Improv classes moving to Zach site
Additionally, monthly improv comedy shows will be staged in the 230-seat Kleberg Theatre, a much larger venue than the old one.
Merlin said the classes are already getting a lot of early registration, and she credits Zach as the reason.
“Zach has such a big audience,” Merlin said. “I’m hoping that by having our classes there, it’ll lend legitimacy to improv, which is thought of as a nightclub sort of thing.”
Which is not to say that Merlin’s company wasn’t successful before — it originated out of a workshop Merlin began offering in 1996 that did more than just make people funnier and laugh really hard.
Participants found she helped them communicate better with their friends and family and felt more comfortable leading meet- ings at work.
The popularity of her improv training grew so much that eventually, in 2008, she was able to open her improv school, teaching three types of classes: short-form game play (think “Whose Line Is It, Anyway?”); long-form narrative, which crafts unscripted plays; and musical improv, which involves making up songs for improvised musicals.
“The classes change the inner mechanics of how you view risk in your brain,” Merlin said.
“You start taking risks, not just in class but in work meetings or at home.
“I get a lot of students that are in a transition of some sort — maybe they just moved to town or left a job or went through a break-up. I think they’re attracted to improv because it’s about taking risks to get to the next part of your life.”
She said two big changes rocked Merlin Works early this year, when she considered shutting down, and she found herself “walking the walk” and applying what she’d taught her students to her own life.
The first change was her business partner, Shannon McCormick, deciding not to produce Merlin Works’ improv shows any longer. His company, Gnap! Theater Projects, now focuses on scripted productions. At the same time, she was on the verge of the other big change — the birth of her son Sebastian in early March. She said she had no energy to do anything but be a mom.
“I just couldn’t do it all,” she said.
A friend told her she just couldn’t close Merlin Works, and suggested that she look into finding a home and producing partner for the school.
That home ended up being Zach Theatre.
Zach’s education director, Nat Miller, told Merlin it was the perfect time to add improv comedy classes for adults to the theater’s education program, as Zach was already expanding with the addition of Topfer Theatre, the new Zach building that opened in September.
While Merlin continues to spread the skill of improv around Austin, her son might one day be one of the kids learning to act at Zach.
“Right now he has the giggle gene,” Merlin said. “And, actually, he thinks my husband is the funny one.”