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Giggling for grades: Improv class at COC

COC students learn improv skills in theater arts program

Posted: September 21, 2009 10:06 p.m.
Updated: September 22, 2009 4:55 a.m.

Manny Trujillo, left, Nick Mullen, back, and Dan Fowble perform a carpool improv exercise in their advanced improvisational performance theater class at College of the Canyons on Monday afternoon.

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Dan Fowble remembers going to an improv show when he was 12 years old.

"I was fascinated by it," said the 20-year-old Castaic resident.

Already a fan of improv television shows like "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Fowble wondered if he could ever master the improvisation skills he saw, if he, too, could make people laugh.

"The thing that fascinated me the most was how they get a suggestion of something and they play it out to make it so hilarious," he said. "Everything they say and do is hysterical."

Fowble found an opportunity to test his comedy skills at College of the Canyons by enrolling in two improv classes, where he's learned to perform live.

On Sept. 30, a group of about 20 improv students will turn into the Comedians of the Canyons as they perform for the community during their first show of the school year.

Through constant exercises, students like Fowble are trained to think on their feet and perform in front of an audience in the improvisational performance class taught by Allan Trautman, 54, who has been involved with acting and improv since his college days. He regularly performs with "Puppet Up," a troupe that performs improv with puppets.

Among the assignments is a carpool skit that puts a group of three students together to imagine they are on their way to work.

Based on audience suggestions, the plot becomes more complex, forcing students to be quick thinkers to continue the story line and make their peers laugh.

"Nobody has an idea of what a scene is going to be when it first starts," Trautman said.

Despite the possible cases of stage fright, Trautman reminds his students to stay relaxed and have fun.

"If you're not having fun up there, there's no reason to do it," he said.

Trautman enjoys watching the students grow throughout the semester.

"It's really great to watch them figure it out and get out of their own ways," he said.

That growth is something Nathan Rodriguez, 21, has experienced since the class started in August.

"You learn how to keep your mind on a blank slate," said Rodriguez, a Stevenson Ranch resident.

One of the most challenging skits is known as "questions"; students must act out a scene by talking only in questions.

"It seems to be a lot more challenging than people think," Rodriguez said.

Fowble, who is taking the improv class for the fourth time, said he has greater confidence in himself and has learned team-building skills.

While Fowble has earned an EMT certification, he performs improv on the side, even starting his own improv group.

"I would love to turn it into a career," he said.

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