Fundamentals of Improv with Shannon Winpenny – Enroll Today!!!

Fundamentals of Improv with Shannon Winpenny: New Classes Start on October 1st and October 4th, Enroll Today by calling (808) 384-3392

Author’s Note: As most of you who know me personally or have followed/read me for a while, Improv’s become huge part of my life this year. I’ve been a long-time Improv fan and this year I came into the unique opportunity and privilege to study Improv under one of the best. For this two-part post I’d like to take an opportunity to share with you a bit more in depth about the Fundamentals of Improv with Shannon Winpenny training center and the impact it’s had on me in hopes of perhaps inspiring you to give the program a try (assuming you’re on O’ahu). Today in Part One I talk about the program itself. Later in Part Two I’ll talk about some of the practical benefits I’d gleaned from my Improv training which has helped me in my daily life.

About the Instructor
Shannon Winpenny (Kaiser High School ’93) is a local girl who made it big on the national improv scene studying and performing on the Mainland with the famed Chicago conservatories Second City and Improv Olympic. After performing and touring on the Mainland for 10 years she returned home this year with the goal of sharing her knowledge and developing the local Improv community. Within the span of a year her dream turned into a reality as she and gal pal Kim Potter successfully founded and opened both the Fundamentals of Improv with Shannon Winpenny (FISW) training center as well as the Laughtrack Theater Company.

About the Program

FISW is a three-tier training program featuring Beginning, Intermediate and Advanced levels with a theoretical fourth-tier (Performance). Each of the three-tiers is an 8-week course (1 day a week for 3 hours) with each session and tier building upon one another. FISW teaches long-form improvisation with a focus on the Harold. Long-form is a little different from the short-form style games most people would be familiar with through Whose Line Is It Anyway.

Beginning Level

Beginning level (as the name implies) starts you off with the basics including:

  • the essentials of improv
  • working without a script
  • getting out of your head
  • thinking on your feet
  • character development
  • developing confidence
  • stage/camera presence

As a beginning student (and throughout the duration of the entire program) Shannon takes you through her enormous bag of tricks and training exercises that will develop each and every one of these skill sets within you. The exercises are fun and are fairly reminiscent of the short form games you may be familiar with from TV and being improv you’ll typically be in stitches a good portion of the time. The real focus though is developing within you the tools to effectively perform a long-form piece so you’ll be covering different ways and techniques of how to start a piece, how to start a scene, how to find and develop a character, how to develop a scene and how to tell a story.

If you have no previous performance background you’ll develop fairly well in short time through the training exercises and Shannon’s excellent guidance, coaching and feedback as well as the support of your classmates. If you do have previous performance experience you’ll develop another muscle of your performance brain (as Shannon puts it) to round you out as a performer.

Intermediate Level

At the Intermediate Level the focus shifts to putting all the basics together and becomes an introduction to the Long-Form style of Improv which focuses on telling an extended story (typically half an hour) through Improvisation. So as opposed to short funny ha-ha games as you’d find in short-form (what’d you see on Whose Line) what you’re basically doing is putting together a play of sorts on the spot with the rest of your teammates. At this level you learn some of the different styles of Long-Form (the Harold, the Living Room, the Armando, etc) while reinforcing your basics.

Advanced Level

At the advanced level you basically spend most of your time polishing your long-form. You will hone your basic skills, develop your team, and polish your abilities to improvise in the long-form style.

Cue Spotlight: ACTION!!!

The end result of a little over half a year’s worth of training? You and your classmates will have the opportunity to make your stage debut as a performing troupe at Laughtrack Theater. If you’re a complete novice straight off the street (such as myself) that sounds quite intimidating to say you’ll be performing for about a half hour to 40 minutes in a “made up out of nowhere play” but like anything else in life it sounds a lot worse than it really is. Improv is a ton of fun to do as it’s basically you and a bunch of cool cats standing around in a room having fun playing with one another and telling jokes in the form of a made up storyline.

The Peeps

FISW and the Laughtrack Crew are just great. It’s a real ‘ohana style atmosphere as Shannon and Kim are just totally cool people to work with. Outside of class there’s a ton of get-togethers: be it after class drinks at any one of downtown’s numerous dining establishments or picnics on the beach. Studying at Laughtrack with FISW for me is very much like being at home: I’m doing something fun and enjoyable with people I sincerely like being with. What can be better than that?

The next two sections of Beginning Fundamentals of Improv with Shannon Winpenny start on October 1 and October 4, 2008. The course runs 8 weeks in length on Wednesday evenings from 6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m. (section one) and Saturday afternoons from 12:00 p.m. – 3:00 p.m. (section two). Tuition is $175.00 for the 8 week program. To register call (808) 384-3392 or email:


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