Out Of Bounds Recap

One of the main reasons improv was on the cover of the Chronicle was to promote the Out of Bounds Improv Festival and Miniature Golf Tournament, which took place over Labor Day weekend. For months, I’ve been saying that it’s the funnest week of improv all year long, and this year’s festival still exceeded my expectations. There are so many highlights of the festival for me. Where to begin. . .

Girls Girls Girls had a solid show with some really memorable moments. It was our first show with our new fabulous drummer Terri, and she rocked the house. The drums really made us want to dance and move and get funky in general. My favorite number was a rap battle I shared with Madeline entitled “Oh No You Di-in’t (Oh Yes I Did.)” Check out these great pics from the show.


My other show in the festival with my two person troupe, Get Up, went fabulously. Right after walking offstage after the show, Shannon and I were just like, “That was awesome.” “Top 5 show” “Top 3!”


We introduced a new element to our show, Sara Farr was our sound design improviser. She found dozens of cinematic music tracks and used them to score our show. It was amazing. It really raised the production value and professionalism of the show. Plus the music communicates so much, it allows us wordy improvisers to say less and be more physical and expressive. I wish I could recap the whole thing for you about the lumberjack and his battle with a great tree, about an ugly woman who wins cosmetic surgery in a contest on the radio and is transformed into a seductive villain, and a clumsy girl with a accidentally dangerous crush on a co-worker. But I don’t think it would make sense

I was also the education coordinator for Out of Bounds and the workshops went very well. Most of them were full and the students leaving the workshops seemed really energized. I had the pleasure of teaching Improvised Singing and taking a ton of workshops, all of which were really high quality and at $20 bucks a total steal. I studied Directing Improv with Asaf Ronen, Coed Improv with Karen Herr, Space Objects with Steven Kearin, and Character and Longform with Rafe Chase.

Takeaways from the workshops (and I can remember these 2 weeks later off the top of my head:.

“When you are directing improv, it’s always about the next scene.” –Asaf Ronen

“Improvisers are always in such a hurry onstage. What are you in a hurry to? The next thing you don’t know?!” –Rafe Chase

“Slow down, take your time, and your space objects will start to tell you something about your character.” –Steven Kearin

I was in improv exctasy. With some of the teachers I felt like, just give me six months to study under you and my work would rise to a whole ‘nother level. Because I teach so many improv classes here in town, it is such a treat to get to be a student for a change and study with people who have been improvising twice as long as I have.

And that’s just my shows. I saw so many great performances from JoKyR and Jesster, Dasariski, and Sketchcore. But the highlight would have to have been 3 for All from San Francisco. Those guys are just so inspiring. Their shows are transporting and transcendent. You are really taken to another place and time completely. Seeing their shows and studying with them just fills me with joy and pride. They bring so much class and professionalism to their work, and as someone who has chosen improv not just for their art but for their career, it makes me feel great. Like I can hold my head up and say I’m an improviser and that can mean I create something beautiful and lasting. Because their shows and workshops stay with me for years afterwards.

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About Shana Merlin

Merlin Works is the brainchild of Shana Merlin: improviser, teacher, and performer. Since 1996, she’s been leading classes that stretch people’s imaginations, push them out of their comfort zones, and make them laugh out loud for hours at a time.
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  1. Sara said:

    Yes, yes, yes… GGG’s OOB show was a very fun show – first I’d seen of Madeline with the troupe. Loved the “sharks” versus “sponges” gang scene (thanks, Shana!). Loved the mother/father/freak-daughter “invitation to explotation” scene (Andrea is always always always there knock-it-out-of-the-ballpark rhymes). Loved all that jazz.

    And I have to admitt, I was shaking with excitment at the end of the Get Up show – so much so that I couldn’t physically unplug my computer from the soundboard. I know I am excitable, but DAMN that was fun!!!

    Didn’t get to see any of the OOB headliners. Wah.

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