Our school was founded in 2002 by Groundlings alumna Holly Mandel, who serves as the school’s Artistic Director. With her business partner Rebecca Stuard, who serves as the school’s Creative Director, they have over 30 years of improv experience which they bring to Improvolution.
Our classes are small, allowing us to have a more hands-on and personalized environment. All our instructors were trained by Holly herself. And our school carries on the tradition that Holly learned while studying and teaching at THE GROUNDLINGS in Los Angeles of character-based improv, as well as a blend of other philosophies and art forms she was inspired by along the way. We emphasize the "who" of scenes and games - the character and their opinions, behaviors, and emotional life. The best part is the character-based approach makes improv all the more accessible and fun because everyone can do it.
We are here to show you how to find the person within that is fearless, creative, open, and a great team player. Our school believes that a noncompetitive, supportive, and individual approach to improv is not only the most beneficial but also the most rewarding and fun. We offer monthly shows for students having graduated our FUNDAMENTALS level to experience the joy of performing, remove the stigma and fear from it, and help you see how far you’ve come in such a short amount of time. All you need is interest and you’re good to go!
Holly began her improv career at the GROUNDLINGS THEATER SCHOOL in Los Angeles and is steeped in a character-based approach to improv. Holly has also incorporated much of what she has gleaned from various teachers from Los Angeles and New York, as well as inspiration from worlds such as clowning and collective cultural developmental theory. We don’t teach “a format” like other schools do – our approach is the basics of improvisation first, format later. We also believe that improv is a team sport and therefore from the beginning we foster that spirit in all our classes. Being a team player is paramount to understanding and doing good improv. It’s never about being the funniest, fastest or most clever. “Improv is for everyone” isn’t just a nice idea, it’s the philosophy that runs the school.
Underneath it all, Holly and Rebecca – and all of the instructors at Improvolution – feel and try to convey the deeper lessons that improv has taught them…including what saying “yes, and” really means, how to truly listen, to not fear not already knowing…in fact to embrace it, and that positivity always wins. We aspire to carry on many of the ideas and the heart of Viola Spolin’s work — “mother of improvisation”.
“Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become stage worthy…
If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever she/he chooses to learn; and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach her/him everything it has to teach. 'Talent' or 'lack of talent' have little to do with it.”
“Spontaneity is the moment of personal freedom when we are faced with reality, and see it, explore it and act accordingly. In this reality the bits and pieces of ourselves function as an organic whole. It is the time of discovery, of experiencing, of creative expression.”
“The unknown is where we go to find new things and intuition is how we find them.”
— Viola Spolin
Our classes and shows are located in the heart of Greenwich Village, near NYU, Washington Square Park and the Blue Note.
HOLLY MANDEL, Artistic Director, Founder, Instructor
IMPROVOLUTION! was founded by Los Angeles GROUNDLINGS alumna HOLLY MANDEL in January 2002 when she moved to New York after deciding to leave LA and, well, move to New York. As a GROUNDLING she performed, wrote, directed and taught as a Main Company member for over six years. She proudly created the longest-running long-form show in LA before leaving, “The Crazy Uncle Joe Show” which you can see any Wednesday night. She also studied with the wonderful SECOND CITY director Jeff Michalski and the fantastic Stan Wells of THE EMPTY STAGE.
Holly occasionally guest teaches and performs at THE GROUNDLINGS in Los Angeles and IMPROVOLUTION in NYC. She has directed the Main Company shows at THE GROUNDLINGS, and performed with Drew Droege in a show they created, “WigProv”. She started THE LOWBAR in LA from 2015-2017. She is currently launching a version of IMPROVOLUTION in LA. She has also taught improvisation at PACE UNIVERSITY in NYC as well as creating the BFA Comedy Studies program there.
REBECCA STUARD, Creative Director, Instructor
Rebecca Stuard is bringing over 18 years of improvisation experience to Improvolution, joining as the Creative Director in 2014. On top of her wide range of performing and teaching experience, she was one of the founders of CoDeCo (CoDependent Theater Co) in New York City, an entertainment and corporate instructive company. She was a Lead Facilitator for manager module training programs: corporate leadership, team building and effective brainstorming for her clients which include Bank of America, GE, Citi Bank, and Money Magazine. She teaches Fundamentals of Improv and is often performing in shows at Improvolution and she is an Adjunct Professor in the Theater Department at Pace University.
She also has been performing as a background player on Saturday Night Live for 12 years and counting.
"I love to laugh! That’s why I do what I do!"