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Improv 1 & 2
Taught by Otis James Gates

Yes, And…! - Intro to Improv (Level 1)

This Intro to Improv class focuses on teaching the groundwork for becoming a great improvisationalist. Not only does this help with your acting and auditions, but it is also a great tool for business, other art mediums, and even as a way to better communicate with others in any aspect of your life. This class will use the same “Yes, And” rule as our other improv classes with an emphasis on movement, space work, and many, many improv games. There will be lots of movement in this class and lots of goofy behavior and laughter. You will also learn how to create a scene with a partner with only a suggestion or two, while also being introduced to a new tool to help you develop more robust scenes and characters in all your other projects.


You will learn the basics of Stage Performance and Presentation Theater, including stage directions and how to perform for a live audience, how to react to audiences and interact with them. You will gain new tools for creating and developing characters. Intro to Improv also teaches the importance of accepting and reacting, not just in our scenes but in life. This class will also lay out the six fundamentals you will need to advance to the Level 2 Improv Class “Yes, and…MORE!”


So be warned, this is not for the faint of heart!  It’s for brave, adventurous actors (and non-actors!) who want to break free of their comfort zone, which is where the real amazing work begins.  And the best part is that you’ll have a blast doing it in the most safe and supportive space.  No previous training or experience is required.


This class will cover:

  • The fundamentals of improv, and the one improv rule, “Yes, And”

  • The other suggestions (not rules) for the new improv actors

  • How and when to break some of the suggestions above

  • Movement, space work (pantomime) and stage directions in improv

  • Practicing the art of reaction

  • Theater and Improv games

  • How to work in teams forming a singular idea without forethought, but instead using trust, action and non-verbal communication

  • Applying improv tools and “Yes, And” theory in show preparations and life

There will be minimal work outside of class and no written homework.


This class will meet on Tuesdays from 6:30pm to 9:30pm on June 11th, 18th, 25th, July 2nd, 9th and one Thursday class on July 11th.  


The final class will include a 60 minute presentation for invited friends and family and the Empowerhouse Acting Studio artistic community.


*All Intro to Improv students are required to attend at least one Improv Jam night during the class session (dates TBD).  New improv students are encouraged to participate in the Improv Jam but may choose to simply watch.  Our previous groups of improv students had an absolute blast learning with Otis, who has a beautiful talent for teaching and performing the art of improvisation.  Don’t miss this opportunity to train with him!


Tuition for this special class is $450.   

“Yes, and…MORE!” - Improv Level 2

Are you ready to up your Improv game? 


Empowerhouse Acting Studio presents our Level 2 Improv class, “Yes, and…More!” In this higher level Improv class, students will learn more advanced theater games and practice the six fundamentals of Improv theater, while focusing on “gifts”- tools we use to make our scene partners look good and give them something fun to play. This class will have a strong focus on reacting to scene partners and new information, while also adding new information to scenes and increasing the “stakes.” 


This class is geared towards people with previous Improv training and/or experience who are interested in progressing to onstage or live improv and looking to further develop their “reaction mind.” In addition, people with previous Improv training and/or experience looking to build their confidence for auditions in theater and film will benefit from taking this class. This class will also advance the actor’s ability to commit to doing and being present. There is a comfort to having a script, studying it, getting direction and rehearsing the material, but to really delve into a space where actors can be flexible with their characters and flesh them out can require more. Improv gives actors the ability to look at things from a neutral space with no expectations or preconceptions. This class will help actors find that all-important space between approval and disapproval, that magical space of fully being in the moment and trusting in one’s scene partners and in oneself. 

In this 8 class session, students will:



  • Learn and practice the six fundamentals for the Improv actor

  • Work on character monologues without scripts or memorization 

  • Learn how to progress a scene along (moving closer to “long form” improv)

  • Learn and play more advanced Improv and theater games

  • Learn how to create “Beat” Improv sketches

  • Learn about moving from Improv to writing sketches for a show



There will be a 90 minute performance on the last class for invited friends and family of the class and the Empowerhouse Acting Studio community. This performance will include theater games, Beat Improv scenes and character monologues. All students must participate in the final performance.


*Students are required to participate in at least one Improv Jam during the session.  

Enrollment in this class requires completion of one of our Empowerhouse Improv classes (Yes, And…! or Intro to Improv) or equivalent.  If you have equivalent Improv training or experience and would like to enroll in this class, you must attend one of our Improv Jams prior to the class for an assessment with the instructor.  If you are unavailable to attend one of our scheduled Improv Jams, you may schedule a private assessment with the instructor.


This class will begin on Monday, July 29th and meet on Mondays and Thursdays from 6:30pm to 9:30pm through Thursday, August 22nd.  Tuition for this class is $600 (plus the cost of participating in one required Improv Jam during the session).



Otis James Gates is an entertainer. He started in Melodrama and Vaudeville in his teens in Campbell, CA (although his mother would say he started melodrama well before that). He performed with Festival Theater Ensemble, traveling to far off places like Humboldt, CA and Sunnyvale, CA, to perform in Shakespearean and contemporary outdoor theater. When he was in his 20’s Otis traveled to Oregon to join the Upside Sketch Comedy troupe and traveled the college and university circuit performing sketch comedy. 


Later Otis moved to LA and worked on various TV pilots and shows and also began studying at Groundlings. Otis took a break from acting to pursue a 10 year career at Sony Electronics, where he did some of the best acting and comedy of his life. He was finally let go in 2011 after 10 years, when it was discovered that someone had hired a Comedian with no MBA to work as a National Sales Trainer for an Artificial Intelligence Robotic Animal.


After leaving Sony, Otis co-founded the Heart On Comedy Group, a show that lasted for 5 years and had a revolving door of great talent. Otis’ day job at this same time was teaching children K-8 Theater and Theater Tech at Starting Arts, bringing after school theater to kids at a time when schools were cutting funding for performing arts programs.


Currently Otis is the adult and youth Improv instructor at Empowerhouse Acting Studio in Berkeley. He is a member of several acting groups, including Grand Artique, a group of artisans that create unique installations at festivals and then create live entertainment and interactive performances throughout the festivals and shows they attend. 

Payment Options: We accept cash, check, credit card, and Venmo.

Refund policy 

We interview all potential students and request that interviewees examine their ability to make the commitment required before enrolling in any class. Also training to be an actor is an exciting, rewarding, enriching growth experience. It can also be challenging and humbling and like with any growth journey you may experience growing pains that feel a bit scary or uncomfortable. But so often the biggest breakthroughs and growth come when you feel that fear and discomfort and instead of turning away from it, you explore it and move through it. Sometimes the only thing that keeps someone from quitting in a time of fear and discomfort is the tuition they paid. For this reason, we do not offer refunds on class deposits or tuition.

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