Forming a Practice Group (How To and other tips)

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Forming a Practice Group (How To and other tips)

Postby tanouye » Mon Jan 28, 2013 7:48 pm

Form A Practice Group Step-By-Step Guide
Student Allison Heim put together this handy list of advice for how to form a practice group:

1) Bring paper and pen on the first day of a new class and get everyone's names and email addresses. Email everyone to get the ball rolling on a practice group. You can hash out a day and time on the thread or if you want to be super cool and organized you can set up a doodle for classmates to fill out and figure out what works best for everyone.

2) Book space for your practice! There are many studios that offer hourly rates for improv. Check the IRC post on rehearsal spaces. ( ... hp?t=20610) There's lots of options and I will not list them all here. Browse that thread and ask new friends you meet in line at shows what their preferred practice space is. Make sure you ask for the room rate when you book so you don't accidentally book some unnecessarily big fancy room for $30/hr and so you can quote teammates an appropriate figure for how much practice will cost.

3) Once you've found a day/time that works for a critical mass of people (typically a minimum of 6 to keep it affordable) and secured a space, it's time to find a coach. Use this IRC thread ( ... y.php?f=34) or the UCB coach thread (viewforum.php?f=19) to find a coach. Go to Harold Night and make note of performers you enjoy and see if they coach. Many do and their email addresses are easy to find on either of those threads. Make sure you specifiy the following in your email to a coach: time, date, location of practice, what level your group is (101, 201, etc.), if you have anything specific you'd like to work on. Don't be shy about asking coaches for their rate. It is a fair question considering reasonable rates can run between $20/2 hrs to $90/2 hrs depending on the coach's experience level (i.e. new Lloyd night performer vs. seasoned Death By Roo Roo vet). Don't negotiate with coaches on their rate. Ask so you ensure you are getting a coach at the appropriate budget for your group's needs.

(Note from Will Hines: note student Chris Griswold’s advice: "Shop around for coaches. Higher cost ones aren't necessarily better. ‘Coaches shouldn't be making a living from coaching.’ - Chris Gethard. Your coach should be willing to see some of your shows.")

(Note from Erik Tanouye - the registrar can give you the emails of current UCB teachers who are available to coach if you email them at

4) Awww yeah! You're doing it! Teammates are interested, practice space is booked, and a coach is secured! Start a new email thread to your class w/practice group details in the subject "201 Practice Thurs 9/6 7-10," give all specifics in the email of day, time, location, coach, and expected cost of the practice group. Ask for people to RSVP. Specify that the practice group will cap out at 8 participants so everyone gets in some quality reps and your coach has a manageable herd to corral.

- It is helpful to put in a polite "Don't be a dick" policy on cancellations. I have used the following wording: "Friendly cancellation policy: To make sure no one gets stuck doing one-prov and to keep costs reasonable for all, please adhere to a 24 hour cancellation notice. If you need to bail last minute, be prepared to pay for your share at our next class."

5) Show up on time, wear close-toed shoes, and have an awesome practice!

Practice Group - Other Advice
Here’s some general practice group advice from various students.

Managing It
Paying a month in advance rather than at each practice results in better attendance and is more equitable (one person isn't always paying upfront). (Dan Blondell)

Get everyone in the group to pay on a monthly basis, so that way less people cancel last minute and monies only need to be collected once a month (David Craig)

Pay structure: set up a system so everyone has to pay even if they miss practices. Encourages people not to flake and to be committed. (Michael Romanos)

Assign one person to book the rehearsal space and another person to book the coach. Also have a coach for every rehearsal. (Katey Healy-Wurzburg)

Make sure to let people know that they've got a cancellation window beyond which, if they've previously confirmed, they will owe their share whether or not they show up. Make this relevant to the amount of notice you must give to the rental facility for cancellation, i.e.: 24-hrs, 48-hrs, 2 business days. There's nothing so dreary as expecting 7 people to a practice and three people show up - and those three must pony up north of $20 each - yikes! (Mimi Fischer)

These sites are good for finding mutual availability: (Adam Pasulka)

Who Should Be In It
Ask people you like to do it, Hang out together. Practice groups are fine, and can be a whoever has time to drop in kind of thing, but being a team that rehearses together with a regular coach is more fun and (I think) makes you a better improviser faster. (Katey Healy-Wurzburg)

Better to form a group with people you like hanging out with from class rather than random people you find online. You're going to be hanging out with these people a lot so you should already know you're going to get along. (Michael Romanos)

Overbook your practice group to about 8-10 folks because people tend to cancel. (Doug Widick)

