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DRAMA 254 A: Intro to acting skills

Meeting Time: 
TTh 2:30pm - 4:50pm
HUT 201
Bradley Wrenn
Bradley Wrenn

Syllabus Description:

DRAMA 254 A Fundamentals of Improvisation

Spring Quarter 2024

Tuesday and Thursday, 2:30 – 4:50pm

4 Credits


“Discovery Through Play”


Instructor:   Bradley Wrenn, Part-time Lecturer, School of Drama - This is by far the best way to contact me. Email and I will respond within 48 hours. Because I am part time faculty this email goes away at the end of the quarter, my personal email is bkwrenn80@gmail

Office Hours: please make appointments by emailing me directly as hours may change from week to week.


Course Description

Let go of your clever ideas and reach for vulnerability and truth.

You are enough.

Improv is acting and reacting in-the-moment. The audience loves to see us establish and care about made up details. Knowing we’re creating as we go, they reward in-the-moment confident choices, collaboration and vulnerable emotional reactions more than “jokes”.

Throughout our 10 weeks together you will develop a foundation in the fundamentals of improvisation. Together we will explore the basics of improv through short- and long-form improv exercises focusing on relationships, emotions, characters, object work, and game, all within a trusting atmosphere that we as class and ensemble will maintain.


Core Lessons

  • Share Yourself - Let the audience see you to give them the ability to connect with you and ultimately root for you.
  • Care – The audience loves seeing us have emotional stakes in things we imagine.
  • Trust that Feeling is Enough - Committed emotion is all the “what” and “why” a scene needs.
  • Trust that Following is Enough - We don’t need to be in our heads worried about making something happen once we learn how we can follow what’s already happening to a collaborative end.
  • Agree – Prioritize agreement over negotiation or explanation. Agreement helps us build together faster.
  • Accept - “Yes, And” is the basis of improv – I accept what you do and I make my contribution aware of yours.
  • React - If we make the object that we feel about active in the scene – imagined to be tangible/observable/repeatable on stage – then we have something to react to instead of just talk about.
  • Be Specific – Specific details help the audience imagine the moment and believe that characters are rooted in that moment.
  • Heighten – Do more of what you’re doing. Feel more about what you’re feeling about. Make choices based on choices already made instead of creating all new information.
  • Play with Pacing – Find a rhythm and a progression in the series of game moves to stoke the audience’s expectations and satisfaction.


Questions I’m excited to explore

  • Can you be playful on demand?
  • What brings YOU joy?
  • What parameters do we need to make a successful scene? What “rules” feel necessary?
  • How do you trust yourself and your scene partner and not worry about being “funny”?


Class Objectives

  • To understand the basic improvisation concept of “Yes, and” and discover how scenes can be created through agreement.
  • To learn the basic improv skills like: creating characters, establishing relationships, exploring scenes with objects and environment work
  • To trust that “YOU are enough”
  • To focus on your truth in the moment which is so much more interesting than any contrived “clever” idea


Required Materials and Attire

  • Most important: An open mind!
  • No books required for purchase! All readings will be handed out in class or online.
  • Wear clothing and shoes that allow you to move.


Attendance/Lateness Policy

This course is practical in nature – in other words the techniques are only learned by doing them. In other words, if you aren’t there, you can’t learn. We rely on each other to show up both literally and metaphorically.

At the same time, there are plenty of ways that traditional attendance and tardiness policies do not take humanness into account. For that reason, I’ll start every class with a grace period of 5 minutes. Once that 5 minute period has passed I will close the studio door and no one will be admitted. Please do your best to come on time, both for yourself and for the focus and energy of those you share the space with. If you are having a tough time making it to class, please contact me ASAP. If you miss more than a single class in a row, I’ll likely reach out to check in.

Also, if you miss a class, reach out and I can probably meet with you before class and let you know what you missed.

OFFICIAL POLICY - I will allow everyone 2 missed classes that will not count against your grade, I don’t need an excuse.


Class Work - Please do not ask me about grades, points or missed classes while we are in the studio together - email or approach me before or after class.

