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View topic - Should I drop $350 on another class? | UCB Comedy • Improv and Sketch Comedy Resource Forum

Should I drop $350 on another class?


Questions/Comments about the LA Class Program

Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby Howie » Sun Mar 06, 2011 6:46 pm

Hey people, I find myself confused and frustrated at the end of my 101 intensive. Below is a letter I have sent to Joe, as well as my instructor. I'm not trying to start a flame war here, but I am looking for some honest feedback and thoughts. Thank you ladies and gentlemen... (I have replaced my instructor's name with 'Instructor')
Howie

Joe, Lindsay, Instructor,
I wanted to get back with you after my class was finished, and leave you with some thoughts as to my experience.

First, I was really looking forward to some specific crit after the performance from my instructor- who never showed up to the performance. If Instructor's absence was for a rehearsal or other work related issue, then Instructor should have let us know the day of our last 'regular' class that he would be unavailable for the show. His no-show cemented a feeling that Instructor, and UCB, does not really care about the crafting of individual performers, but is more interested in creating a heavy, recurring revenue stream of class takers, regardless of their talents. Please… prove me wrong.

I felt like I needed some specific feedback regarding my work within your long form style. And without it, I feel rather soured on the entire UCB experience. It feels as if the entire goal of the 101 class was to get me to sign up for a 201 class. And why would I choose to do so if I will just be encountering another class with incredibly varied levels of talent and ability, whose end game is to sign up for a 301 class. Pay to play leaves me feeling sick and taken advantage of.

I am a smart, intellectual individual. I require a smart, thoughtful examination of my work. I am owed as much from my school and instructor. Maybe I am unique in this need for specificity in feedback, but that should not matter. Each student should receive an individual evaluation of their talents, ability, and improvement over the course of the class. An individual recommendation for moving forward with training can be the cap on that student evaluation. I would welcome any crit from the instructor who filled in for our class performance.

Being in a state of play with talented, open, smart individuals is a joy. But that does not seem to be the end game… is it? If it is, then I want to be encouraged by my instructor. I want to be told that things will get better and easier. That the quality of the players (hopefully) increases as the classes change (do they?) And if they don't then I want an honest appraisal of how I work within the long form as UCB teaches it.

Do I play well with others?
Do I support the game established in the scene?
Do I find unique and fast ways to establish the WWW of the scene?
Do my walk ons support, explore, and heighten the game of the scene?
What do I continue to do wrong? How can I focus on fixing that so I do not continue to fall into the same trap?

In short, are my talents and efforts appreciated by the style, and would both the style and my own artistic being benefit from continued involvement. Right now, I don't feel like dropping more change on another class. I feel like I might have wasted $350.

Besides these 'new' thoughts, I wanted to reiterate my suggestion that you have a spot on the website to highlight the class show (utilizing the reservation system would be overkill; but a 'private' page on the site that we could link to on facebook or emails would be nice.) And you should stop charging for the 'class show.' It screams of low rent shenanigans. It is already a part of the class that we ALL PAID FOR and is not of enough value to be worth paying for (as far as a performance goes.) Especially if it is not necessary for the instructor to be there.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby Howie » Mon Mar 07, 2011 11:12 pm

Just another thought; we all had to fill out 'questionnaires' on the last day of class. They were very specific about how WE felt WE did in learning basics and understanding the topics covered. So; the UCB is interested in knowing if we feel we are well served by our instructors and the lesson plans...

...should we, the students, not enjoy the same knowledge that we have mastered and internalized the lessons and basics of this long form? Who is teaching whom? I took the time to be specific and thorough in my 'self-evaluation' but I am unable to judge myself in the same way that an outsider is. I can believe whatever I like, but only an observer can objectively determine my understanding and internalization of the core principles, as well as my ability to put them in to use on stage.

