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Seattle International Festival of Improv

Festival Teachers:

John Lehr
35+ year Improv performer, TV and Movie writer, creator & personality, Stand-up comedian
TUESDAY 6/27 10:00am-12:30pm –
at The Improv School in Georgetown
WEDNESDAY 6/28 5:30pm-7:30pm  Lecture Demo
at The Market Theater

John Lehr – is the star/creator/writer for “10 Items or Less” (TBS), “JailBait” (Sony/Crackle) and “Quickdraw” (Hulu). He created/produced pilots for Fox (“Team McPhearson”), TBS (“John Lehr’s Movie Club”) and Comedy Central (“Let it Ride”). Script/development deals include “Retreat” (NBC), “The Loop” (HBO), Troubadour (MTV), “Life on Mars” (Sony/BBC), “King of Beers” (EUE/Sokolow), “Tommy Chong’s Pipe Dreams” (TBS). Lehr is one of the original Geico Cavemen from the wildly successful commercial campaign. He appeared in dozens of spots, including the first commercial as a caveman boom operator, the caveman in therapy with Talia Shire, the tennis spot with Billy Jean King, Superbowl spots with Phil Simms and many more.

John has appeared in numerous television series, including “Friends” and was a series regular on “Jesse,” both for Warner Brothers/NBC. His feature film roles include “The Sweetest Thing,” and three Noah Baumbach films, “Kicking and Screaming,” “Mr. Jealousy,” and “Highball.” John’s hosting credits include “News Weasels” for E!; “I’m a Celebrity…Get Me Out of Here!” for ABC; CBS’ special “Clash of the Commercials” with co-host Heidi Klum; and “John Lehr’s Movie Club” for TBS. Lehr’s critically acclaimed “Comedic Lectures” solo performances have had sold out runs in LA and New York. He is also a respected improvisational performer having worked at the Organic Theater and Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago, the Montreal Comedy Festival, Chicago Improvisational Festival and multiple venues in Los Angeles and New York. Lehr regularly performs stand-up comedy and MC/Hosts events around the country.


Susan Messing 
Alumn of Second City, iO Theater, Annoyance Theater
WEDNESDAY 6/28 10-12:30pm
at The Improv School in Georgetown
WEDNESDAY 6/28 5:30pm-7:30pm Lecture Demo
at The Market Theater
THURSDAY 6/29 1:30 – 4:00pm
at The Improv School in Georgetown
FRIDAY 6/30 10 – 12:30pm
at The Improv School in Georgetown

Susan Messing, a NJ native and graduate of Northwestern University’s Theatre School, has been an improviser and comedian for thirty four years. She is an alumna of the iO Theatre, Second City’s Mainstage, and a founding member of Chicago’s infamous Annoyance Theatre. Susan created and has taught her curriculum at iO and iO West, The Annoyance Theatre, The Second City, and around the globe. Susan has been an adjunct instructor for Loyola University, DePaul University, The School at Steppenwolf, and currently teaches for The University of Chicago. Her standup act with her puppet, Jolly, was featured at the HBO/US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and NBC’s Late Fridays. Her most impressive bit movie role was as a bad stripper in a halo brace in Let’s Go to Prison! She performed at the iO with Blaine Swen in ‘Blessing’ with Norm Holly in ‘Molly,’ at The Annoyance in her critically acclaimed show, Messing with a Friend, and with The Boys at The Second City. She was in the lineup for the TBS/Just For Laughs festival all five years of its residence in Chicago. She presented ‘Braving the Unknown’ at TedXUofC in 2014. However, the world is currently burning, so right now she mostly teaches around the world from her basement.

 “Improviser of the Year” – Chicago Improv Festival
 “Best Improviser” – Chicago Reader
 “Funniest Woman in Chicago” – Chicago Magazine



Mick Napier 
Founder and Visionary of the Annoyance Theatre, Director, Author, and Master Teacher of Improvisation
THURSDAY 6/1:30 – 4:00pm
at The Market Theater
THURSDAY 6/29 5:30pm-7:30pm Mick Napier/Jennifer Estlin Lecture/Demo
at The Market Theater
FRIDAY 6/30 1:30 – 4:00pm
at The Improv School in Georgetown

Mick Napier -Founder and visionary behind the acclaimed Annoyance Theatre, Mick Napier is known both nationally and internationally as an innovator and creative force in comedy, improvisation, and theater. His belief in the element of risk-taking that is at the core of improvisation influences his work and his direction, inspiring genuine creativity in any project with which he is involved. With the Annoyance, Mick has spent more than 20 years developing and cultivating a style of work and production that has been both acclaimed and imitated. As a Director and Artistic Consultant for the internationally renowned Second City, he made his mark having directed more than 10 revues there, including the 40th and 50th Anniversary revues, and Paradigm Lost, which earned him a Joseph Jefferson Award for direction. Mick’s has also directed such high-profile actors and writers as Martin Short (Martin Short & Friends,) Jeff Garlin (I want Someone to Eat Cheese With,) and David & Amy Sedaris in their Obie Award Winning hit One Woman Shoe. In addition at The Annoyance, Mick has directed over 20 original productions. Notable ones include Coed Prison Sluts, the longest-running musical in Chicago, Splatter Theater, an annual Halloween blood bath, The Tragedy of Balloon Boy, That Darn Antichrist, and more recently The Boy Scout Musical and Swear Jar. Mick’s first book, “Improvise. Scene from the Inside Out” (Heinemann, 2004) reached its 10th printing, and is widely regarded as a seminal work on the subject of Improvisation. It was re-issued with three additional chapters in 2016 under Meriwether Publishing. Meriwether published Mick’s second book, “Behind the Scenes: Improvising Long Form“, in 2016, as well. Mick worked with many companies and organizations over the past 15 years in areas such as Communication, Collaboration, Innovation, Leadership, and Presentation.