  • RESPONSES 10 pts (2 at 5pts each):

Periodically you will turn in a short response to media I share with you. Your opinions are never on trial, but honest and critical thinking is expected. These may be turned in via writing or as an equivalent word length audio recording.

  • CLASS PARTICIPATION 70 pts (20 classes at 3.5pts each)

Show up. Try. Avoid distractions. When your in class, be in class.

  • WEEKLY REFLECTIONS 20 pts (10 weeks at 2pts each):

At the end of most Thursdays class I’ll leave 10 minutes for you to do a “flash” response to the session (or the week). This can be either a written response or audio log of your experiences and discoveries in the session. This is a chance for you to offer feedback and reflections on your work thus far. These are due by the following Sunday evening and I do not except them late.


Grading Scale:

4.0-3.9: A    3.8-3.5: A-  3.4-3.2: B+ 3.1-2.9: B    2.8-2.5: B-   2.4-2.2: C+

2.1-1.9: C    1.8-1.5: C-  1.4-1.2: D+ 1.1-0.9: D    0.8-0.7: D-     

Any student under 0.7 points will receive a failing (E) grade. You may always email me if you are unsure about your progress in class or want feedback about your work.


Conduct In Class:

The following notes are required for this class. If you agree to stay in this course you are expected to follow these guidelines:

  • Studio Environment - All personal belongings will remain on the two tables that I set out at the beginning of class, this includes cell phones. The use of cell phones while others are performing will not be tolerated. If I see a cell phone while others are performing you will immediately lose credit for that class. Absolutely NO filming of performance during class.
  • Avoid distractions. Cell phone interruptions are distracting to the entire class. Do your best to minimize outside distractions while in class. (Emergency exceptions should be discussed prior to class).
  • Be respectful of other classmates. Making stuff is hard and often uneven in its progress. One week you may find something awesome and then for the next three weeks everything might feel wooden and terrible. It happens to everyone, even the most seasoned creators, so remember when giving feedback that failure is part of the process. To be creative requires support and mutual trust, so let’s offer each other dignity and kindness to each other as best as we are able in our work together.
  • Please reach out if you feel like I’m not creating a class in which you can be your whole self. As a person who walks through the world with a wealth of privileges, I know that I have blind spots. It’s ongoing the practice of learning, listening and making changes accordingly is the measure of success. Therefore, if something I do harms you or makes you feel excluded, I very much hope you feel comfortable enough with me to let me know. I will do my best to listen with open ears and THANK YOU for being generous enough to offer that perspective. If you need to voice a concern anonymously or beyond this scope, see the link on voicing concerns under the “Respect for Diversity Statement” section below.
  • Approach the work with bravery and curiosity. Exploring new creative territory requires you to dare to go places that are unknown and, hopefully, exciting. I make the promise not to push to places you are not ready to go to, especially if you voice those concerns. In return I ask that students are willing to try to the best of their ability, even if an exercise seems strange. If you are confused about why we’re doing something, ASK! Chances are your questions are those of others in the room and offer an opportunity to learn together.
  • Making art is about making mistakes and a culture of hypervigilance and fear surrounding saying the “wrong” thing, showing up imperfectly or using the “wrong” words can squash creativity. We cannot expect people to show up wholly in an environment where they will be punished for saying the wrong thing. We are going to step on each other's toes, we are all imperfect in this room. If we want authenticity, realness and truth - it is our responsibility to create environments where it is allowed to exist without punishment. 


Tentative Schedule:

  • Week 1 - 2: Introductions & Initial Explorations

The first week we’ll focus most of our energy on creating a safe and playful environment. In the second week we’ll explore a few exercises to help us gain a common vocabulary and begin some wide open ended improv.

  • Weeks 3 – 4: Short form

In these weeks we will explore some short form “games” or “prompts” that allow us to understand the basic building blocks of improv. These games will focus on creating characters, establishing relationships, exploring scenes with objects and environment work.

  • Weeks 5 - 7: Long Form

During these weeks we’ll begin to understand what makes a long form scene and how to put together an evening of improv.

