Maybe you're an improv coach or teacher in your local area and you're interested in sharing those skills at the next festival you go to. Maybe you also want to help pay for your trip with the money you make from teaching. Teaching a workshop at a festival is a great idea for gaining experience working with folks who have training, are already performing, and come from all over the country. That said, a lot of festivals struggle to fill their workshops, especially the ones offered by relatively unknown instructors. Here's a few things to think about when submitting a workshop to a festival. It's a really good idea to create an account on The Improv Network and get yourself some testimonials from students to help the production team see that you've got solid credentials.
1. Make it sexy.
Festivals are the place for people to get more than what they can get at home. Most performers at a festival will sign up for a workshop if it promises something new - a new take on an old form, a fresh idea they've never heard of, a new concept that applies to any scene. Other popular workshops focus on a single facet of performance or a single skill, such as vulnerability, character, scene starts, or group games. A creative, yet to-the-point title helps catch people's attention and a well-written, concise, and detailed description gets them to sign up. You may also want to include what kind of experience performers need to have to excel in the workshop (i.e., beginner, intermediate, advanced, no experience, long form stage time, etc). Telling people how the workshop works, how they'll be challenged, and what they'll learn makes all the difference. It's not about overselling the idea, it's about articulating what you'll be teaching with precision so people are prepared going into the workshop.
2. Less talk, more do.
Some of the greatest teachers in the improv world spend a good portion of their workshop just talking through ideas. They can do that - they have boundless wisdom to share from their earlier days creating the improv world. Newer teachers do their best work by not talking the whole time, planning the workshop well so performers are engaged from start to finish, and setting aside some time at the end for any questions. It's also a good idea to tell performers how their workshop fits in with different styles of improv, when to use the skills being built, and how to find more information. Leave participants with your contact information so they can stay in touch or ask any questions that come up later. Who knows - they may want to bring you in for a workshop at their home theater or with their team.
3. Improvise the workshop.
Since you never know who is going to sign up for your workshop, it's helpful to ask people what kind of experience they have at the start of the workshop. Having everyone close their eyes and raise their hands as you list the number of years experience is an easy way to do this. It may be that some folks have a lot of experience and some have very little. It may also be that the folks with little experience are extra-challenged by what you or veteran players would think of as simple or basic activities. Don't be afraid to improvise the workshop or call an audible on some of the planned exercises to better serve the performers who've showed up. That might mean you don't get through everything or that you have to slightly shift the focus of the whole workshop. That's alright - better that performers leave the workshop with something valuable that empowers them to do more improv and keep working on their craft at home rather than working through your plan but not being able to grasp the concepts or reach the outcomes you typically get.
Workshops are one of the best things about any festival and teaching one can make you fee like you've really had a hand in making the festival experience what it is. Not getting accepted right away doesn't necessarily mean you should stop submitting - it just means that the producers had other needs or options that year. If you do get accepted to teach, its also great to take other workshops at the festival. It signals that you can never stop learning when it comes to improv, and you may even get the chance to perform alongside some of the folks who were in your own workshop. Breaking down the walls between teacher and performer isn't just a great aspect of improv culture, it's necessary to keep pushing the art form and inspiring others to keep pushing themselves as artists!
Want to submit your workshop to Tampa Bay Improv Festival 2016? You can do so on The Improv Network by following this link.