Comedy Improv Classes at Meadowview Arts Center Combine Games and Drama | Local News
Carolyn R. Wilson | For Washington County News
MEADOWVIEW, Va. — After being locked down during the pandemic, David Scott decided it was time to get back out into the world.
That’s when Scott, from Marion, decided to enroll in Comedy Improv, or Improv, an ongoing acting course being offered at the Meadowview Arts Center this winter.
Scott, 50, was interested in acting while in high school, but never found the opportunity to pursue his interest later in life – not until now.
“I thought it would be a good opportunity to catch up with people and have fun at the same time,” he said.
“We laugh and have fun. The classes help me relax into my happier side.
Classes instructor Travis Stanberry said improvisation is a making a comeback form of live theater best known for its spontaneous, unscripted styles.
Improvisational theater may date back to the 16th century, but more recently the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, which originally aired between the late 1990s and early 2000s , is a form of comic improvisation most recognized by people.
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The instructor hopes his classes will spark new interest in the art form, inspiring improv groups to bring fun and joy to the community.
“From the moment we get there until the moment we leave, we laugh and encourage others to take risks and step out of their comfort zone. It can be very freeing for some students,” said Stanberry, who leads the two-hour classes from 7 to 9 p.m. Tuesday and 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday.
The instructor, who has studied drama and theater for 30 years, insists that improvisation is a creative art but also similar to playing a game.
“Improvisation is less about being theatrical and more about being funny. It’s more of a game,” he said.
The form of theater consists of inventing things on the spot.
“Everything you do and say is considered news. Like,” Stanberry said, “if I say, ‘Hey mom, what a shitty weather we’re having,’ you already know you’re my mom and we’re having bad weather.
“Improvisation is like storytelling,” he said. “Within the first 10 seconds, the improv actor establishes the ‘who, what and where’ of the story.”
As fun as it sounds, acting with a blank slate can be daunting, but helpful in the long run.
“The important thing to remember is that anyone can improv,” Stanberry said.
“In fact, we all do better every day of our lives. We don’t meet people and automatically put out a script to talk with them. If you meet a person on the street, they say something and you say something. That’s all improvisation is.
After learning the craft, improv students can use it in other areas of their lives, he said.
As a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development Loan Technician, Scott hopes the improv classes will help him strengthen his speaking skills, especially when giving presentations for his job.
Chris Barnett, a musician from Abingdon who plays bass guitar, said he signed up for the lessons because he was drawn to improvisation for the challenges it offers. “I’m not afraid to stand in front of an audience as a musician, but it’s a bit different because the reaction times are very fast and nothing is repeated.”
The improvisation teacher was himself an improvisation student.
A native of Glade Spring, Stanberry graduated from Patrick Henry High School, where he was known to sometimes embody his love of acting as a class clown. After attending Virginia Highlands Community College, he pursued a major in theater at Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond.
He became familiar with acting when he moved to Wilmington, North Carolina after graduating and landed his first acting roles. He later moved to Los Angeles, where he enrolled in scene study classes to further his education.
There he studied at the famous Groundlings Theatre.
“Almost every comedian you’ve heard of studied there and went on to host their own talk shows or star on TV shows like ‘Saturday Night Live’.”
Stanberry also studied at The Empty Stage theater in Los Angeles, where he found an amazing teacher who encouraged him through a relaxed form of teaching – something he hopes to pass on to his own students at the arts center.
He has directed various plays, including Margaret Edson’s ‘Wit’, as well as writing and directing the original production of ‘Vintage Box’.
He has been a member of numerous improv troupes such as “Vodka and Donuts”, “The Barney Five” and a two-man improv show, “The Fellow Travellers”.
To learn more about improv classes or to register, visit www.meadowviewac.org. At the top of the page, click on “Book lessons”. Under ‘Our Services’, follow the arrows to ‘Acting Classes’.
Phone messages can be left at 276-695-4004.
The Meadowview Arts Center, located at 13159 Meadowview Square in Meadowview, is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt nonprofit organization. All donations help the organization continue to grow, providing arts opportunities to the community.
Carolyn R. Wilson is a freelance writer in Glade Spring, Virginia. Contact her at [email protected]