Come on, people... chime in here.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby dumbshow » Sat Mar 12, 2011 10:37 pm

I don't know man, it doesn't sound like you're in tune with the spirit of process. Level 1 is basics, and that's all that it is -- you have a right to expect a certain level of feedback but i would HOPE that at the most basic level you know if you're getting it. the next level is a natural step up and has a natural step up in critique and feedback. everyone that goes to level two is naturally more committed, more skilled and more inspired. if you have any doubts about the benefit of furthering your education in the UCB system and process then... hell no. doubt is the comedy killer. if you are bringing negative, doubt and cynicism to the process you are not only not getting anything out of it for yourself but you're detracting from the class's experience. step back, breathe and maybe study somewhere else. the system is too polluted with people who don't believe in or enjoy the process and are just taking classes because their agent told them it looks good on a resume. if that's your only motivation... there's really nothing else to say. you can now put it on your resume. good job. you got your money's worth right there. say good night and disappear into the darkness...

just my thoughts.

Adrian
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby Richie » Mon Mar 14, 2011 2:49 pm

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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby BrynnaCampbell » Mon Mar 21, 2011 5:02 pm

I might end up just rehashing what everyone else has said, but here goes:

When I took 101 (also intensive), I had already done improv for a year or two, so yes, it was a little frustrating to work with people who had never done it before. That's just how any basic course is going to be, though. There are people in the class who just want to try something new. There are people who have never been in an acting class before. There are people who are shy, and are trying to come out of their shells. So you're going to have a wide range of skills in 101.

Three things about 101 Intensive:

1) Because 101 is designed for people with no experience, there isn't going to be a huge evaluation of the students at the end. You know that recurring nightmare a lot of people have of having to speak in front of people and not knowing what they're supposed to be talking about? That's how a lot of beginners feel, and telling them what they need to work on right after they try it is just adding to that bundle of nerves. The teachers on the whole are sensitive, caring people who want to make sure that the people who are unsure of themselves are encouraged. Some of the best performers at the theatre are introverted people, who might not have continued if they were constantly being scrutinized at an early level. If you want an evaluation, you can easily request it via email. Teachers are very good about responding to those sorts of requests.

2) In a 101 intensive class, teachers often have to miss a day, even if it's a performance day. Most of them are working actors/writers, and the fact that they've managed to block out four days a week for two weeks is pretty impressive. If they don't show up, it's not because they don't care. Things come up. I know it can be a drag not having them there for your performance, but they're not doing it out of apathy.

3) I took intensive classes through 301. However, if you want to get specific criticism, I recommend asking around about which teachers are tougher in that regard, and wait for them to offer an eight week course. Some teachers will just be a better match for your personal style.

I'd definitely like to address the whole "revenue stream" theory, because I feel that it's an unfair assessment. UCB has been, in my experience, one of the least money-grubbing associations I've ever had the pleasure of dealing with. The school actually has a policy that if you have to repeat a level a third time, it's free. I don't know of another school that has that kind of unselfish accountability. And the five dollars needed to attend the student show is ridiculously cheap. If you're looking to showcase your talents for free, there are plenty of shows around town where you can independently book yourself.

I hope this doesn't sound accusatory, but it seems like you want a super exclusionary school that only caters to the "smart" people. Working with people who are weaker on things only makes you a better performer. A huge part of improv is making your scene partner look good, and if you can make the worst person in your class look good, that's what makes you a better improviser. If that doesn't help you, the current barrier to weaker players is Advanced Study, so you can work your way up to that. If you don't feel like doing that, maybe UCB isn't for you. The Groundlings is much more picky about who they pass. But they will also eat more of your money.

Okay, having said that, once you get into 201, things get much more challenging. And if you stick it out, the Advanced Study program is fantastic. It's really a wonderful school if you have patience and give people a chance.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby JiveTurkeyOnRye » Tue Mar 22, 2011 12:00 am

I guess for the most part I agree with what everyone else has said on here. But my question for you, Howie, is having had a few weeks between when you posted your issues here and given your teacher and the school the chance to hear your concerns, and also to see things from the perspective of people on here, what ultimately do you feel in regards to your original question? Do you think it has been answered for you or are you still left scratching your head?

