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Reader's Choice

Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center

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In 1996, Upright Citizens Brigade arrived in New York City from Chicago. Ten years later, it opened its comedy training center, a 7,500-square-foot classroom where students learn improv and sketch comedy. Performers and writers from "Saturday Night Live," "The Daily Show," "The Late Show With David Letterman," and "The Colbert Report" often contribute to the theater and its training center.

"UCB marries the cooperative aspect of improv with a competitive desire to be very funny," explains Will Hines, the theater's associate academic supervisor. "We encourage the group collaborative nature of improv, which I think all improv schools do well, but we add in an encouragement to aggressively be funny. It's a competitive place as well as a place for an art form. I think that's what separates us."

Hines doesn't think UCB endows its students with a sense of humor but does teach them how to maximize it. "We all have a sense of humor walking around the world," he says, "and we can teach you to translate that into a performance." Many of UCB's students are aspiring actors, which makes perfect sense to Hines: "There's no doubt in my mind that improv makes you a better actor. Improv is a medium where you are constantly being tested by an audience to see if you're honest, sharp, and connected, and the more you do it, the more powerful and immediate an actor you become."

Actor Jayson Huey says, "The instructor I had, Rebecca Drysdale, was very interactive, very forthcoming as far as what we should and should not do. All around, it was a fun class as well as an educational class." Using UCB's style in a monologue or a scene "just works," he adds. "They have a very great system."

Current student Jody Lee remarks, "I've taken other improv classes before where I kind of felt stumped, but here they make me feel really comfortable and I'm able to be the best at improv.... We laugh all the time."

Upright Citizens Brigade Training Center, 145 W. 30th St., New York; (212) 929-8107; newyork.ucbtheatre.com/classes/

Upright Citizen Brigade Training Center was the Readers' Choice winner for favorite improv theater in 2006, 2009, and 2010.


Runners-Up:

- Noel Wilson, (212) 689-0087, www.stellaadler.com
- Jerry Kallarakkal, www.castingsnclasses.com
- Samantha Jones, www.doramae.com/samjonescoaching.html

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