I worked as a theatre director for a over a decade. I started in 1992, first as a performer, later as a teacher, director and producer. I'm happy to have created 3 shows that have had extended runs in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Boston, New York, Amsterdam, Munich, Ljubljana, and beyond.
The height of my broadcast fame was playing an exasperated German in a comedy sketch on Late Night With Conan O'Brien. Though my screen time was extraordinarily brief, the union counted it as a speaking role and the royalty checks rolled in for months.
My Life in Improvisation
Jimmy's Woodlawn Tap, a bar on the University of Chicago campus, was the birthplace of American improvisational theater. In the 1950s, this bar was home to small theater groups with young actors such as Mike Nichols and Elaine May. The small student groups became The Compass Players, which became The Second City, which became Saturday Night Live, which we all know. And Univeristy of Chicago students still improvise in Jimmy's to this day.
In 1987, the flow out of Hyde Park reversed as Bernie Sahlins, a key figure in the development of the Second City, came back to the University of Chicago to found an improv group which he bragged would beat the pants off them up north. This group was called Off-Off-Campus, and is still going strong as the second-oldest student improv troupe in America.
I was a member of the seventh generation of Off-Off-Campus, which provided me the opportunity to write, act, sing, dance, choreograph, direct, and travel. Chicago, by far the improv capital of the world, was heaven for me as a grad student. I studied advanced improvisation at the Second City Conservatory, ImprovOlympic and the Annoyance Theater and produced and directed several improv shows. Please feel free to look at my theater resume. I enjoy all kinds of theater, but my favorite kind by far is improvisational theater.
Here's something called How To Be a Better Improviser. I wrote it, but the ideas come from many Chicago sources. It has been translated into Slovene and German as well, if you happen to come from Slovenia or German-speaking parts.
In 1994, I created my own little kind of improvisation called Structuralist Improvisation, which teaches actors the psychological components of story structure as the basis for long-form improvisations. I talk a little about why I felt the world needed Structuralist Improvisation in Why Structured Improvisation?.
SITCOM is my pride and joy because the idea came out of a computer program I wrote to predict how sitcom plots will resolve. There have been 13 productions of SITCOM: from Chicago to San Francisco to Boston to Munich to Ljubljana. The wunderbar Fast Food Improvisational Theater has been running SITCOM since 1997. I created SITCOM with my very dear friend John Bourdeaux. Don't miss the full-color University of Chicago Magazine cover story on SITCOM.
In 1996 I created Commedia dell'High School: Improvised 1980s teen angst movies in the Italian Renaissance tradition. Since Commedia such a hit, it was reprised in 1998 by Step Right Up Productions in Chicago with the great Ben Lorch directing, in 2001 in Boston by ImprovBoston, and in 2002 for three sold-out months at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater, during which time it attracted the attention of Broadway producers.
In addition to these, other Structuralist Improvisation shows arise all the time. The former Chicago troupe Shiela came forth with a structuralist improv piece called "Instant Odyssey", which improvised hero myths based on audience suggestions. Hawaii's Loose Screws improv troupe incorporated my ideas in their show Brainstormers. The San Francisco Bay Area troupe the Scene Shop has done structured improvisations of Shakespeare plays.
In April 2001, I produced a reading consisting of young women writers with seriously intelligent senses of humor called "Faster, Pussycat! Write! Write!".In August 2001, I was an invited guest teacher at a summer improvisation school in Izola, Slovenia.In October 2001, SITCOM NYC went to play at the International Improvisation Festival in Amsterdam, as one of three international invited groups.In November 2002, I went to Slovenia to teach at the First Slovene Festival of Impro Theatre. In 2003, I taught 10 improvisation workshops at Columbia University's Graduate School of Business. In addition, I directed the NY longform groups Stockholm Syndrome, Gunshow, Firestorm and Rob Blatt & Lou Fernandez. In 2004, continued teaching workshops and continued working steadily with NY longform group Gunshow. In 2005, Gunshow and I launched our wildly successful sketch show, and I coached Jonly Bonly and Stomping Ground. At London Business School where I currently hang my hat, I teach free improvisation workshops for the community.
In recent years, I have been teaching and directing more than acting. I have taught improvisation workshops and classes at Stanford Univeristy, Harvard University, Columbia University, Bay Area Theatresports, The International Improvisation Festival in Amsterdam, and worked with hundreds of actors in New York City.
- Theater resume
- How To Be a Better Improviser
- The Improv Geek Quiz
- How To Promote Your Show: 14 Things To Do
Shows I createdStructuralist Improvisation is a theater form I came up with in Chicago in the mid 1990s. I have created and directed three Structuralist Improvisation shows.
- SITCOM: Like TV, but funny.
- The first Chicago production, Autumn 1994
- The second Chicago production, Autumn 1996
- The first Munich production, Summer 1997
- The second Munich production, Winter 1998
- The third Munich production, Summer 1998
- The first San Francisco production, Summer 1998
- The first Boston production, Autumn 1998
- The second Boston production, Winter 1999
- The fourth Munich production, Fall 1999
- The first Los Angeles production, Summer 2000
- The first New York production, Summer 2001
- The first Amsterdam production, Fall 2001
- Commedia dell'High School: Improvised 1980s teen angst movies in the Italian Renaissance tradition.
- The first Chicago production, Spring 1997
- The second Chicago production, Winter 1998
- The first Boston production, Winter 1999
- The second Boston production, Fall 2001
- The first New York production, Winter 2002
- Riverboat Lawyer: An all-improvised serial about life on the Mississippi in the 1870s.
- The first Chicago production, Spring 1997
- The second Chicago production, Fall 1997
I've published in McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, America Online, Modern Humorist and three times in the German newspaper Die Zeit.
My favorite country is Slovenia. I don't know why, but I really like Slovenia.