By that I mean, you nailed a pretty public grievance to the wall here, it only seems fitting that you perhaps give the courtesy of a follow up.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby Howie » Tue Mar 22, 2011 3:16 pm

UCBoard et al…
Thanks to each of you who replied for taking the time to share your thoughts. They are truly appreciated.

I have taken the past week or two to talk about my experience with friends and colleagues, and hearing feedback from this online community is one of the only ways I know how to attempt to hear from folk who are deep in the UCB community.

My take away from all of the discussion is this: I probably would have had a better experience with a different teacher. And although I hear everyone's thoughts and experiences about how the work deepens as the curriculum moves forward, I still have reservations that, at the current time, keep me from wanting to involve myself further…

Just so you all know, I was informed that the reason our instructor did not make it to our final class/ performance was because UCB scheduled him to begin teaching another class at that time. To me, this says it all.

A school that seems more interested in starting over with a new class, rather than allowing for a complete experience by one section of students, says 'we don't care.' Or, maybe, 'we are too busy to care.' And that is unacceptable to me.

While classwork is a time to be cognizant of allowing each student to get their money's worth, and allow one's self to flail and fail magnificently, performance is not. The class performance, for me, was the time to adhere rather strictly to the lessons taught by my instructor, and to do any and everything within my power (utilizing tools given to me over the course) to make my fellow performers shine on stage. This was, to me, the culmination of the course load and training that came before.

My entire class deserved to have our instructor there, so we could have some personalized notes that could be rooted in the journeys each of us took during our time in the 101. I had specific questions about my use of walk ons, pushing a game upon to a failing scene, and my ability to 'yes and' my partner rather than an object (a personal issue of mine) in the scene. Instead, our class was abandoned, because the school scheduled our instructor to begin another class when we were supposedly putting our education to work on the boards. They did not even have the wherewithal to let us know, neither before the 'performance' nor on the day of.

I have reports from a classmate that has moved on with further training that his new instructor is more deeply invested in his class, takes a more personal approach, and determined involvement in their (the students) successes. And another acquaintance told me that when he took a 'make up' class, his 'make up' instructor was infinitely more invested, and talented (as an instructor) than his 'regular' teacher. So, maybe if I ever decide to move forward, I should play Columbo and check out which instructor might be the best fit for the kind of instruction I want; personalized, invested, and caring.

I'm not ready to do that right now. I'm not sure that I will be soon. I feel it is more important (to me) to work with a teacher who is deeply invested in her students, and not just taking on another class to pay for a tank of gas or what not… The takeaway for me is that I did not find a class where the instructor understood that teaching involves a modicum of trust and dedication that goes both ways, and is open to challenges, questions, and confrontations that deepen understanding and allow for moments of experiential education. It does not matter if it is a 101 or an 'advanced' course.

Again, thanks to all who have chimed in, or may still do so. I hope to work with all of you if I choose to come back and drink the kool-aid, or on a job when we run in to each other. And just so you all know, while yes, I may have been the only one to attempt to discuss these issues in a semi-public forum, I was not the only person to feel this way about our class. But I may be the only person who is more interested in paying for training than being a 'part of something' or 'meeting a bunch of like minded performers.'

Howie
I don't mean to offend; it just comes naturally.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby JiveTurkeyOnRye » Wed Mar 23, 2011 7:44 pm

Howie,

I wrote a rather long winded response to you here, but that was mostly an attempt to kill time at work I think and also because I love reading my own words. I'm going to try and condense it here though. First off, I feel like you may have shorted yourself a bit by taking the intensive when you clearly wanted a more detailed study. Yes, both versions of the class take 24 hours of course time total, but that week off really does do a lot to let the lessons sink in, and also to allow your teacher to get to understand you better. Just a theory but if you do decide to take 201, take the regular length course, and ask around to people in the program which teachers they had and what they liked or didn't like about them. It might not be that your teacher was bad at what he does, but just that his style doesn't mesh with yours. I've heard the same teacher referred to in glowing terms by some people, and terrible terms by others.

