Find out the latest news from the improv world of Merlin Works. 
Merlin Works

New Classes!

Merlin Works is offering three new classes this Fall:

Family Improv Class. Kids ages 10 - 14 and their adults learn to play together in this fun, interactive class that builds skills of confidence, risk taking, letting go of mistakes, and being more present–as a family

Improv for Professionals. Merlin Works for the first time is offering their Team Building & Organizational Training Programs to individuals in the Austin area. We use games, activities, and exercises that are fun and challenging to develop business leadership skills such as presence under pressure,  affective communication, and high-performance presentations.

YogaPlay with Lauren Buck. This four-part series will combine improvisation games with a yoga practice for a deep, playful experience of the present moment.

Register Now
Merlin Works Fall 2013 Classes 


Improv 101 Tuesdays 7:30 - 10pm October 1st - November 19th

Improv 101  Sundays Noon - 2:30pm September 29th - November 17th
Improv 201 Wednesdays 7:30 - 10pm October 2nd - November 20th
Improv 301 Mondays 7:30pm - 10pm September 30th - November 18th
Improv 501 Tuesdays 7:30 - 10pm October 1st - November 19th

Improv 601 Mondays 7:30pm - 10pm September 30th - November 18th
Improv Singing 101 Wednesdays 7:30 - 10pm October 2nd - November 20th
Improv Singing 301 Sundays Noon - 2:30pm September 29th - November 17th 

New Family Improv Class Sundays 2:30pm - 4:30pm September 29th - November 17th

New Improv for Professionals Mondays 7:30pm - 10pm September 30th - October 13th

New YogaPlay Sundays 9:30am - 11:30am September 29th - October 20th

Second Sunday Improv at ZACH:

Get your tickets for this Sunday's Improv at ZACH October 13th, 2013:

--FREE Merlin Works Student Jam at 6:30pm
--Full Bar open at 7pm
--Show at 8pm
--Free Parking
--Reserved Seating
--Professional Tickets, Ushers, and Bar staff
--Clean Comedy and Even Cleaner Bathrooms

This month's show features Merlin Works Improv Singing 301 Graduation, old school improv from Junk, and the house troupe, The Known Wizards, on ZACH’s 230 seat Kleberg Stage.
Buy tickets now. RSVP on Facebook and spread the word

Free Intro Classes Next Week

Free Intro to YogaPlay next Tuesday September 24th 7:30pm - 10pm
Free Intro to Improv and Improv Singing next Wednesday September 25th 7:30pm - 10pm


Merlin Works Newsletter

Why Family Improv
by Shana Merlin

It shouldn't get to me, but it did. She was sitting there on the couch, reading her book. Or sometimes I saw her in her car, on her smartphone. Or knitting in the lobby. Or making a to do list on the park bench under the awning. She wasn't bothered, so why should I be? 

But there I was, getting ready to teach my improv class, looking over curriculum in the lobby, getting frustrated. These are women--probably smart, successful, interesting women--who are killing time while their child is in an awesome class at the ZACH youth theater program. Their kids were getting to be actors and dancers, comedians and singers. And their moms were just waiting. 

And I wanted to tell them, "You are an actor too! A dancer! A comedian! You are an artist with things to say and do!" But I just smiled politely and waited for my students to arrive. I saw the parents hurry out the door with their children, whose classes ended right before mine began.

Now, I'm a mom. And I know that an hour of peace and quiet to read a book is a valuable thing. But I don't get the sense from these parents running errands and checking Facebook that they are savoring these moments while their kid is in class. It feels more just like passing time.  And I know that not everyone shares the same hobbies or interest as their kids or wants to be in a performing arts class.  A lot of my dissapointment has more to do with my own fears about losing my own identity and creativity in service of my child. Either way, I feel like there could be a lot more Mommy/Daddy and me opportunities for families with kids of every age. Where kids AND adults can explore their creative alter-egos. 

I like the model my soccer teammates showed. As my all-women soccer team, the Brew Dawgs, started having kids, women disappeared for a while with their infants, but then moms came back--with their husband and child in tow to watch their games. And as their kids got older, everyone got a turn on the weekend, playing a soccer game and watching a family member's soccer game. Now that's what I call a Soccer Mom!

That's one of the big reasons I've started the Family Improv Class (starting Sunday September 29th, register now!). I wanted parents to get a chance to have all the fun these kids are having in their theater for youth classes. 

I'm also a big believer in modeling the behavior you want in your kids. You want your kids to try new things and take more social risks? To be more positive and agreeable? To have more confidence in front of groups? To open up and share more of themselves with you? To get off the couch and in to the world of activity? Well, walk the walk. Show them that you do these things. And have them join in. I can't think of a better way to model great behavior than a family improv class. 

I like to imagine the conversation on the car ride over to the first Family Improv Class, where parent and child can bond about the anxiety of trying a new thing, not knowing who will be in class and if they will like it, making a pact to be a good sport and give it a try. 

So here's my plan for a typical day of Family Improv Class: 
  • At the beginning of class, everyone warms up together, playing schoolyard games, theater games, and other games that help connect, energize, loosen up and ground us in the present. 
  • Then we introduce the main topic or lesson of the day with a few demonstrations.
  • Then the group splits up. Kids stay in one room while the adults move next door. Each group gets more practice with their peers.
  • Finally, it's showtime and the kids and adults come together to watch mixed age groups perform improv games and scenes together. 

We tried it out at the Family Improv Mixer in August and it was amazing. It was so fun to see the kids light up when they realized the adults were going to truly honor their ideas and do silly things. We played Everybody Go and a seven year old was delighted to see everyone walk around like zombies, just like he said! And it was a great practice for the adult improvisers in the room to say Yes And to ideas that they may not think are plausible or even comprehendible. Lovely to see a 11-year-old be endowed as the CEO by his 42-year-old scene partner.  I was surprised by how little I needed to modify the activities and everyone could just play together. 

And that may be the strongest part--the value of families getting to play and laugh together. To break habits and patterns and find new ways of connection. And with my stellar co-teachers: Michael Joplin, who teaches the teen improv classes at ZACH, and Lacy Shawn, who is a youth counselor at Reagan High School and and experienced improviser, I've got a great team to handle anything that might come up.  

I'm excited about the new class and to learn best how to serve adults, kids and families with improv. So spread the word so we can fill up our inaugural class and make this a new standard offering at Merlin Works, adding classes for younger families as well. 

Shana Merlin
Founder, Merlin Works

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