Magnet vs. PIT

Having now taken Level 1 classes at both the Magnet and PIT, I can say without hesitation: they’re both good, it just depends what you’re into.

Everyone I’ve talked to from both sides gushes about how great their respective communities are. Magnet people love the Magnet community, PIT people love the PIT community. (Everyone says the UCB community is kind of filled with dicks. I don’t know, I’m just repeating what I’ve heard.)

Both of my Level 1 classes were filled with awesome, sweet, open, enthusiastic, and naturally funny people, all with varying levels of experience. (This is luck of the draw, though.)

While UCB is known for having a very structured, rules-based philosophy, both my Magnet and PIT (Level 1) experiences were pretty touchy-feely, more about having fun, more about getting used to playing with each other, offering guidelines and advice and thoughts.

For example, the “Don’t ask questions” rule came up in both classes, and in both classes it was offered as a guideline rather than a hard rule. So when we DO find ourselves asking a question, we don’t start flagellating ourselves for being so stupid as to break a simple rule (thereby flustering both ourselves and our scene partner); instead, we just realize, “oh, whoops, I asked a question, which put my partner on the spot. I’ll add to what I just said to help them out.” And eventually we remember not to do it in the first place.

I don’t know whether I’m comparing school philosophies or just the philosophies of my individual instructors, but on the subject of teachers: I recommend both Rick Andrews at the Magnet and Bradford Jordan at the PIT. They are both phenomenally warm and encouraging and non-judgmental, which is what a lot of us need when we’re starting out. And they both give good notes. I can’t speak for other instructors.

Honestly, from my experience, I’m not sure how I would differentiate the schools, big-picture. I’ve heard that Magnet scenes are about building and focusing on relationships, but that was an underlying theme of my PIT class, too.

Because (a) the Magnet is more convenient for me (it is literally on my way home), and (b) I started at the Magnet, so my Magnet social circle has been percolating longer, I will probably continue with the Magnet for now. Nothing against the PIT. It’s just on the other side of town. And all its jams are too late at night. And they charge $10 for class shows. (But their class shows ARE on a proper stage, not a modified classroom, so they totally get points there.)

Level 1 vs. Level 1: What a Weird Battle

This is a conversation I’ve been having with Magnet-practice-group-type people lately:


Me: I can’t do Mondays, I’m taking that Level 1 class over at the PIT.

Them: Oh yeah, how is that?

Me: I’ve only had three classes, I dunno.

Them: Oh, okay.

Me: And I don’t know if I’d just be comparing instructors’ personal philosophies or whole philosophies of the schools.

Them: Oh, yeah, I can see that. Our Level 2 instructor was a totally different experience from Rick [the predominant Level 1 instructor at the Magnet].

Me: Yeah. I dunno.


I will say, after four classes, that my Level 1 at the PIT involves an awful lot of sitting around talking about improv and not so much actual improvising. To the instructor’s credit, I think he wants to get up and improvise more, too, but we keep asking him [often heavy or difficult] improv questions that he doesn’t want to leave unanswered.

I don’t regret taking the class. All the reasons I justified taking it in the first place are still holding true.

In our last class, we beat the shit out of a character I did, which was especially cool ‘cos we haven’t really learned “tagging out” or “beating the shit of of the game” yet. The instructor started it, and I caught his soft lob, and then the whole class got in on it, and I left class feeling all ‘Hell yeah!,’ which I mention not to be self-congratulatory but because it is not a feeling I associate with going home from improv class.

Ladies been improvisin’: A totally unnecessary postgame rehash

Overall: that went pretty well!

We Might Just Kiss: A Female Improv Event

(1) Criticisms first.

I wish I’d gotten out there more, and when I did get out there, I wish I’d said smarter things.

I think those are confidence-borne things that I’ll be struggling with for a long time.

So. I dunno. I’m aware of the problem, 90% of the posts on this blog whine about my lack of confidence, this is a known entity, we’re on it, roger that.

When I talk about lacking confidence, I should specify— I am physically pretty hammy. But when I get up there, my brain deflates like a dead mushroom. I struggle to follow what’s going on. I haven’t developed laser focus yet, and every initiation (after an opening) sets me into a panic of “oh my god, did I zone out during the opening, is she referencing the opening, should I know what to do with this, the audience will know if I missed it, ahhhh I’m just going to sit this one out and let everyone else carry the scene.”

The few times I’ve tried to discuss the “no ideas” issue with my colleagues… it seems like I’m the only one who struggles with it.

Me: I have no ideas. I just go blank when I’m up there.

Them: Wow, really? That must suck.

Ehhhh. I’m still hoping some of this will come with time and practice and experience.

(2) The good.

My warmup scene was very well-received.

Check out all those likes, that's right, I'm fucking awesome

Names and faces blurred to make it marginally harder for creeps to track us down

I’m not terrible at everything, yayyy!!!

It’s my second show ever, and it went better than my first, and maybe my third will go better (maybe not, but I can hope), and it was an experience, and it was kind of fun, and I CAN DO THIS.

Ladies be improvisin’

We Might Just Kiss: A Female Improv Event

This past week, I discovered an email from Megan Gray, artistic director at the Magnet. I’m on Magnet and PIT mailing lists by choice, so, y’know, whatever, I opened it.

It was NOT, as I had assumed, a mass-mailing; it was a semi-personal request for me to participate in next week’s monthly “female improv event.”


(I said yes.)

(…after stumbling around my office in disbelief for half an hour.)

Megan often leads those Thursday night jams I do to help conquer my stage fright; she must have tracked me down from that. (Props to her detective skills, ‘cos I never use my last name to sign up.)

I’m terrified.

Trying to morph that terror into “nervous/excited.”

But I’m prepared for this. I’ve spent months focusing on improv and stage fright. The only way to get over my fear is to JUST KEEP FACING IT until I’m not afraid anymore.

This performance will just be one line in my soon-to-be-long list of terrifying performances. It won’t be amazing, and that’s okay.

Maybe I will fall flat on my face again, but the important thing is I AM GOING TO TRY.

Bold character choices. Character, emotion, start in the middle of the scene. Let it evolve. Commit. First unusual thing.

…Get out of your damn head.

Before the show, I have two practice groups and half a class— plenty of chances to work things out, get my head in a good place.

I can do this.

I know what I’m doing.

Deep breaths.

This’ll be fun.