I personally think you're making too big a deal out of your teacher not being at the class show. I had it happen twice during my run of classes, once in 201 and once in 401, and I don't feel like it shorted me at all as a learning improvisor. It also doesn't mean the school doesn't care, that's a big stretch in my opinion. It may simply have been there was no one else available at the time so they had to use your teacher again. Furthermore, if you were really as unsatisfied with his teaching style through the previous 24 class hours, do you really think that last 15 minute notes session would be the keystone that brought it all together? I think it's more likely that had he been there, you'd have written a similar letter saying "I really wanted to hear more from him after the show."

My suggestion to you is this. Keep in touch with your classmates who are in 201 and see if any of them are getting involved with a practice group and see if you can join in, even if it's just as a sub or something. First off, coaching sessions are cheaper, usually a lot more individually focused, and can also give you an idea of some different coaches/teachers so that if/when you do decide to take 201, you might have an idea of someone you want to sign up with.

I wish you good luck, and I hope you change your mind about the program. I'm a fairly bitter and jaded, snarky and sarcastic person, and yet I have nothing but positive feelings and things to say about my four levels so far. And yes, this is the short version of my reply.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby macoule30 » Mon Mar 28, 2011 7:23 am

Well Howie, as a teacher at UCB I can tell you that you've mastered the skill of finding a first unusual thing and heightening it into an absurd game.

Your instructor had a conflict where he had to teach a class instead of presiding over your show. It happens sometimes. We teachers don't like it when it happens because we want to see the whole class through to the end. And the theater's administration hates to cross schedule like that but sometimes it's their only choice. Having to juggle rental spaces, teacher availability,scheduling around holidays...it's a Byzantine process and they put a lot of thought and care into the process and sometimes they're left with no choice but to cross schedule. It's a rarity, not a systematic conspiracy to bilk people out of hard earned money. If anything, sometimes it can be beneficial to have a different pair of eyes for your grad show. All of us instructors are looking for the same things in scenes. We teach the same syllabus. We see the same problems. We see the same victories. You're not at a disadvantage having someone else preside over your grad show.

And with regard to the level of critique you were expecting at the end of the show, there isn't an instructor at the theater that's going deliver the individual analysis you were looking for. The notes delivered at the end of your grad show are THE SHORTEST and LEAST DETAILED notes you will get at the theater. Because A) it's over now and hopefully everything went great and everyone had fun and B) everyone's friends and family are waiting for them outside so they can go buy them a beer. I've had some of the people who've posted above in class, and they're right. If you asked your instructor for more specific individual notes at break, after class or through email, I'm sure your instructor would have willingly obliged. Although I'm not sure the sheer amount of information you require could be capsulized in any known medium.

In level 2 there is a great deal more to work on. There's more guidelines, new tools and a deeper focus on game. Perhaps this will give you the rigor you crave. You will have to pay $350. But I assure you, it's not just some actor's gas money. It pays rent for the rehearsal spaces, it keeps the lights on, it fixes the air conditioner. No one is trying to cheat you.
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Re: Should I drop $350 on another class?

Postby perlstein » Mon Mar 28, 2011 11:59 am

The value of individual feedback is overrated. I always crave it as a student, don't get me wrong. But, not once in my (admittedly short) improv career did someone tell me I did something wrong or note me and then I was perfect. An individual note seems to go against the ensemble nature of improv. It's not called individual mind, not only cause it sounds stupid but, because it's about working together.

Improv is something that you just keep practicing and hopefully evolve and become better at. It's not the same as baseball where you can go, "Ah, your stance is wrong." Everything is right in improv, as long as you make it right. A teacher explaining to you how she/he would have done a scene has little value other than reminding you how awesome your teacher is at improv.

You probably got individual notes like, be committed, listen, say yes. Those are the most important notes, even though the seem so basic. But, you get those basic ones right, and odds are you have a pretty great scene.

Also, I liked that after a twenty-eight hours you demanded responses to your post. You really need attention.
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Happy improvising.
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