Remembering to Let Go in the New Year. Read Our Featured Article, Register for Winter Classes and More in Our Monthly Newsletter
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1) Notice More
2) Use Everything
3) ...

Wait, what's number three again?

I've been ruminating on Robert Poynton's improv book "Everything's an Offer" illustrated by the fabulous Gary Hirsch, ever since I picked it up. The main thing that stuck with me is a totally fresh yet utterly familiar way of talking about the old improv standard: Yes And. But teach time I try to teach it, I can't remember all three pieces. 

When teaching Yes And in Improv 101, I use a fairly technical model, showing the how-to steps of Yes And: 

Step 1: Awareness. You must be present and open to be able to perceive the offers that are made.  If you are in your head, in the future or the past, you might miss the most important thing: what's right in front of you.

Step 2: Offer. Someone (and that might be you) does something or says something. Anything and everything can be an offer. Try to percieve the offers without judgement (good/bad) or categorization (intentional/mistake.)

Step 3: Acceptance. For beginner improv, we are looking for Instant Enthusiastic Agreement. Saying YES fully and quickly. For real world purposes, this might be more accepting what is (This isn't what you expected, but it's happening.) and building from there.

Step 4: Addition. Build on to the offer with something connected to it. Get some skin in the game and make your own offer, making sure it's a response to the previous offer.

Then rinse and repeat. This cycle continues hundreds of times in a scene. This step-by-step-yes-and-wheel helps break it down and make it a functional practice. 

Poynton's model is just as accurate, but more more spiritual in nature. When I teach, I like to begin by talking about:

Notice More. All that you need is right there in front of you. You just have to see it. The moment is swimming in ideas. Gestures. Words. Emotions. Characters. Set Design. It's all there for you, but you have to notice it first. That means tuning in to the present and what's outside of yourself, and probably a little bit of tuning out all the noise in your head. Quiet down, slow down and notice.

Use Everything. Make use of what you notice. These things are there for a reason and tell us loads about the situation and the choices we should make. Don't dismiss anything or leave it out. Don't add a bunch of new ideas and information. First try to use what's there and use it all. 

And then I would get stuck in the middle of my lecture. I knew I knew this! I've been reading about it, thinking about it. But my head would always get stuck. I couldn't remember the third piece of this infinite puzzle. Without fail, I'd have to look it up on my phone during break and come back to it. And then when I read it, it stung me. Of course: Let Go. 

Let Go. That was what kept slipping my mind. It's probably the hardest of them all. Sharing control. Letting go of attachment to outcome. Trusting your team and the moment to take care of itself. Opening up to other's input and ideas. Letting go of what isn't working to make space for what will. There's obviously a lesson for me in there. 

And I've tried to take it to heart. I realized I've been running my improv school since 2008, when we opened at SVT, almost 8 years ago. And I've had an amazing time, developing top notch curriculum, teachers, and community. When I had my kids, I slowed down a bit, going into maintenance mode. I thought now that my youngest was no longer a baby, my energy for running the school would return. But alas, it didn't. And I realized I've been doing this a long time. And I'm out of juice--for new ideas, initiatives, growth. It's probably overdue, but like a lightning bolt I realized I could hand it off to someone who did have a spark. Someone who could see things I couldn't see. Someone who could see all the resources we had gathered. Someone who had a different point of view on improv, our community, and our place in it. Ladies and gentlemen, announcing the new Dean of the Merlin Works Institute for Improvisation: Kevin Miller. 
Handing down the wizard hat
I'm so excited to have Kevin at the helm of the school. Kevin and I's friendship goes back to our undergrad days at UT in the nineties. Over the years I've seen him kick ass in his career and artistic pursuits, while also being a highly evolved and upstanding person.  I have no doubt he will do amazing things with the school. Kevin is also an incredibly plugged in and responsive person. So if you have ideas, offers, questions, send him a message at

I'll still be teaching and stay involved, but I'll have more time to focus on our growing corporate side of the business. And that's the bottom line I realized about myself and my business. If I can't let go, I can't grow. Both literally--if I'm doing it all, there's only so much I can do. And figuratively--when I stop holding on to things that aren't working for me, I make room for new behaviors and paths. 

And as we start the New Year and make New Years Resolutions, for some of us that starts with what can you let go from the past year. What grudges are you holding on to? What outdated ideas need to hit the road? What goals have evolved into something totally different? What commitments are no longer working for you? How can you have an Elsa moment this year?

Notice More. Use Everything. And what's that last one? Whatever. Someone else will figure it out.

Shana Merlin 
Founder, Merlin Works

A Note from the Dean

Hi guys! This is my first official correspondence as the Dean of Merlin Works, and… I just wanna say hello? I'm very excited (and a little scared) about all the challenges associated with helping to run our awesome little improv school, but for now, I'm just feeling grateful that I'm taking over a well-oiled machine. I'll spend the first session of 2016 getting to know all of these gears and gizmos behind the scenes at Merlin Works, then I've got a zillion fun ideas for how we can grow and become even awesomer in the future. It's gonna be a wild ride, y'all. Hope I see you at the ZACH.

Kevin Miller
Dean, Merlin Works

Beginner Improv Classes

Improv 101: The Spirit of Play
Mondays 7:30pm – 10pm | January 11th - February 29th | with Shana Merlin

Improv 201: Scenework Toolbelt
Mondays 7:30pm – 10pm | January 11th - February 29th | with Lacy Shawn & Amanda Wilson TA

Improv 301: Improv Comedy for Performance
Tuesdays 7:30pm – 10pm | January 12th - March 1st | Graduation Show March 13th 8pm | with Michael Joplin



Singing Improv Classes

Improvised Singing 101: Improvised Songs
Sundays 3:30pm - 6pm | January 10th - February 28th | with Shana Merlin 

Improvised Singing 201: Improvised Musical Numbers
Wednesdays 7:30pm – 10pm | January 13th - March 2nd | with Susan Pickover & Michael Joplin

Improvised Singing 301: Full Length Improvised Musicals
Wednesdays 7:30pm – 10pm | January 13th - March 2nd | Graduation Show March 13th 8pm | with Jillian Summar & Linzy Beltran TA



Advanced Improv Classes

Improv 401: Scenework for Narrative Longform
Coming Soon!

Improv 501: Stitching Scenes Into Stories
Sundays 3:30pm - 6pm | January 10th - February 28th | with Ted Rutherford

Improv 601: Perform a Narrative Longform Show
Coming Soon!



Free Improv Classes

Free Intro to Improv
Tuesday January 5th 7:30-10pm

Free Intro to Improv Singing
Wednesday January 6th 7:30-10pm

Free Open Warm Up Jam
Second Sundays at 5:30pm
at ZACH's Whisenhunt Stage
Sunday February 7th 
Sunday March 13th at SPECIAL TIME 6:30pm

Free Improv Mixer 
4th Sundays 4-6pm



Join The Facebook Student
and Alumni Page

Be a part of the conversation: Hear about auditions, upcoming events, and other opportunities when you are a member of the Merlin Works Student and Alumni Facebook Group. Find a troupe, get a buddy to go see a show with, or discuss your improv goals. Join now and start posting! 
The new year is the time to start new things. Don't miss out on all our class options.
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