Line Learner, iOS app for actors

Line Learner

Line Learner, an app for iOS devices

Line Learner is a great little app to help actors learn lines. You record your lines and your cue lines from the script. You then set it so that it leaves a silent gap for all of your lines when you play it back. It’s just like running lines with a partner giving you the cue lines. It’s very convenient and effective.

Applications for my class are due on Sunday

I’ll be teaching an improv performance class at Upstairs Gallery in June and July. This class is going to be awesome. I decided for this class that I should have an application process. I’m accepting applications until Sunday, then coming up with the roster by Tuesday.

Keep in mind that if I get enough people, I may open a second class on Sundays. So if you can’t make the Saturday class, but could make a Sunday one, please apply and note that in the application.

Feel free to send me a message via facebook or gmail (ircmullaney in both places) if you have a question.

Possible Second Performance Class

I’ve had a lot of applications so far for the performance class that I’m teaching at Upstairs Gallery in June and July. There is a possibility I could open up a second section for the class, but I would need some more applications to make a second class happen. The most likely time for the second class would be 11:30 to 2:30 on Sundays with a show on Sunday evening, probably around 9:30pm.

So if you are interested in taking the class but Saturday afternoons don’t work for you, and Sundays do, please apply and note that on the form.

Admit it. Then justify it with a philosophy.

I like this piece of advice for improv scenes from Will Hines.

Someone says you’re late for dinner —- admit it, then justify why you are late with a philosophy. Don’t blame it on traffic or your boss — that’s deflecting. Even if it’s a reasonable excuse, you are deflecting the gift. Don’t be surprised to learn you are late. Own it — it’s a gift. 

(via improvnonsense)

A: “You cheated on me!”

B: “I did. It’s the best way I know to test how strong our relationship is.”


A: “You praise your child too much.”

B: “You’re right. My child is stupid, so I praise him a lot because it would be too awful to be honest with him.”


A: “I saw you kill him.”

B: “I wanted you to see, so you would have no doubt what I’m capable of.”

A: “It had nothing to do with him?”

B: “It’s a more powerful statement when the victim is random.”

An Argument for More Frequent Intermissions?

Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes

… or for playing “Sit, Stand, Lean”?

“Sitting for long periods of time — when you don’t stand up, don’t move at all — tends to cause changes physiologically within your muscles. You stop breaking up fat in your bloodstream, you start getting accumulations of fat … in your liver, your heart and your brain. You get sleepy. You gain weight. You basically are much less healthy than if you’re moving.”

Gretchen Reynolds, author of The First 20 Minutes

The Avengers as a Prototype for an Improv Team

I couldn’t resist.

The Hulk

The Hulk is an improvisor who is shy and quiet offstage, but when he is onstage, he becomes a rampaging uncontrollable force of comedy, smashing scenes with his unbridled joy. A team of hulks might be awful to watch, but a team with one Hulk and several other improvisors strong enough to play him would be fun.


Thor is strong like the Hulk, but less impulsive. He is confident in his choices and capable of big booming characters, but he can also reign it in when necessary. He has a youthful exuberance, and sometimes makes choices that a wiser improvisor would avoid, but his perseverance and fortitude makes even terrible choices work.


Hawkeye rarely takes center stage. He hangs back, letting the others make most of the initiations. He watches the whole show for an opening to contribute. He not only sees what is going on, but can anticipate what is about to happen. When he does contribute, it’s a precision shot, making the connection that brings the whole show together.

Captain America

The Captain is a soldier, always fearlessly doing what needs to be done. He is often the second person in the scene using Hulk’s crazy choices to make fun scenes. He is the straight man dealing with all the chaos being created around him.

Black Widow

With no obvious superpower, there are likely some in the back of the theatre watching the show who don’t understand why Black Widow is part of the team. But then the show starts, and she is fast and smart and makes it look easy to keep up with the boys. For every move, she has a counter move. But more than that, she has a way of bending situations to her advantage. You can’t box her into to stereotypical roles, she has a way breaking free and turning the tables. And watch out when she starts a scene weak, she is about to kick your ass.

Iron Man

Every team needs an Iron Man. Sure, he is smart and clever, but he also has lots of gadgets. No matter what the situation, he has just the right tool to make the scene work. He is the first out to initiate, pointing the way for the rest of the team. He is a great editor, cutting scenes just before they start to wear out their welcome and knows how to bring things together when the show is reaching it’s climax. Finally, he rarely takes things too seriously. When things aren’t going well offstage, he is quick to find the humor in the situation, popping stress balloons with well timed pin pricks of wit.

Who are the Avengers among the improvisors you know?

Putting The Pieces Together

Putting the Pieces Together

Photo by: Songster09 on flickr

Most improv training is focused on scenes. If you can do a good scene, you can do a good show, the thought goes. I’d like to suggest that the opposite is also true, or maybe more true, if you can do a good show, the scenes take care of themselves. When you learn how to take a character or an idea or a game and follow it through multiple scenes, you learn how better to play with characters, ideas and games within a scene.

This is how I’ll be approaching my upcoming performance workshop. We won’t start by working on openings, or breaking our form down into pieces. We will start by putting it all together. In the very first day, you will be doing 20-30 minute improvisations with your classmates. We will start with a narrow focus, a simple structure to be sure, but it will gradually expand over the weeks until we have a full form which follows games, explores themes, has group games and finds connections.