I think the easiest way to form practice groups is to start a group with people in your current class. Starting an email thread and getting a weekly practice together is really easy. And if it’s opened up to everyone in the class, usually it works out well for attendance because out of 16 people, half will tend to show up. (Julianne Cross)

My best piece of advice is to go out for beers after class, or tea, if you're that type of colonial class. Making connections with your classmates is a great way to start a practice groups. It's nice because there is already a foundation and some familiarity with each other. All of my teams have come from those beginnings. Although I didn't participate in jams that much early on, I think it's another great way to talk to folks in the community. (Megan Venzin)

Out of experience and observation, the groups that hung out after the practice tended to stick together more consistently. Though, people who enforced hangouts was a turn off. (Grandle Planksmith)

Definitely hang out after practice for beers but don't get upset if someone cannot socialize with the team. Take the improv seriously, do good improv together and the friendships will grow naturally. Similarly don't take it personally if someone up and quits. If they don't feel like being in your group, they are free to fly away. (Ben Weinstein)

When To Do It
Setting a consistent day/time in stone is usually better than jumping around dates and times. (Doug Widick)

If one is looking to form a practice group it helps to get as many people as possible from a class you just finished to join and schedule it to meet weekly in the same time frame as the class your group just finished. (James Belarde)

Where To Rehearse -> Rehearsal Spaces Thread (may not be 100% up to date) / Find a Coach / (occasional) Find a Practice Group
UCB Forums -> Find a Coach / Find a Practice Group -> Search Rehearsal Spaces
(Brady O’Callahan) - allows you to search/book online rehearsal and performance spaces with price and size filters. Gives options in all boroughs. Over 2,000 spaces are indexed. (Eric Goldberg)

Shop around for coaches. Higher cost ones aren't necessarily better. "Coaches shouldn't be making a living from coaching." - Chris Gethard. Your coach should be willing to see some of your shows. (Chris Griswold)

For finding coaches, I do either IRC, UCB boards, or word of mouth. Same sort of goes for practice spaces, but that's more word of mouth. Some studios, like Cap 21, are half price on weekends / day of. (Adam Pasulka)

Also, never practice coachless, someone will end up getting pissed off. If you leave your practice and you're not pissed off, it's just not you this time. (Krista Jensen)

General Advice
Don't form a practice group just to get hours in. Find people you WANT to play with. (Alexander Grass)

Ask Advanced Study performers who have a little experience where to book rooms, they'll know. Ask the same people for advice for coaches. Also, the IRC has listings. (Alexander Grass)

When it comes to getting more involved in the indie-scene (doing shows), maybe recommend seeing shows posted on Facebook and New York Improv Teams ( and encourage people to talk with other teams. Even if their team is not performing, they should just go and see shows with people they know/don't know in them. (Vincent Moore)

Questions to ask yourself: Is this just a practice group, or a performance group as well? Maybe start as a practice group and let it evolve. Will people be paying regular dues, or only paying if they can make it to practice? If you're performing, will your coach come to your shows?
(Adam Pasulka)

Something that really clicked for me was when Billy Merritt suggested on his blog that the group should all attend a Harold Night (or any show I suppose, but this way you can see up to 24 players in one sitting, plus whoever's hosting...) together and watch for a performer who exemplifies a style or a brand or just a mentality that the entire group finds attractive. (Krista Jensen)

Respect everyone's life and goals. Some of us want to improvise. Some want to write. Others act, or do standup, or work a demanding corporate job, or get drunk all the time, or train for a marathon. My team expects members to be completely invested in our own practices and shows. But outside of those three or four hours a week, we are free to pursue whatever we want to pursue. (And it's probably a good idea to support those other choices by occasionally attending your teammates' standup shows, sketch shows, road races, benders.) (Jim Sherwin)

Come on time. Nothing removes the productivity of a two hour practice more than people filtering in during the ten, fifteen, thirty minutes late. You don't have to be a jerk about people being late, but it should be the aberration and not the norm. (Christopher Scott)

Edited 9/16/15 to change email for coach list to registrar - Erik Tanouye
Last edited by tanouye on Wed Sep 16, 2015 2:54 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Erik Tanouye
School Manager
(also Improv/Sketch teacher and performer)
UCB Training Center
520 Eighth Ave, 9th Floor
New York, New York 10018

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Re: Forming a Practice Group (How To and other tips)

Postby AlexAlex » Fri Feb 01, 2013 12:30 am

Thanks for putting this together. So much good information.

Maybe it'd be a good idea to print some out to leave near the guidebooks?

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Re: Forming a Practice Group (How To and other tips)

Postby CharoneF » Fri Feb 14, 2014 10:55 pm

Or you could just print this once:

Forming a Practice Group (How To and other tips)


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