Throwback Thursday: The Second City Training Center

A couple of years ago, I decided to sign up for a Level A Improv class at the Second City Training Center in downtown Toronto. This was heavily influenced by the boyfriend.

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My boyfriend was a huge fan of Second City growing up and has always wanted to pursue something in the art of comedy and sketch writing. What better place than to sign up for the Comedy Writing Program at the Second City Training Center? He completed the entire program from Writing 1 to Writing 6, the last level ending off with a production on the main stage. He loved his time so much at the Training Center and was sad when the writing program ended that he decided to sign up for Improv classes. He never wanted to get into acting or stand-up seriously, but he thought improv might further help him with his writing in the future. That, and it just looked like a lot of fun. His only intention was to sign up for Level A and maybe Level B but of course, he ended up completing the entire program as well because he loved it so much. The Improv program goes from Level A - Level E. If you advanced to Level C, you got to do performances on the small stage, the John Candy Box Theatre right in the Training Center. Level E ended off with a performance on the main stage. Naturally, everything is to be entirely improvised!

My boyfriend, his writing class and the actors who helped bring these writers' hilarious stories to life during their main stage graduation show:

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During his time at the Training Center, I went to visit my boyfriend on numerous occasions to see his sketch writing and improv performances. I got to know the Training Center, the friends he made there, the teachers and even recognized some of the "regulars." The atmosphere was one of fun, acceptance and belonging. Belonging was a big one for me, especially during that time in my life. I had graduated from university and felt lost and lonely for a very long time afterwards. The Training Center seemed like a fun escape from the pressures of reality. Not to mention, every week when the boyfriend and I got together and I'd ask him how his class had gone, I pretty much always got the same response: "It was amazing. It was so much fun! That place is the best. Everyone there is so nice, you should definitely sign up! You'll meet some great people and have the time of your life."

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Lol, I always had to chuckle a bit. But it was clear to see just how much of a positive influence the Training Center could have on a person, and I longed for that. My only problem though was two things: 1) money and 2) fear.

As much as I wanted to sign up for an improv class, it was a bit pricey for my then part-time budget and of course I was a bit intimidated. Luckily, they offered Drop-In classes on Monday nights for 2 hours. Anyone could sign up for the Drop-In class and you didn't need any previous improv or acting experience. All you had to do was sign up at least half an hour before class started, pay the $15 and go to your assigned studio at 6:00 pm. My nervousness soon dissolved when I learned that a lot of other people who had signed up for the Drop-In also just needed a "break" from life, wanted to try something new, wanted to meet new people or was thinking about doing the improv program too. We all seemed to be in a similar boat! I felt comforted and less afraid. Not to mention, the class turned out to be so much fun. They start you off with some improv games and activities you'd typically do in a beginner's Level A class, so there's no pressure for past experience. And the thing with improv is you don't, or really - cannot! - be a perfectionist. Any answer you give is acceptable. It doesn't have to make sense and you're allowed to make mistakes. In fact if you do, it's that much more funnier! Any audience will love it too.

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I enjoyed my first Drop-In so much that I ended up attending a few more. I had different teachers and learned different games while sometimes playing the same ones too. I even recognized some "regular" Drop-In students who would come after work just to defuse. My boyfriend even came to one with me, even though at the time he was very far along in the Improv program. We had so much fun together and with the rest of our class and teacher.

Even though at the time I felt like I couldn't really afford it, I was burnt-out from looking for a full-time job and that summer, I treated myself and signed up for Level A classes. My boyfriend was just completing Level E at the time too, so we signed up together for Thursday nights. We would meet up together downtown and have an early dinner before walking to our separate classes together at 6:00 pm. My class ended at 8:30 and because his was the last level and they had a mainstage show to perform at the end, his ended at 9. I usually had no problem waiting half an hour afterwards for him as there was always some kind of show going on at the John Candy Box Theatre in between. Over time, I'd even hang out with the students in my class and maybe grab a quick snack or drink.

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I enjoyed my time a lot while I was in Level A. I met a lot of great people, I learned a lot and I felt happy. I was a bit disappointed when my new job made it more difficult to sign up for the next level (the distance between my work and getting downtown for 6:00 pm was cutting it very close!). So this year, I took some time off from the Training Center. But I still often think of my time down there between seeing my boyfriend's performances, my Drop-Ins and finally signing up for an actual class. I hope maybe next year I can sign up for the next level. In fact just next week, the boyfriend and I along with a group of friends are headed to Chicago and of course we're planning on watching a Second City Show there (I mean, it's Chicago; that's the original Second City!)

If you do happen to complete any entire program, you also leave with a fancy certificate.

I would encourage anyone to try a class there, if not just a Drop-In! I guarantee you will have a great time :)

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If you do a quick Google search, you can also find some other places in Toronto that offer improv and other comedy classes as well. Check out Bad Dog Theatre , Black Swan Comedy and Wheel of Improv every Tuesday night at Comedy Bar.