Merlin Works Teacher Spotlight: Aden Kirschner

Aden Kirschner

Our next feature is all about Aden Kirschner. I’ve been playing with Aden in Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musicals for years, and performing with her became all the more fun when she started teaching with me at Merlin Works.  She has a great combination of playfulness, big characters, and clarity of communication–along with a killer singing voice! (If you get a chance to do a duet with Aden, I highly recommend it.) When you see Aden, make sure to congratulate her on all the exciting things happening in her life–she just got married to a great man and just got hired to perform in Austin’s landmark comedy troupe, Esther’s Follies. Aden will be teaching Improv Singing 201 in May.

When and how did you get in to improv?

I started doing improv around the age of 12.  I was taking private acting lessons with a few funny friends from a woman named Lee Kitts.  She began every lesson with at least twenty minutes of improv exercises to get us warmed up and more present with our characters and scene work.  By the time I graduated High School I was directing and producing Full length improv and sketch shows.

When did you know you were bitten by the improv bug? 

In college I connected with a group called Spitting Nonsense.  We did shows that included sketch comedy, improv games and audience participation.  Our shows sold well and spurred quite a few corporate gigs for us. I made some decent money from our work and for the first time I thought, “gee I’d really like to make this my full-time job!”.

What do you love about improv?

Improv is all about listening carefully and reacting honestly, from a place of building and connection with your stage-mates.  Many of us have a tendency to live our lives ten steps into the future. I mean, I’ve got my calendar scheduled out months in advance!  So, for me, having a place where I can just be silly, playful and in the moment is such an unbelievably special thing!

What are some highlights of your performance experience?

Shana and Aden at Improvaganza in Hawaii

I am a giant fan of doing strong character based work.  While I bring characters to everything, for example the amazing musical work I get to do with Girls Girls Girls improvised musicals, it is always delightful to get to play with and develop a character that audiences can see again and again.  My two most memorable characters have so far been Beverly Anderson, wife and mother in improvised 1950’s sitcom, the Andersons, and good ol’ Ruthie of old lady duo, Battle Axe!.

 How would you describe your teaching style?

I want my students to have fun, to feel playful and to be confident in what they are doing. I am very up front about giving notes so that folks can grow, learn and improve, but I believe that constructive feedback isn’t just about pointing out what needs to be fixed.  It’s also all about celebrating the amazingly creative and hilarious successes…and there are lots of those to celebrate!

What advice would you give a new improviser?

Make the choice that will be the most fun for you.  If you’re not having fun, it’s probably time to try a new tactic!

What’s something you are passionate about that has nothing to do with improv?

Getting physical!  I’m currently looking into the possibility of getting a Pilates teaching certification.  I’ve also been really into rock climbing for the past six years and try and get some climbing in roughly three times a week.

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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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