Master the skills of sketch comedy writing in this program designed for writers and actors of all experience levels. Learn basic scene structure, character development, establish action, and learn the styles and genres of comedy. Weekly writing assignments and in-class exercises generate material and establish a regular writing schedule.
Writing 1 is for any student who is looking to start the journey of writing to and for a Second City-style revue. This class is the foundation for scenic comedy writing, a guide for utilizing an improviser’s skill set for rapid creation, and learning writing refinement. The concepts and tools provided in Writing 1 are the building blocks for being able to quickly and creatively write to and for a Second City-style revue. Every comedic writer must have the knowledge and skills that are offered in this course.
Writing 1 teaches students how to write comedic scenes that could be found in a Second City-style revue by exploring different scenic set-ups, character dialogue, genres and point-of-view. Students use improv as a tool for character and dialogue generation.
Writing 1 class time includes a combination of solo exercises and collaborative exercises to build skills in brainstorming, comedic structure and character development. Students also gain a Second City perspective on theatrical writing – including observation, idea generation, dialogue, and character creation. Feedback focuses on ‘what works’ in terms of the structural building blocks. Class time is active, positive and encouraging. Students practice concepts through a series of weekly homework assignments.
Any student interested in creating Second City-style comedic writing or interested in extending their improvisation abilities and experiences into writing should take Writing 1.
Writing 1 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Writing 2 builds on the foundation for scenic comedy writing established in Writing 1 by expanding on scenic types, writing to cast and running order, and writing through collaboration. Writing 2 focuses on the construction of a sketch comedy revue running order. Students who understand the structure of a show are able to better write to the needs of a show and its cast.
Writing 2 provides students with understanding of the different types of scenes found in a Second City-style sketch comedy revue. The lens of the course is focused on the Cast and the Characters. Understanding scenic formulas, writing to cast size, and character point-of-view. Students practice creating simple structures with relatable characters as they learn the building blocks of a sketch revue.
Students in Writing 2 develop variety in their comedic scene creation by watching and analyzing a Second City-style revue and work on in-class exercises to write towards the need of a Second City running order. Students also work with one another to develop scenes as collaboration is a cornerstone of the Second City creation process.
Writing 2 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Writing 3 builds on the exploration into a Second City running order established in Writing 2 by focusing on the various sources of scenic inspiration and delving deeper into satirical writing. Writing 3 addresses the satirical needs of a sketch comedy revue running order as well as the skills and needs brought on by the varied talents of the cast. By filtering the lessons acquired in previous Writing levels through the lens of satire, students get better acquainted with the style and asks of a Second City-style show.
Students examine various sources of inspiration such special skills of the whole cast, other cast members, and personal experiences. As students sharpen the picture of the elements and source of Second City material, they deepen their exploration and understanding of satire and practice several formats that support strong satirical premises.
Students in Writing 3 continue developing variety in their comedic scenes by focusing on the needs of the cast and/or the running order. Students continue to work with one another to develop scenes by collaborating on varied satirical premises.
Writing 3 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. Writing 3 culminates in a 30-minute collaborated in-class “show”.
Writing 4 completes the writer’s toolkit with advanced skills for achieving strong point-of-view and applying scenic writing skills to custom writing opportunities. Writing 4 is a culmination of the skills acquired through The Second City Writing Program. It is with this class that a student will be prepared to move into the final levels which focus on writing an actual Second City-style revue for an actual cast.
Students are challenged to heighten their jokes while deepening their satiric point of view. Songwriting and other theatrical conventions are explored. At the end of the term, students apply their skills to typical Second City writing challenges in adapting material for special audiences. Additionally, students gain a greater understanding of writing opportunities available at The Second City.
Students in Writing 4 focus greatly on writing to need. Class time will be used on writing with a partner, rewriting, writing towards specifics projects, joke construction, and heightening.
Writing 4 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. There is no performance associated with Writing 4; however, in week 8 there is an in-class reading of material.
Please note that admittance into Writing 5 is based on acceptance of a writing submission from Writing 4. Submissions are due in week 4. This submission should be a new scene, and should not be revised as part of in-class work.
Writing 5 focuses on generating and refining written satirical material that results in a fifty-minute sketch revue script. Writing 5 puts into practice the skills acquired from previous class levels to create and produce a Second City-style revue.
Students in Writing 5 learn how to complete a script for a Second City-style revue through comedic writing generated from individual contributions and group collaboration. Students take on production roles to better experience what it takes to mount a comedy show.
