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Training Program


Training.  Team.  Time.

Our mission is to provide a more valuable training experience in the art of improvised theater by giving teams long-term, predictable performance schedules with a consistent cast under the guidance of experienced teachers.

All of our teachers draw from one consistent theory, the Expansion Tree, which can be seen as the "string theory" to all long form improvisation. Discovered in 2005, the Expansion Tree arms the improviser and group with techniques that can be used to react to any and every situation. The process stresses truly reacting to the dynamic of the piece as the events unfold, rather than using a defined structure that may be predictable to the audience. The presentation usually involves a more cohesive performance that stays ahead of audience expectations while allowing the artists to collaborate together using the same language.

Our theory focuses on recognition and reaction instead of intention and structure.  We teach this approach through a very specific program that stresses training, team, and time in a live performance setting.  We cover:

  • Team Through Time - we teach exercises and activities meant to develop team over time based on the Improviser Code of Willingness, Agreement, Commitment, Patience, Effort, and freedom from Judgment.
  • Patterns - we teach the flat, linear, exponential, and umbrella patterns as the building blocks of our long form improvisation.
  • Individual Techniques - we teach how to establish a character and develop its filter using personal patterns, gravity, truth, and the gifts of emotion, physicality, and history.  Most importantly, we teach how to develop a character's behavior - the pattern of reactions they have to the outside world.
  • Scene Techniques - we believe the scene's foundation is in the relationship - the pattern of how the character's behaviors affect each other        
  • Multiple Person Scene Techniques - we teach the techniques of 3 weights, 4 weights, cloning, ghosting, grouping, walk-ons, call-ons, power spots, and more!
  • Processing - we teach how to process a scene for its patterns, relationships, locations, people, places, gravity, themes, commentaries, tangents, and direct and indirect inspirations.
  • Scene Dynamics - we teach how to recognize the impact of a scene to the audience, a composition of gravity, pace, intensity, length, and content.
  • Edits - we teach the how, the when and the why of sweeps, tagouts, swinging doors, split scenes, painting, transformations, slides, zooms, pans, maximizing, minimizing and every imagineable way to go from scene to scene!
  • Piece Dynamics - we teach that the impact of your piece on an audience, also known as the piece dynamic, is a composition of crescendos and decrescendos that serve to stay ahead of audience expectations.
  • Source - we teach that every piece has a source and the goal of that source in some respects defines the form.     
  • Expansion - we teach the types of expansion scenes, both direct and indirect, that define the type of improvisation a team is performing.
  • Closure - we teach the types of closure we seek at the ends of our pieces include resolution, satisfying wants, identifying perfect matches, turning tables, and rewards and punishments!
  • From Formula to Form - we use the Expansion Tree to view common and uncommon forms that exist in the industry today, including the Harold, Deconstruction, Movie, Armando Diaz, the Bat, JTS Brown, Soupy, Single Location, Big Bang, Out and Back, Trio, Quartet, Close Quarters, Octet, Zumpf, and Python.  They all have value in their structure, or formula, as training wheels.  But they also have their sometimes unrecognizeable form that is expressed more freely when the student becomes an artist. 

Mike Abdelsayed 

Mike Abdelsayed has over 20 years of improvisation performing and coaching experience, coaching over 50 teams, each for no less than 2 years.  He was an original member, and one of the youngest at the age of 20, to be placed on the iO House Team Valhalla.  Two-time winners of the Del Award for "Best Long Form Improv Team", Valhalla was best known for its cast consistency, performing for 6 years with 75% of its original cast.  Mike was coached by Liz Allen, Miles Stroth, Noah Gregoropoulos, and Del Close.  Mike was also an iO coach and teacher, a member of Second City's Outreach and Diversity Company, and an understudy for the Second City Touring Company and E.T.C. stage understudying and performing for Keegan Michael-Key in "Holy War, Batman!"  Students who received their initial improv instruction exclusively from Mike have continued successful television and film careers on The Office, Community, Arrested Development, Saturday Night Live, Reno 911!, the Jimmy Kimmel Show, ABC Family's Huge, The Mindy Project, Man Seeking Woman, Last Man on Earth, and hosting MTV's Spring Break.  His students have also continued successful careers as Artistic Directors of major improv theaters in New York, Second City Main Stage Performers, Directors of Organizing in the Screen Actor's Guild, Resident Company Members of major Stage Equity Theaters, and commercial spokespeople for national commercial brands.