Frequently Asked Questions

Quick guide to our most frequently asked questions.

If your question isn’t addressed here, contact for answers.

What Improv Class Should I Start With?

We always strongly recommend that students start at Improv 101. Besides being a ton of fun, it gets to the heart of being playful and in the moment, something none of us ever master. And the differences in our improv style and teaching technique are clear right from the first day of Improv 101.

If you have previous improv experience and 101 truly doesn’t appeal or doesn’t work with your schedule and you are interested in working on scene work for short form games, we recommend starting at Improv 201, where we cover scene starts, characters, space work, status and more.

If you are interested in studying scene work for narrative longform and you have over a year of improv experience under your belt (either as a performer or a student), we recommend starting at Improv 401, where we work on deep yes and, breaking the routine, physical storytelling, and creating a hero. We don’t recommend you start at Improv 301, 501 or 601 because it builds so strongly on the classes that come before it, so they’re not a good starting place.

Is there any qualifications or prerequisites I need to take your Improv 101 Class?

No. Part of our philosophy is that anyone can improvise, even if you have no theatre experience or aren’t “that kind of person.” We recommend everyone start with an Improvisation 101 class, even if you have some improv experience. There are many different styles of improv and improv instruction and we have found that it works best when all students have the same fundamental training.

Do you offer demo classes?

We offer Free Intro classes just before every class session (winter, spring, early summer, late summer, fall), so folks can get a taste of what it’s like to take classes with Merlin Works.

We also offer Free Pre-Show Improv Jams before every Improv Comedy Showcase 1-2 times per month.

Can I take Musical 201, 301, 401, 501, or 601 without taking Musical 101?

Our Musical series builds off of the previous classes. Each class building off the language, experiences, and skills used in prior classes. Plus the 101 classes are a LOT of fun. If you truly want to skip that and have more than a year of musical improv performance experience, please contact  and we can learn more about your background and goals and find the class that is the best fit for you.

Can I take Stand-Up 201 without taking Stand-Up 101?

There is a prerequisite of Stand-Up 101. In general, we want people experienced getting on stage and performing a set before they take this advanced class. Students of 201 will walk on to a live stage to perform twice the first and every night.

In lieu of successful completion of our 101 class, you will need approval from our Stand-Up 101 teacher, Valerie Nies, or the 201 instructor. Generally this is for folks who are performing in the community and are looking for feedback and coaching or who are hesitant to go out and do open mics without support.

What is your refund policy for improv class?

Refunds can be given if a class has not begun. We do not offer refunds after a class has begun, but we can credit your fee toward a future session. Neither refunds nor credit can be given after a class session has ended.

Can I take Storytelling 201 without taking Storytelling 101?

Our Storytelling series builds off of the previous classes. Each class building off the language, experiences, and skills used in prior classes regarding performative true, personal Storytelling.

  • In Storytelling 101, we tell true, personal stories in class and ultimately on stage. We generate memories that could be turned into stories. We’ll discuss story structure using stories we know and play with how we could change their structure. (See )
  • Then you will take one of your memories and put the simplest of structures, a beginning, middle, and end to it. Then you’ll share a version of that story in under two minutes. We’ll adapt your tale with other story structures.
  • Over the course of the class we will develop one of your true, personal stories and have you practice it before our class meeting. Then you’ll share part(s) of it in class until eventually you tell a full five to seven minute version.
  • By the end of the class we’ll offer you general and specific performative tools and techniques to enhance the telling of that story on stage. We’ll share examples with you during the semester of other tellers sharing true personal stories on stage that should help you see and hear how those techniques and tools can be used.

I’m unable to register online/I don’t have a credit card/I don’t have all the money right now, but I really wanna take your class, is there something we can work out?

Yes! You can mail in your payment, register over the phone (512-774-4961) and/or pay by cash or check on the first day of class, or set up a payment plan or internship program for you, if necessary. Give us a call (512-774-4961) or send us an email at and we can work it out.

I know I’m going to miss some classes, should I sign up anyways?

