The State of Play
A grateful look at where LMA has been, where it’s going, and the people who make it all possible from LMA’s Founder, Eran Thomson
An improv stage typically consists of nothing more than some lights, a curtain, and a couple of chairs, but its capable of becoming anything — a spaceship, a cat, a kitchen — why do so many scenes take place in kitchens?
Where some people see nothing, Improvisors see endless potential and possibility.
And just like an improv stage, LMA too has endless potential and possibility to grow, expand, and improve in the year ahead. But before I time dash to next year, I’d like to flash back to reflect on some of the places we’ve been and thank some of the people who’ve been instrumental in getting us this far.
When LMA was founded back in 2012, the Sydney improv scene, if you can call it that, was cliquey, competitive, and, from what I witnessed, built on a foundation of TheatreSports and being goofy. Now, there’s nothing wrong with short form or being goofy (or competitive), but at that time, in my opinion, improv in Sydney couldn’t compare to my experience in Los Angeles at places like The Groundlings or The Second City. And so I started flying in Teachers from the US and, in overly simplistic terms, LMA was born.
Since our first few sporadic weekend workshops we’ve come a long way: We now have four, 8-week terms a year. We have students performing in comedy festivals and regular shows at some of Sydney’s most highly respected venues and theatres. We’ve expanded into Melbourne. We’re teaching comedy to kids in schools. And we’re offering more than just improv too — sketch comedy, musical improv, and clowning have been added to the curriculum, with stand-up comedy soon to follow. Our corporate training is gaining momentum as well, with recent workshops at places like Twitter, Telstra, and Toyota (to name a few that start with “T” — don’t ask me why), and we’re a regular contributor at the annual VIVID Ideas Festival.
But the thing I’m most proud of is our community. And if you’re reading this you’re probably a part of it.
From the very beginning the ultimate goal for LMA was to create a safe, fun place where anyone and everyone felt welcome to come learn, fail gloriously (and succeed hilariously), and above all else, play. And by jove we’ve done it! And like any successful ensemble, it was a team effort. A few key people have made it all possible and I’d like to thank some them here and now.
David Evans — For bravely saying “yes” and being our first 8-week class Teacher. You are true LMA OG, and one day it will be our honour to name a classroom after you. Or maybe a theatre.
Pete Lead — For your positive energy, optimism, trust, and respect. And for giving us a model curriculum that set the bar. From the very beginning you graciously supported LMA and helped me believe this was all possible.
Sophie Long — For your soft, caring, and nurturing nature. And for helping create a Level 1 “intro to improv” class curriculum that feels like a big warm hug, from a soon to be best friend.
Alistair Magee — For your relentless energy and enthusiasm. For always wanting to be better. And for helping us fine tune and retune, and retune, and retune our Level 2 until we got it right.
Tony Starr — For your dedication to craft. For keeping the bar high. For all the amazing work you do putting on shows. And for always having a tape ball on hand.
Richard Bennett — For your patience and dogged pursuit of perfection. For your encyclopaedic knowledge of improv. For developing production tools that make our shows possible. And for always being a friend to LMA
Daniel Pavatich — For your caring, thoughtful, and considered perspective. For your ability to prioritise play over politics. And for jumping in, and bringing so many others with you.
David Tieck — For reaffirming that, despite some growing pains, what we’ve built — and are building — together is special. And for telling me the scene (and yes we can call it that now) we’ve created in Oz more closely resembles what you experienced in US than ever before.
I’d also like give a shout out to a few other remarkable people who continue to contribute to the community: Flavie Laliberte, Jeff Mesina, Dan Thomas, Andrew Wowk, Melissa McGlensey, Justin Porter, Vidya Rajan, Vic Hill, Alicia Gonzalez, Jasmine Langdon, Talya Finberg, Georgina Giannikopoulos, Georgia Woodward, Andrew Strano, Kimberley Twiner, Laurence Orkin, Nishita Merchant, Miles Ross, Amanda Hood, Lucy O’Brien, Nici Spunde, Amanda Lifford, Jay Sukow, Kate O’Keefe, and Elliot Stevenson.
I’d also like to give props to our friends and trusted advisors at Westside Comedy Theatre: Colin Sweeney, Kristin Hensley, Chris Gorbos, Lloyd Ahlquist, Bryce Wissel, and Sean Monahan: Thank you.
Special thanks also to Josh Pryor and Bob Kulhan at Business Improv for your continued support, collaboration, and trust.
And lastly, or perhaps, “firstly” I’d like to thank our students, and especially our very first students from way back when — you know who you are. You took a brave first step into a fledgling program and stuck with us when we struggled, toiled, and sometimes failed you. I hope you all know we always had your back and best interests at heart, and we love you. You will always be №1.
So where do we go from here? Just like an empty improv stage, 2017 holds the potential for many exiting opportunities and changes. Here’s a snapshot of some of the things coming to LMA over the next 12 months
- More chances to perform: In Sydney we’re ramping up regular shows at The Factory Theatre, The Belvoir St. Theatre, and The Old Fitz is looking good too. In Melbourne we’ll have more and more shows at The Bella Union.
- More chances and things to learn: Last year we experimented with weekend classes and this year we’re hoping to offer more of them to accommodate people’s various schedules. And as mentioned above we’re adding new disciplines to the curriculum including clown, musical improv, and stand-up comedy.
- More brilliant Teachers: Expect to see more teaching talent heading our way from LA, Chicago, and New York this year from schools like Second City, i.O, and UCB, and of course we’ll continue to bring out legends like Joe Bill, David Razowsky, Craig Cackowski, and more.
- More leadership: As LMA continues to grow there will be opportunities galore for Teachers and Students who want to step up, and into roles involving production, stage-managing, directing, marketing, social media, blogging, and of course teaching, along with ways to become more involved with the running of the school.
- More professional experience: With the soft launch of Comedy & Co. last year we saw that we can create real world opportunities for our students to write, perform, produce, direct, or simply be involved in, and learn the ropes around, what it takes to produce comedic video content for clients.
- More beer: Who knows, if we get lucky enough to find our own theatre space(s), and we can get a liquor license, well, there ain’t no party like an improv party.
If you’ve been a part of the journey so far, I am eternally grateful for your participation and contributions to the community. If you’re just joining, or thinking about taking an improv class or pursing comedy for the first time, welcome aboard. You won’t find a more welcoming, supportive, generous, diverse, or funnier group of people to play with anywhere else in Australia.
Thanks to you, 2017 is going to be a blast.
Eran Thomson is the Founder of LMA and hopes this is the year he finally finds time to play too.