The Greatest Year Of Your Life (?)

Right now I am in the middle of what some instructors have told me is “the greatest year of your life.” Like every experienced improv newcomer to Chicago, I’m knee deep in the year or so of classes at one or more of the big schools. I’m halfway through the iO and Annoyance programs, and currently on a team at One Group Mind. Together with a handful of closer classmates I’ve tested the waters on doing some off-night improv sets at many theaters and bars. Right now I’m practicing improv anywhere from 3 to 5 days a week.

One big recurring thought, realization, I keep having, especially as I take the long view on my forthcoming schedule, is that this hyper-active improv experience will probably end. My iO 5B session, should I stay on track, will conclude in late February, followed by a 7 week Sunday night run with my class. Should I get the fortunate chance to study with Mick Napier at Annoyance on my first try (his class is a difficult one to get in), that too will conclude in February.

As great as it would be to continue with one of the post-grad programs, i.e. the Chicago Improv Den, CIC, Second City Conservatory, the likely answer is I not only will probably take a break from classes, but I’ll probably want to take a break.

– They’re not cheap. Each class is $225-300, payable every couple months. Personally, money wise, I’m treading water. This is WITH the cost of classes and dues, so losing that expense may be good for my budget.

– As good as making such a large commitment has been, I also risk burnout if I don’t scale back. I don’t want to totally break from improv: I enjoy it and still want to practice. But I also want to make time for other things in life. Vacations are hard to take when you’ve got weekly classes you don’t want to miss.

– I’ve always believed and still believe that you shouldn’t train for too long an uninterrupted period. It’s good to train, then take some time away and practice on your own. Too many students become class addicted and never break away, never develop on their own and eventually cease to progress. I think a year and change is a good uninterrupted time to intensively study and develop before breaking off.

The practice has been great for me. I’ve not only learned a lot from the classes I’ve taken, but it’s compelled from me a commitment to a practice and a community that I enjoy.

Obviously, presuming I remain with One Group Mind, I won’t completely break away. Being in an ensemble is an important ambition of mine and Sosa Mimosa allows me to retain a weekly practice commitment.

But not only is the end of “The Best Year of My Life” not such a bad thing, I would hope the years to come are better than this, that I continue finding and creating opportunities to perform. I realize people in 5B will feel some pressure, but I don’t plan to worry much about the long odds of making a Harold team. Whatever happens will happen and I still plan to have a future in improv one way or another.


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