It’s hard for anyone to have no conflicts on the same night for 8 weeks. Life, work, travel, illness, and stuff get in the way and we understand that. We offer these guidelines:

  • If you are going to miss 1 or 2 classes, we encourage you to register anyways. It’s unlikely you’ll have perfect attendance whenever you take the class.
  • If you are going to miss 4 or more classes, wait until a class that better fits your schedule is offered.
  • If you are going to miss 3 classes … well … that’s right on the borderline. If you really think you can make it to all the other five, you might want to register. But then again, one unexpected conflict or illness and you will have to re-take the class. But taking classes again can be fun, so maybe it’s not that bad after all. So if you are going to miss three classes, the choice is up to you.

For a 6-week class, e offer these guidelines:

  • If you are going to miss 1 class, we encourage you to register anyways. It’s unlikely you’ll have perfect attendance whenever you take the class.
  • If you are going to miss 3 or more classes, wait until a class that better fits your schedule is offered.
  • If you are going to miss 2 classes … well … that’s right on the borderline. If you really think you can make it to all the other four, you might want to register. But then again, one unexpected conflict or illness and you will have to re-take the class. But taking classes again can be fun, so maybe it’s not that bad after all. So if you are going to miss two classes, the choice is up to you.

Can I bring a guest/friend/cousin/step-kid to class?

We work hard at Merlin Works to create a safe environment for our students. Part of that is creating a bond among the students in class. We find that visitors and observers can disrupt that closeness. Also, many students in beginner level classes don’t feel comfortable performing for an audience yet and aren’t ready to be observed. So we recommend bringing guests to the Free Intro to Improv Class or the Improv Jam, events that are open to everyone in the community.

Do I have to be funny in improv class?

No. Comedy is not the focus of our program, it’s just what happens when people let down their guard and act authentically in the moment.

What should I bring to improv class?

It’s a good idea to wear comfortable clothing that you can move around in, closed-toe shoes and a bottle of water if you like. Some students like to bring a notebook and pen to take notes.

If I’m a student, when do I get to be onstage and perform improv?

There are lots of opportunities for you to get on stage at the Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation. Students that are enrolled in Improv Classes at Merlin Works are invited to perform in The Student Lottery, our performance slot during our Improv Comedy Showcase. At the end of the Shortform Class Series (Improv 101 – 301), students will perform in a Graduation Show that is open to the public. At the end of the Narrative Longform Class Series (Improv 401-601), students will perform their own narrative show at the end of their class session. Everyone is eligible to attend the Improv Jam, where students, improvisers, and coaches come together to network, play and have fun.

Students of our Musical Improv program perform at the end of their Musical Improv 301 class with an improvised full-length (25-45 minute) musical.

Our Stand-Up Comedy 101 students perform the 5-minute sets they’ve been working on in the 6-week class in our Saturday Comedy Showcase. Our Stand-Up Comedy 201 students will get first-hand experience performing their set every class as well as running an open mic and hosting.

I would love to take an improv class but I am broke. Any internships?

If you want to set up a payment plan for class, that works for us! Just email us at and let us know a payment schedule that works for you. If you’d like to take a class at 1/2 off, we a 1/2 internship available each session:

Blogging (½ internship): The internship requires an essay-length, improv-related blog to be published on the Merlin Works blog page bi-weekly. You will be given a login to our WordPress account in order to do so. Login info to be provided by Shana Merlin Writing samples are required to be considered for this internship. Interested? If so, to request an internship, email us at

Do you have payment plans available for classes?

We do accept payment plans for classes. We are also really flexible — basically whatever works for you. We do require a first payment to be made no later than the first class day in order to hold your spot in the class and final payment must be made no later than the final class day.

Can I miss a class?

Sure. Everyone misses a class every once in a while. But we recommend missing no more than 3 classes in a session (8-week class, 2 for a 6-week class). If you miss more than the allowed classes in a session, we strongly encourage you to re-take the class. You need to drop out of the class before the session finishes in order to receive credit for a future session. We cannot credit a class once the session is completed.

Can I make up a class on a different day?

We don’t allow students to jump around classes (also see: “Can I Bring a Guest to Class?”). This disrupts group/class cohesion in our Improv classes. In our Stand-Up Comedy classes there is a finite amount of time available per class for each student to work on their set. Also, for any class that has sold out, anyone just “popping in” is actually taking time away from those students during their class time to work on their gameplay or stand-up comedy sets.

We advise if you feel that you’re unable to commit to the full class series that you defer to a future session when your schedule is more accommodating.

Do you offer improv classes for kids and teens?

