written several network cable TV show themes as well as songs and cues for TV and film. As a writer, Greg has written scripts and sketch material for Royal Caribbean Cruise Lines The Pirates of Coco Cay in the Bahamas, and is a former television and music industry executive. Having worked on both the creative and business sides of the industry giving Greg a unique improv viewpoint.  

Greg currently teaches in-person workshops and classes at Broward Center for the Performing Arts (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) and through his company Screaming Armadillo Comedy (in Fort Lauderdale and Plantation, Fla.) as well as online. Greg has also taught Corporate workshops for fortune 100 companies in North Carolina, Boca Raton, Fla. and Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Life Improvised: Listening Between the Lines is Greg’s new book on improv, available on Amazon.

Influential coaches and Instructors include Tom Booker (founding member Annoyance Theater Chicago and Second City alumni. Tom studied under Del Close), David Razowsky (artistic director during Greg’s time at Second City, and coached two teams Greg performed with) and Bill Chott (Improv Olympic and Second City alumni and actor known for the Dana Carvey Show, SNL’s Ambiguously Gay Duo).

Making Relationship a Game
Dylan Rohde
Saturday, October 23
IN PERSON: 12:30 pm ET – 1:30 pm ET
HCC Rehearsal Hall
ONLINE: 11 am ET – 12 pm ET

“Relationships” are interesting and “game” gets laughs. By making a game out of the relationship you create scenes that are both interesting and consistently funny. This workshop will give you techniques to instantly create a dynamic relationship that is fun to watch, how to discover and communicate examples of this within the scene and heighten, and extra tips like how to use this to save any scene that has gotten weird because of a confusing premise.

Instructor Bio

Dylan Rohde is the founder/director of The Backline Comedy Theatre and the Omaha Improv Fest. He trained and performed at UCB-LA and iO West for years, and was a member of the early LA indie scene. 

Combining UCB and iO philosophies has created a style that is both very focused on “game” but also a necessity for finding “relationship.” The goal is for a realistic and relatable scene, but also finding patterns to have fun with and to get the audience laughing. He teaches that the two most important qualities in improv are trust and listening. He has taught in cities and festivals across the nation, as well as Australia, Canada, and Taiwan.

Forget What You Know
Estevan J. (Chuy) Zárate
Saturday, October 23
1:45 pm ET – 2:45 pm ET
HCC Rehearsal Hall

Feel like your scenework is stagnating? Do you find yourself resting on what you know works in front of an audience for self-gratification? Do you get too far into your head when you are trying to build a simple scene? Too many times improvisers feel the need to be clever or witty on stage. Do you get stuck in a whirlwind of bits that really serve no purpose in a scene? It might be time to forget what you know and remember that there are simple building blocks to scene work. There is no better way to get out of your head and back into the scene than remembering the basics.  We will wipe the slate clean. To be successful at the long scene, you need to be proficient in the short scene. By the end of this workshop, you should have a strong instinct for creating quick relationships and lasting scene premises. You will look at scene starts as the most important aspect of every scene. Your relationship establishing “muscle memory” will hopefully take over and guide you to satisfying and creative scenes. Imps with 2 plus years of experience will be more comfortable in this class.

Instructor Bio

Estevan J. (Chuy) Zárate is an actor/director/coach from San Antonio, Texas, that has been improvising for audiences for 31 years. He is a member of The Big Bash at The Hideout Theatre, The Known Wizards (Merlinworks faculty troupe), Luby’ Bingo Hall and more duos than he can count. He teaches all styles and formats being that he has a very eclectic tool belt to reach into. If there is a scenario to be performed in, he has probably performed it. With specialties in improv singing and grounded/character-driven scenework, Chuy has coached hundreds of kids, teens, students and adults for years to multiple successes.

Methodology

From 2018 through 2020, festival workshops were programmed on an ad hoc basis, with the festival organizers choosing the instructors, and, in some cases, the workshop topics. We did it this way for a few reasons — for one thing, it felt like the easiest way to curate a diverse, high-quality workshop roster each year — but we were always aware that this process was neither particularly transparent nor egalitarian. In 2021, we decided try to fix this problem by putting the workshop-programming process in the hands of our performers.

In July 2021, we introduced a new system for programming workshops for this year’s festival: Anyone performing in the festival could submit a proposed workshop for consideration. Those titles, descriptions, and instructor bios were then made available to the entire group of performers, who were then given a week to vote on their top five workshop choices on a ranked-choice basis (via a Google Form provided by us). The workshops that got the most votes would be the ones we would program.

We received a total of 20 workshop proposals. Approximately 40 percent of our performers submitted votes. Instructors could vote for themselves if they wished. Voters were not required to provide their names or any identifying information. Instructors who withdrew from the festival after submitting their workshops were eliminated from consideration.

To determine this year’s roster, we then ran a variety of scenarios to determine the clear winners. First, we looked at the total number of votes received. Then, we looked at the total number of points received, where a first-choice workshop vote received 5 points, a second-choice vote received 4 points, and so on. Then, we looked at the total number of first, second, and third place votes that each workshop received. We then averaged the results from all three categories to come up with our workshop roster.

This process was an experiment. There are ways in which it worked better than the way we used to choose workshops; there are other ways in which it fell short of the old process. We will continue to tweak and refine this process in future years. That being said, we feel that this was the most transparent and democratic way to choose workshops this year.