The Dallas Comedy Festival isn’t all laughter and Jello shots. It’s a lot of hard work, tinged with extreme fun and camaraderie. And, for many of us, it’s a learning opportunity, too.
A consequential part of the mission of the Dallas Comedy House (DCH) is it’s top-notch training center, offering classes in improvisation and sketch comedy writing. So naturally, the festival includes an educational component. This year, members of Bangarang!—a premier troop from the Upright Citizen’s Brigade (UCB) in Los Angeles and one of this year’s DCF headliners, conducted six workshops covering diverse topics like openings, using silence and space work to enhance scenes, and ramping up emotion to stay committed and engage the audience.
Each two-hour workshop, held at DCH during Friday and Saturday of the festival, included lots of on-our-feet exercises, a few familiar to veterans of DCH, and many that proved our visiting improvisers from the left coast brought their A game, including, I kid you not, Toni Charline who could and did quote chapter and verse from the UCB Comedy Improvisation Manual. Not so surprising when you consider that these performers also teach at UCB. Weren't we lucky?
Expect to see a lot more more documentary openings, mood music, and pattern development (a UCB staple) on stage (and who-knows-what from the three workshops I could not attend because, damn it, they conflicted.)
At the end of each of my workshops, including our four-hour marathon session on Saturday, I kept hearing some iteration of, “I was not ready for that to end. Wish we could go longer.” But alas, our new friends were due on stage for a sold-out show later that evening. and we knew we could do little but thank them for their generosity of time, knowledge, and experience.
Thanks also to Sarah Adams and our fearless festival organizers for bringing us such a quality workshop lineup, the results of which will surely be felt for years on the Main Street stages of the new Dallas Comedy House.
See all the smiling faces from Betsy Sodaro’s workshop, “Staying Committed Through Scenes.”
Carron Armstrong is currently in David Alison's Level 2 class and has been obsessed with improv and DCH ever since she discovered that someone can actually take classes to learn this stuff. Some people would recognize her as the lady who brings her step stool along to the jams because she can't just hop on up on that stage like the youngsters do. During the day, she's a lawyer.