Our classes are for adults, age 18 and up, with exceptions for some mature 16-year-olds. Currently we don’t offer kids improv classes. If you are looking for improv classes for children and teens, we recommend Excused Absence Comedy and/0r Hideout Kids.

What kind of improv do you teach?

There are kinds of improv? Yes there are. Although I have studied with over 40 different improv teachers and enjoy all kinds of improvisation, we teach a style of improv called TheatreSports, created by Keith Johnstone, author of Impro and Impro for Storytellers. In the fundamental classes, TheatreSports training has a focus on the psychology of optimal performance by dealing with the fear we all experience on stage and learning how to play again. In later workshops we study story structure, including Joseph Campbell’s monomyth, to learn how to create characters the audience can care about as they evolve over an improvised comedic one act play. One of our main inspirations is Carol Hazenfield’s book Acting on Impulse.

How are Merlin Works classes different from other improv classes in Austin?

The Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation is different because of the style of improv that we teach and the fact that we have some of the most experienced teachers in Austin. Merlin Works professionalism is shown in the facilities we use, the professional contact we keep with our students, and the reputation we have in town. That’s probably why we were awarded “Best Improv Teacher” and “Best Improv Class” by the Austin Improv Collective. Okay, we’re bragging a bit, but the bottom line is we are passionate about improvisation and have dedicated our careers to it. Not only is the quality of the teaching different, but also the content of the classes: it’s thorough, cumulative and professionally developed by learning design professionals. We also offer course packets and supplemental materials.

The Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation focuses on shortform gameplay (think: Whose Line Is It Anyways?) and narrative longform (think: Curb Your Enthusiasm.).

In the Shortform Class Series, you learn the fundamentals of improv comedy and the spirit of spontaneity while you play improv games in a fun and safe environment. After Improv 101, 201, and 301, you will have a solid foundation in improv games and scenes and be ready for your big Improv 301 Graduation Show.

In the The Narrative Longform Series you will gain the tools and training to perform improvised comedic plays, movies, and stories that not only entertain audiences, but transport them as well. At the end of Improv 401, 501, and 601, your ensemble will perform an Improv 601 Graduation Showcase for a paying audience during our Improv Comedy Showcase.

I’m really nervous. And I don’t have a question, I just wanted to say that I’m nervous about taking an improv class.

It’s perfectly normal to be nervous about taking an improv class. It can be a scary thing. A little bit of nervousness can be a good sign that you are stretching yourself and trying something new. Don’t worry, we spend a lot of time in class helping everyone feel comfortable and safe. Our improv philosophy is that the less afraid people feel, the better their improv is going to be, so we deal with the fear right from day one. The first day of class is mostly group activities so you won’t be singled out. Improv training can actually help you get over nervousness or fears around strangers or groups.

Do you offer discounts for taking multiple classes in a session?

We do not offer bulk class discounts. The only discounts we offer are the $25 Early Bird special, which is only available to students who are able to pay the entire discounted amount at the time of registration. Early Bird discounts end two weeks prior to the class session start date. The other discount we offer is the BOGO 1/2 off, which is available only to our 101 classes, but do not have a time restriction for registration.

We do offer payment plans for classes and that payment schedule is amenable to your convenience. The Early Bird price is not available to folks on a payment plan. First payment must be made no later than the first day of class and the class must be paid in full no later than the last day of class.

Do you offer private improv classes?

Yes! If you have a group of people who want to take an improv class series together, reach out to us at  to get started. If you are looking for one on one coaching or training and presentations for your business or organization, head to and check out or corporate division.

Do you have demo videos of your classes I can watch to get a feel for your teaching style?

A lot of the best improv lessons come from live, in-person group interaction and learning. To maintain a safe space where our students can feel free to explore choices and even fail (which we celebrate!), we don’t allow recording of any of our classes without without explicit permission from ALL participants (including the venue) beforehand. We do however, have a YouTube channel where several improv demonstrations are given as well as interviews and testimonials by Merlin Works Founder Shana Merlin.

Merlin Works does hold several Free Intro opportunities to give potential students a taste of our style. We hold a Free Intro class the week before each of our regular class sessions (Winter, Spring, Summer I, Summer II and Fall). We also host free, monthly Improv Jams prior to our Improv Comedy Showcases where the public are invited to play with us before our show.

We do not allow auditing of our regular classes.