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TBA Online: News & Features: March 2018

School Yourself: Keeping Your Skills Up-to-Date with Local Theatre Classes

Wednesday, March 21, 2018   (1 Comments)
Posted by: Rotimi Agabiaka
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by Nicole Gluckstern

There are many benefits to honing and updating one’s theatre-making skills. Attending a class keeps the creative muscles limber and prepared. Branching in new or challenging directions makes one able to tackle a wider variety of projects and roles. Connecting and networking with fellow students and instructors can lead to future collaborations and opportunities.

With spring in the air, it’s time to clear out the winter doldrums and start planning your 2018 regimen. Will this be the year you finally work on that solo piece you’ve been neglecting? Brush up on Bouffon? Learn to podcast? There are so many options for stretching your theatrical muscles in the Bay Area, we couldn’t even include every category, let alone every company offering a class in it. Improv, circus, clown, and youth theatre could each have their own articles, and we’d barely scratch the surface. But here’s a roundup of just a few of the possibilities out there, any of which are sure to take your theatre practice to the next level.

The Heavy-Hitters

Studio A.C.T. students in class. Photo: Ryan Montgomery.

Berkeley Rep School of Theatre (, various dates and prices)

Studio A.C.T. (, April 2-May 27, $150-$475)

Blessed with lots of space, a high caliber of instructors, and classes suitable for multiple levels of expertise and interest, the adult classes at Berkeley Rep and Studio A.C.T. are hard to beat. In addition to the standard fare of acting basics and auditioning techniques, Berkeley Rep and Studio A.C.T. both offer a diverse palette of options for folks interested in a more in-depth exploration of a specific skill, or exposure to a set of creative aesthetics or divergent ideas. Some of the practice-specific classes coming up this spring at Berkeley Rep include a 10-week course (and a one-day workshop) in Theatre of the Oppressed, and a selection of voice-over classes, particularly Voice-Over for Podcasters—a specialized two-day workshop, which includes instruction for using the necessary recording equipment. Several of the offerings at Studio A.C.T. are equally specialized, including an eight-week stage combat class for female-identified performers; an advanced scene-study course entitled Performing Women’s Voices, which will focus on female playwrights such as Lauren Gunderson, Young Jean Lee, and Suzan-Lori Parks; and a Dynamic Movement class which will delve into the mechanics of how the body conveys character and intention; movement as acting, not separate from it.


The Ensembles

Fierce Play at Ragged Wing. Photo courtesy of Ragged Wing.

foolsFURY (, July 9-10, $250-$450 (free for foolsFURY summer interns!)

foolsFURY is a company that’s always made a point of investigating and incorporating a variety of performance techniques. Its biennial festival of ensemble theatre, FURY Factory, provides a great opportunity to invite notable ensembles to train Bay Area performers in their methodologies. This July, their invited guests will be the Pacific Northwest’s UMO Ensemble, who’ll present a two-day workshop on devised theatre. The training will be held in Sonoma County, at foolsFURY co-artistic director Debórah Eliezer’s Healdsburg property, Venado Retreat. More workshops are in the works, so be sure to keep an eye on their website for more dates and details.

Naked Empire Bouffon Company (, upcoming sessions TBD, $225-$275).

Since 2009 Naked Empire Bouffon Company has been creating and staging works of Bouffon, a highly-physical, highly-confrontational performance method. To help spread its ethos, Nathaniel Justiniano, Naked Empire’s artistic director, also stages Bouffon intensives, usually 20 hours over a three-day period, both nationally and abroad. Voted “Best Romp With Your Inner Psychopath,” by the San Francisco Bay Guardian, Justiniano’s classes introduce participants to what he terms as bouffon’s “constant state of ecstasy,” and a crash-course in devising works from a bouffon POV. No classes are currently scheduled in SF, but keep an eye on their website, or make a pilgrimage to Vancouver, Canada, for their March 31 session.

Ragged Wing (, May 16, 17, 19, $20 per session)

For some theatre companies, embracing a practice doesn’t always mean embracing a single set of techniques, but rather a philosophy of theatre practice that informs the works they create. Ragged Wing, which has been producing ensemble pieces for over a decade, also offers occasional workshops and a training series they call “Fierce Play,” a term which beautifully encapsulates the work that they perform. Ragged Wing artistic director Amy Sass leads her charges on an exploration of what she terms “heightened body awareness,” drawing from techniques such as Viewpoints, Butoh, Suzuki, and Contact Improv. The goal is to come away with a greater sense of how to harness impulse and instinct as part of the creative process, through a series of exercises and the use of collaborative movement.

Write It Out

The SF Neo-Futurists. Photo: Ben Lerchin

Killing My Lobster (, summer sessions (acting) begin June 5, and (writing) June 16, $325-$395)

You know what’s deceptively hard? Writing “funny.” No one knows that better than the fine folks at Killing My Lobster who’ve been killing it since 1997 with their irreverent sketch comedy. And for the past 11 years, they’ve been offering classes in sketch writing, led by an array of the Bay Area’s funniest comedy writers. More recently they also added a series in sketch acting for performers looking to expand their comedic chops in that direction, and also began offering a regular “Diversity in Comedy” fellowship to writers and actors from underrepresented communities. Bonus: every writer in their production “pool” has come through their sketch writing classes (levels one and two), so if you’re looking for a way to write on the regular, taking one could be a great step in that direction.

San Francisco Neo-Futurists (, upcoming sessions TBD, $245)

Since 1988, Neo-Futurist theatre companies in the US have been performing their particular brand of anti-technique theatre, in which disbelief is not willingly suspended, and anything that happens on the stage is as immediate and truthful to the moment and to the performers (and, by extension, the audience) as possible. Founded in 2013, the San Francisco Neo-Futurists (there are other branches in Chicago and New York) have been offering a variety of workshops and classes on the neo-futurist process, most recently an eight-week class at the Endgames Improv Training Center, where people can try their hand at writing and performing short, neo-futurist works with plenty of group and instructor feedback and the opportunity to create a collaborative piece of theatre in the neo-futurist style for their final project.

Flying Solo

Martha Rydberg, director of the Solo Performance Workshop. Photo courtesy of SPW.

Stage Werx (

Solo Performance Workshop (, classes start April 7, $625)

The Bay Area is a veritable hotbed of autobiographical solo performance and venues such as The Marsh, have been cultivating the art form for decades. In recent years, some other notable organizations have sprung up to help fill the demand, including another Mission-based black box theatre, Stage Werx, which is home to both the Solo Performance Sunday series, and the Solo Performance Workshop, founded by Bruce Patchman and W. Kamau Bell, and currently helmed by seasoned director and creator, Martha Rynberg. In SPW’s signature eight-week classes, six participants create an entire 15-minute work each, from page to stage, to be performed for a live audience the weekend following their last class. Notable alumni include Thao P. Nguyen, Zarah Noorbakhsh, and Beth Lisick, so you know you’ll be in good company while creating your own addition to the genre.


Noe Flores says...
Posted Wednesday, March 21, 2018
Thoughts on Beverly Hills Playhouse/SF?