Writing 5 has students write a Second City sketch revue with considerations to running order, cast, variety, theme and other aspects investigated in previous Writing levels. Students hold auditions to cast their final scripted sketch show, which is produced and performed after Writing 6. In addition to completing a final script, students take on production roles to ensure that the show is mounted efficiently and effectively.
Writing 5 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. While there is no performance at the end of Writing 5, a script is created with the intent of being performed by actors after Writing 6.
Writing 6 is the culmination of the Writing Program guaranteeing the production and theatrical run of a Second City-style revue. Writing 6 focuses on producing a staged comedy sketch show by fulfilling production roles, writing to show and cast needs, and working with a director to mount a show properly and on time.
Students in Writing 6 continue to refine material produced in Writing 5 while continuing to generate material based on the needs of the cast and running order. Students learn how to work with actors and a director as class time is used as rehearsal for the creation of the show. Students experience production meetings to ensure that their show is produced efficiently and effectively.
Class time is used as rehearsal time geared towards creating and producing a final show. Students work directly with the cast and director to hone existing material and to provide additional sketches as needed. Students schedule and attend production meetings to make sure that the show is created and produced in an organized and expedient fashion.
Writing 6 meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. After Writing 6 is completed, the show created in class will enjoy a 4-5 week performance run in a Second City Training Center theater.
Accelerated Writing is for experienced writers and performers and Conservatory grads who want to improve their writing skills without immersing themselves in the Writing Program. It could be good for people looking to submit writing packets or those who are planning to move to one of the coasts to pursue a career in writing. This class builds strong fundamentals in writing in a short time. It is a valuable tool for people who don’t have the time to fully immerse themselves in the writing program but still want to improve their skills.
This class covers a lot of the material taught in the first three levels of the writing program on a less in-depth level. You will cover basic scene structure and character development. You will learn how to analyze scenes and how to construct a Second City running order. You will also work on your personal writing style and your satirical voice.
Since this is an accelerated class you will be doing a lot of writing. Most of this will be done in the form of homework assignments. Also, your work will be subjected to some potentially strong feedback. This class covers a lot in a short amount of time so instructors need to be direct in their feedback.
Accelerated Writing meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term. It is open to graduates of the Conservatory program or anyone with instructor permission. There will be in-class writing so a laptop is recommended. Students who complete Accelerated Writing may continue into Writing 4.
“The #1 Subject of a Memoir is the Narrator. That would be YOU.
Narrators seek the TRUTH of their real-life stories. And HUMOR requires them to express that reality in an entertaining way.”
In Humorous Memoir 1 narrators explore basic subject matter such as your body, your relatives, your work, money, food, clothes, your car, and of course pets. You may also want to write on other topics and subjects. That’s fine too.
Humorous Memoir 1 involves subject matter that’s serious before it amuses. Through feedback, reading-as-a-writer, and writing from your heart and third eye, this subject matter becomes lighter, relatable, and unique to your narrating tone and style. This class helps you to listen to your writing voice —the sound that readers find engaging and inspired.
Humor writing started in magazines as entertainment subscribers enjoyed. The subject matter of humor was connected to family life and ordinary people. Think Dorothy Parker, James Thurber, Betty MacDonald, Will Rogers and Mark Twain.
Some humor is silly and some is stupid and ridiculous, but all of it begins with getting memories down on paper. Write about personal things, and you’ll fall into crafting a true story. Where does the story start? What’s this story really about?
Writing the Humorous Memoir meets once a week for three hours over six weeks. All assignments will be shared digitally on a project software BASECAMP which has a downloadable app too. Our Basecamp class site is private and dedicated to our sharing.
Watch Nancy open up with a special introduction video for Memoir students. An online version of this class is also available featuring 19 videos from Nancy herself!
Writers are people who are CHANGED by their writing…Sound interesting?
“In Memoir 2 we focus on un-learning coping strategies from life, by learning new behaviors on the page.”
“If as a writer, you’re not discovering, questioning, and feeling emotions and sensations while maintaining an open mind— blindly putting words down on paper—how would you expect the reader to have such an experience?”
In Humorous Memoir 2 narrators explore writing techniques of storytelling. In no particular order, these include:
• framing devices
• the uses of *space on the page*
• telling multiple stories at the same time
• discovering the primary relationship of your story
• managing *dark* material
• maintaining authority, like-ability, and related-ness
• switching tenses
Writers in Memoir 2 continue to improve through table feedback, reading-as- writers, and writing from their heart and third eye. Writers listening to each other read aloud and responding to each another, gain increased abilities to listen to themselves. This listening grows from hearing your own voice, to making meaning.