These won’t be Harolds. They won’t be that formal, but they will have many things in common with Harolds. And if you do this performance workshop, you will learn tools that will work in any kind of improv performance.

10 Reasons This Class Will Be Awesome

Yesterday I announced that I will be teaching a class at Upstairs Gallery in June and July. Here are 10 reasons why this class will be awesome.

  1. Kevin Mullaney (me) is one of the most experienced teachers in Chicago. He has been coaching long form improv since 1995 and teaching since 1997. He taught well over 100 classes in New York for the Upright Citizen’s Brigade Theater.
  2. Smaller class size: This class will have 14 people or less in it. I’ve seen classes in Chicago with more than 20 people in them. Honestly, that sucks for the student. Smaller class sizes mean more chances to try exercises and to learn by doing.
  3. Smaller team size: Team size will be limited to 7 people max for performances. New performers in Chicago are typically put on teams with 10 players, sometimes more. That’s too many people. 7 people per team means that each person will have plenty of room to contribute to the shows.
  4. Less expensive: $175, about half the cost of a regular improv class.
  5. 4 performances: Most improv classes only have 1 performance.
  6. Performances begin in the middle of the session, not after the class is over. This means we will be able to work in class on problems that arise in the shows.
  7. Shows are free! Invite your friends to come see you for free. Or if the class decides to, they can ask for donations and split the money.
  8. Shows are BYOB! Even more reason to invite your friends.
  9. Upstairs Gallery is a beautiful space to rehearse and perform in and the people that run it are super nice.
  10. After class, you get to hang out in Andersonville, a truly awesome neighborhood.

Performance Class at Upstairs Gallery Taught by Kevin Mullaney

Kevin Mullaney

Kevin Mullaney

This is an eight week class for intermediate and advanced improv students with some long form improv experience. You will learn how to create fun, interesting, two-person scenes; explore different ways to create second beats from those scenes; and try connecting different threads at the end of your piece. We will work on games within scenes and how to build group scenes and group games.

Best of all, the class includes four performances at Upstairs Gallery in Andersonville. Each show will be hosted by your teacher and you will receive notes after the show. The following week, in class, will feature exercises to work on the specific areas of potential improvement identified from the last show.

Who is Kevin Mullaney?

Kevin Mullaney was the original Artistic Director for the UCB Theatre in New York. He was also the first director of their training program. Before that he taught at iO Theatre and directed their touring company, the iO Road Show. He is the host of the Improv Resource Center Podcast and most recently one of the Co-Artistic Directors at the Chicago Improv Festival. Find out more about Kevin Mullaney here.

When is the class?

Class meets Saturdays 2-5pm, June 9th to July 28th (8 classes)
Performances are Sundays at 8pm, July 8 to July 29th (4 performances)

Where is the class?

Upstairs Gallery
5219 N Clark Ave
3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60640

How much will it cost?


How many students will be in the class?

Maximum number of students will be 14

How will teams be created?

For each performance, the teacher will break up the class into two teams. You will work with that team during the Saturday class before the show on Sunday. There will be 7 people on each team at the most.

What if I miss a class?

If you miss the class directly before a show, you cannot perform in that weekend’s show. If you miss more than two classes, you cannot perform in any remaining shows, however you are welcome to come to the remaining classes.

How much will tickets be for the show?

Upstairs Gallery shows are typically free with a five dollar suggested donation. The class will decide whether or not to ask for donations.

Who gets money from the donations?

The students do. The cost of renting the space for the show is included in the price of the class. Any donations will be split equally between the participants of the show.

How do I get into the class?

Students can apply to be in this class by filling out this form before Sunday May 20th. Students will be chosen from the pool of applicants. If you are chosen for the class, you’ll be notified by Tuesday, May 22nd. You will need to pay a deposit of $50 to hold your spot in the class by May 29th.

The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion

I’m going to be in another play. It’s The Oxford Roof Climber’s Rebellion by Stephen Massicotte produced by Caffeine Theatre in Chicago. Our preview is tomorrow night and we open on Saturday, March 10th. I have a small part, but it’s a doozy. Let’s just say that I’m involved in gunplay.

“What life to lead and where to go, After the war, after the war?” In the aftermath of World War I, the poet Robert Graves and T.E. Lawrence (Lawrence of Arabia) languish at Oxford facing disillusionment with the war that still haunts them. Playing mischievous pranks on university administrators passes the time but soon escalates into a climactic confrontation that brings the Arab Revolt dangerously close to home. A Chicago Premiere!

The Oxford Roof Climber's Rebellion

I made a map on how to get there. There’s free parking just around the corner. That’s right! Free parking in Chicago. You can thank the Social Security Administration who owns the lot. Click the image to see the map full screen.

One of the main characters is Lawrence of Arabia, and it’s just off Lawrence Avenue on Leavitt. There is no one named Leavitt in the play. That would an awesome coincidence.

There will be an industry night on Wednesday April 11th (more details on that when I get them). Otherwise it will run at Thursday, Friday and Saturday night at 7:30 pm and Saturday afternoons at 3 pm until April 14th. There will be no shows on Easter weekend, because the theatre is in the basement of a church. And churches are busy on Easter weekend.

You can get tickets on Brown Paper Tickets. That rocks because they are a non profit which charge really tiny service fees compared to evil companies like Ticketmaster.