I took an improvision workshop last year lead by Bill Chott (pr. “kott”) at his studio called The Improv Trick. It was an entirely comfortable experience for this utterly novice and inexperienced improv performer, and an interesting thing I learned from Bill about the history of modern improv is that Gaslight Square in St. Louis is considered to be its birthplace.
If you’re even slightly interested in the idea of improv, here are a few things about Bill Chott that might encourage you to take a workshop or classes from THE MASTER, who has studios in both St. Louis and Los Angeles. His Web site is linked here and called > the improv trick < and describes Bill this way,
“Bill Chott is one of the few nationally known stars to permanently reside in St. Louis while still remaining successfully busy in Hollywood. His recent credits include a staring role in the Top Ten Farrelly Bros. film “The Ringer,” Disney’s “Wizards of Waverly Place,” all while voicing cartoons on Saturday Night Live.”
This is a very short and modest list of what Bill’s done. Here’s a link to his full list of credits on > IMDB <. A few highlights: Bill was in an episode of Monk in 2008. He also played an alien in a move with > Alan Rickman <, who is tied for first place on my list of movie idol crushes with George Clooney. [Alan and I go way back (Alan is not aware of this.)] Bill Chott starred with him in “Galaxy Quest,” a spoof on StarTrek (and here I put my hand over my geek heart.)
Since you asked, Alan’s short-list of roles includes Severus Snape in the Harry Potter movies; Judge Turpin in Sweeney Todd; Hans Gruber, terrorist, in Die Hard; Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; and Jamie in Truly Madly Deeply, where he won my heart.
But, I digress.
I just got a call today from The Improv Trick that beginner classes are starting again at the St. Louis studio, with sessions on Tuesday evenings and Saturday afternoons (same beginner class, both days/times.) I’m pre-paid for the classes, so I should get my behinder in gear and get over there to the studio on Cherokee Street next Saturday to dig into this again. If I can’t learn from Bill, then I’m hopeless, and I know I can at least improve!
Anybody else UP for this next week?
Classes are held at The Improv Trick, 2715 Cherokee Street, St. Louis, Missouri, 63118. Call for more information at (314) 922-1998, or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you want to see Bill in action, he is now appearing in
Comedy on Parade
Mondays 8:00 pm
at the Atomic Cowboy
4140 Manchester, St. Louis, Missouri
I’m still surprised that I attended the original workshop. Why did I do that?
Couple of reasons: Curiosity, first of all. I knew absolutely NOTHING about improv, so curiosity was an initial driver. Secondly, I thought because I am often able to make people laugh that I might be naturally good at it, yet, at the same time, I am known to suffer from stage fright (deer in the headlights syndrome, see Video Resume post on this blog), and I thought maybe some improv skills would help with that. I like to face my demons and conquer them.
The improv workshop was a personal eye-opener: It seemed like everything that one needs to do to be “good” at improv goes against my every natural instinct. As an example, I tend to be a “debater,” and one of the rules with improve is that you accept what your scene partner says as true and build on that. Say what?!?
Another example of where I sucked at this is that, although a fluid writer, I have an extremely strong tendency with my verbal/spoken responses to “pause and check” before I speak (and then an occasionally unfortunate tendency to respond with a debate vs. accepting what someone says as true), but with improv you respond in the moment without that “pause and check” evaluation.
I had no idea what an improv workshop would be about when I went that first night, got to the studio and couldn’t actually believe I had gone as far as showing up, and I left realizing that I was naturally terrible at it. I had no choice but to sign up for beginner classes before I left that night.
So don’t hesitate to investigate this top-notch performance training resource we have right here in St. Louis. You could not possibly be worse at it than I am, Bill will make sure you’re comfortable, you may discover you have a gift for it, you will definitely learn something, and the workshop I attended had all ages and all levels of skill, including some local St. Louis theater “stars,” so it may be a great networking venue for you!
Image of Bill Chott from his IMDB.com, copyright unknown
Image of Alan Rickman from Variety.com and taken in 2007 at the Sweeney Todd premiere; taken by Dimitrios Kambouris | wireimage
Image of lace border Valentine heart clip art from clipartandcrafts.com
Image of Bambi jumping tin toy from www.tinmantintoys.com, only $5.99 US, and you should definitely check out this Web site for other cool tin toys. I’m headed back after I publish this post!
Imagine of Taming of the Shrew logo from theaterweb.com