Humorous Memoir 2 meets once a week for three hours over six weeks. We continue to use BASECAMP as dedicated, private, digital space. At the end of Humorous Memoir 2 writers present a story Showcase in one of the small theaters before an invited audience. Writing the Humorous Memoir 2 is taught by Nancy Beckett.
Little Book Legacies/Big Life Moments is for anybody interested in devising stories with photos, drawings, and documents. Laying out memories brings them alive as stories. We will create a Smallbatch Book of BIG Life Moments. Are you a person who:
• Wants to write inter-generational, Legacy stories—mother, grandmother, great uncles—and incorporate letters, recipes and documents?
• Enjoys Mementoes of Marriages, Births, or Reunions?
• Wants to share Travel Tales with friends and family?
• Honors Milestones: Commemorates Anniversaries, Exhibits/Performances, or Retirement?
• Needs to create a Tribute for a deceased friend, spouse, or parent?
This 6-week class incorporates published authors’ techniques to achieve the abovementioned. The class supports each narrator to stick with their personal perspectives, feelings, and memories. You have a right to write! Sure, facts come in handy but not at the expense of your personal truth which will remain in tact.
It is strongly recommended that you enroll in this class with documents and photos at the ready. Maybe you’ve already written fragments on the back of an envelope and shoved it in a drawer? Let’s find this stuff and hit the ground running!
We live in a time when publishing small numbers of books is possible for everybody. And like craft beer, many small presses offer templates and a range of sizing and binding, at reasonable pricing. An additional, production workshop will be offered as a one-off TBD. Fees and services are in negotiation to get the best quality, ease and flexibility for little books at a reasonable price.
Little Book Legacies/Big Life Moments meets once a week for three hours over six weeks. All assignments will be shared digitally on a project software BASECAMP which has a downloadable app too. Our Basecamp class site is private and dedicated to our sharing.
The Writing the Humorous Memoir program is taught by Nancy Beckett. Nancy is also the host of Personal Disclosures, a podcast begun by a Humorous Memoir class, and sponsored by the Second City Training Center.
This limited class of 8 invites any and all writers working on larger projects. This class is a place to have accountability, reading aloud, responding to others, and full advantage of a plethora of published examples. The aim of this class is to focus on revision, innovation and market-awareness.
Here, at the writer’s table, in a workshop setting, you will form a larger structure for your story—this group is multi-genre (sketch, memoir, fiction, essays), and it is geared toward professional publishing goals. At the end of each term, writers will perform excerpts of their work in a salon showcase before an invited audience.
The Writers’ Salon meets once a week for three hours over six weeks. It is open to students who have completed Humorous Memoir 1 & 2 or with approval from Nancy Beckett.
The Second City has partnered with The Onion to present this four-level program outlining The Onion’s unique system of generating comedy ideas and stories. Learn how to create winning premises, essays and one-liners, but also find your unique comedy voice and learn to trust it to produce reliably successful humor writing. You’ll work through The Onion’s multi-step process in a workshop environment.
The first level is an introduction to The Onion’s unique top-down approach to comedy writing, and how to implement that approach to craft successful comedic premises and concepts. This class focuses on the most important element: the art of the Onion headline.
Basic Writing with The Onion meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
Writers will learn how to write a successful comedic story, hone their prose to a fine edge, and apply The Onion’s style of comedy creation to cultivate their own voice and style. In hands-on workshops, students work with the instructor and with other students to develop foundational comedy-article writing skills.
Intermediate Writing with The Onion meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
The laugh-potential of students’ writing turns up exponentially in this exploration of comedy writing in groups. In Advanced Writing with The Onion learn to navigate the egos and politics of a writers room to create the most successful possible comedy using The Onion’s counter-intuitive ego-less creation process, resulting in an end product that’s greater than the sum of its parts.
Advanced Writing with The Onion meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
This class mimics the real Onion writers’ room, giving students an experience very similar to working at The Onion. By applying all techniques learned in the first three levels, students produce publish-worthy humor stories, articles or features. This course features intense hands-on work with the instructor, as well as group projects.
The Onion Master Class meets once a week for three hours over an eight week term.
These workshops may not be offered every term. If you would like to be informed when a class becomes available, please click here.
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You will learn the specifics of…
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The Second City Training Center offers individual, customized coaching in a variety of areas including, but not limited to:
On-camera audition prep
Dialects Accent Coaching
Youth & Teen Coaching
Advanced sketch critique
Screenplay & Sitcom coaching
Sketch Production (Coaching a group through their first production)
Sketch generation & critique…
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