New Merlin Works Teacher: Susan Dias

Susan Dias emailed me with her resume in June and I was blown away. She has all this amazing experience from her twenty plus years in NYC on Broadway,  on her national syndicated radio show, and in TV work with Jim Henson’s Muppets, Nickelodeon, Sesame Street, Warner Brothers and Disney. So when I met her for drinks and she showed me a binder full of completely original improv singing lesson plans and formats, I was floored. She immediately started working with Girls Girls Girls Improvised Musicals and we got to see her excellent coaching first hand. Improv Musical Theater is such a rare art, it’s hard to get any new information or instruction, so when Susan moved to town I feel like the whole improv singing community was getting a boost, especially students who have taken my Improv Singing 101 – 301 classes. I’m very excited to have Susan be teaching her own curriculum this fall in the Improv Singing with Susan Dias class, unlike anything we’ve taught at Merlin Works before. Here’s an interview with Susan where she talks more about her background and approach.

When and how did you get in to improv? 

Around 1980, a Broadway composer introduced me to an improv teacher. Her classes improved my writing focus. I joined her improv troupe and introduced improvisational singing. It was more fun than anything I’d ever done. People saw me perform and wanted to learn how to do it so I developed a way to teach them.

 What was a turning point for you in improv? 

The first time I made up a song for an audience: I was singing some of my comedy songs at the Comedy Club in NY. As an experiment, I improvised a song—and the audience loved it. (I also met my husband that night. He was in the audience.)

What do you love about improv? 

The infinite possibilities, and the moments my students discover this.

What are some highlights of your performance experience? 

The first time I improvised a song on the radio at WNYC 

How would you describe your teaching style? 

Step-by-step, specific techniques, very supportive.

What advice would you give a new improviser? 

Make up lots of songs every day.

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

Mentoring and helping people achieve their passions.

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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