  • Weeks 8 - 10: Performance

In the final weeks of the course we will explore techniques for structuring improv for performance. 

Note: This schedule is subject to change and is only an approximation. These changes are based on the class's interest and the speed with which we master the material.


Classroom Standards and Institutional Supports

Respect for Diversity Statement:

The diversity students bring to this class (including gender identity, sexuality, dis/ability, age, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, race, nationality, religion, and culture) should be honored as a resource, strength and benefit. I will do my best to create an online environment in which each class member is able to hear and respect others. If something is said or done in the virtual classroom, in a discussion, or in the group project process, by myself as instructor or by other students, that is troubling or causes discomfort or offense, the impact of that experience is something important, deserving of attention and I would like to know about its occurrence. The School of Drama has developed the following resource that can help you navigate how to proceed if you would like to voice a concern beyond one of us as your instructor:


Academic Accommodations:

Your experience in this class is important to me. It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law. If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please activate your accommodations via myDRS so we can discuss how they will be implemented in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), contact DRS directly to set up an Access Plan. DRS facilitates the interactive process that establishes reasonable accommodations. Contact DRS at


The UW Food Pantry:

A student should never have to make the choice between buying food or textbooks. The UW Food Pantry helps mitigate the social and academic effects of campus food insecurity. We aim to lessen the financial burden of purchasing food by providing students with access to food and hygiene products at no-cost. Students can expect to receive 4 to 5 days’ worth of supplemental food support when they visit the Pantry. For information including operating hours, location, and additional food support resources visit


Academic Honesty:

Students at the University of Washington are expected to maintain the highest standards of academic conduct. Cheating, plagiarism and other forms of academic misconduct are considered serious offenses and could result in a variety of disciplinary actions, including suspension or permanent dismissal from the University.

For more information on Academic Honesty (Cheating and Plagiarism) see:


For information on Student Standards of Conduct see:


Religious Accommodations:

Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (


Disability Resource Services:

The process of artistic creation should be equally available to every student regardless of disability! If you have already established accommodations with Disability Resources for Students (DRS), please communicate your approved accommodations to me at your earliest convenience so we can discuss your needs in this course.

If you have not yet established services through DRS, but have a temporary health condition or permanent disability that requires accommodations (conditions include but not limited to; mental health, attention-related, learning, vision, hearing, physical or health impacts), you are welcome to contact DRS at 206-543-8924 or or DRS offers resources and coordinates reasonable accommodations for students with disabilities and/or temporary health conditions. Reasonable accommodations are established through an interactive process between you, your instructor(s) and DRS.  It is the policy and practice of the University of Washington to create inclusive and accessible learning environments consistent with federal and state law.


Guidance for Students Taking Courses at UW from Outside the U.S.:

Faculty members at U.S. universities – including the University of Washington – have the right to academic freedom which includes presenting and exploring topics and content that other governments may consider to be illegal and, therefore, choose to censor. Examples may include topics and content involving religion, gender and sexuality, human rights, democracy and representative government, and historic events.

 If, as a UW student, you are living outside of the United States while taking courses remotely, you are subject to the laws of your local jurisdiction. Local authorities may limit your access to course material and take punitive action towards you. Unfortunately, the University of Washington has no authority over the laws in your jurisdictions or how local authorities enforce those laws.

If you are taking UW courses outside of the United States, you have reason to exercise caution when enrolling in courses that cover topics and issues censored in your jurisdiction. If you have concerns regarding a course or courses that you have registered for, please contact your academic advisor who will assist you in exploring options.



Safe Campus:

Call SafeCampus at 206-685-7233 anytime – no matter where you work or study – to anonymously discuss safety and well-being concerns for yourself or others. SafeCampus’s team of caring professionals will provide individualized support, while discussing short- and long-term solutions and connecting you with additional resources when requested.



Catalog Description: 
Introduces specific skills to the beginning actor and non-actor. No previous experience required. Topics vary Recommended: None needed. Offered: S.
GE Requirements: 
Arts and Humanities (A&H)
Last updated: 
February 1, 2024 - 8:56pm