Dan O’Connor
TUE 6/27 10:00am-12:30pm Style Appliqué

Literary improvisation applied to genre and narrative… at The Improv School in Georgetown
TUE 6/27 1:30pm-4:00pm Dynamic Characters and Thrilling Relationships
How does a well defined character spontaneously emerge… at The Improv School in Georgetown
THU 6/29 10:00am-12:30pm Improvised Theater
Creating unscripted theater as robust and dynamic as scripted… at The Improv School in Georgetown
SAT 7/1 – 1:30pm-3:30pm Lecture Demo
at The Market Theater

Style Appliqué – Dan has been performing and directing literary inspired improvisation for decades and with each new production tools and skills are developed to not only serve the specific genre but also can be used in other styles and even non genre improv. This class is about using those tools, tropes and techniques of great writers to aid and abet how to improvise narrative.

Dynamic Characters and Thrilling Relationships – How does a well defined character spontaneously emerge that is connected and a result of the offers in the scene? How do characters connect to create relationships and build compelling stories? How do you make detailed relevant choices instead of played at or vague scenes? How do you surrender your agenda and serve the story?

Improvised Theatre – How do you create unscripted theatre that is as robust and dynamic as scripted? How do you bring a depth and vulnerability to improvised work without being self indulgent or wanky? What does it mean to bring theatricality and acting to all this?

Dan O’Connor – has performed, directed, and taught improvisation around the world for over 30 years. He is the Founder of the critically acclaimed Los Angeles-based Impro Theatre and co-founder of BATS Improv in San Francisco. He co-created, executive produced (with Kelsey Grammer), and starred in 2 seasons of the NBC/PAX improv comedy television show “World Cup Comedy”. He was the consulting producer for two seasons of the syndicated late-night show Quick Witz which featured Wayne Brady, Steve Carrell, and Nia Vardalos. He directed the critically acclaimed hybrid sit-coms “Sons and Daughters” for ABC, and “Campus Ladies” for the Oxygen Network. He was a writer and the improv director for “The Wayne Brady Show” on ABC. He was a writer for the CBS sitcom Payne with John Larroquette and for the Disney series the Weekenders. He co-created “The Living Story Board” for Dreamworks and Disney Animation, which is a unique, real-time writing and improvisation method of improvisers and animators working together to explore narrative for Dreamworks and Disney’s myriad animated features. Dan has taught at DUKE, Pepperdine, UCLA Extension, and the Writing-by-the-Sea program at UCSB. He was an adjunct professor for USC’s BFA program and has also taught in the MBA Program for the University of Texas McCoombs School of Business. He trained at the American Conservatory Theatre and is a graduate of the Webber Douglas Academy of Dramatic Art in London. Dan has co-authored two books with Jeff Katzman about using improvisation to lead a more happy and engaged life published by North Atlantic Books and distributed by Penguin Random House Life UnScripted-Using Improv Principles to Get Unstuck, Boost Confidence, and Transform Your Life Ensemble! Using the Power of Improv To Forge Connections in a Lonely World.


Felipe Ortiz
TUESDAY 6/27 5:30 – 7:00 Lecture Demo
at The Market Theater
WEDNESDAY 6/28 10:00am-12:30pm Imagination to Poetry
Explore the endless possibilities of physical impro – at The Improv School in Georgetown
THURSDAY 6/29 10:00am-12:30pm Fail and be Happy
Clown techniques in improvisation – at The Improv School in Georgetown
FRIDAY 6/30 10:00am-12:30pm Movemet
Discover the potential of expression hidden in your body… – at The Improv School in Georgetown

Imagination Poetry – In this workshop, the participants will be trained to allow their body to surprise them, taking them to unexpected places and circumstances, how to interact with imaginary spaces and objects, (they can be your best friend but also your worst enemy), this will be an important tool to avoid actor’s blockages and a limitless source of creativity and inspiration.

Fail and be Happy – In this workshop you will face an essential part of yourself: where you hide your fear, your optimism and the pleasure to fail. Through games, impro and clown exercises, you will find a special way of connection with the audience, the creativity behind the failure, the pleasure of playing and the faculty of living in the present moment: right here, right now.

Movemet – Through different movement techniques we´ll explore and analyze endless possibilities of making connections with your own body , our main tool as performers. Find different elements that are useful for creating characters, metaphors, or simply build a better stage presence and relationship.

Felipe Ortiz is a founding member of La Gata Cirko and PICNIC impro. Has been working on improvisation theatre, clown, and new circus from a physical approach since 1995. He´s a reference in the improv world for his skills and experience with improv, physical theatre, and clowning. Contemporary dance, stage fighting, acrobatics, capoeira, mask, clown, and buffoon are part of his background studied and trained with wonderful teachers such as: Keith Johnstone, Patti Stiles, Shawn Kinley, and Phillipe Gaullier. He´s part of the Orcas Project, an improv research group. Felipe has worked in South America, North America, Europe, Oceania, and Asia, teaching and performing with different schools, festivals, and improv companies.




Jill Farris
THURSDAY 6/29 1:30pm-4:00pm The Art of Free Falling
Letting go of the illusion of control… at The Improv School in Georgetown

Jump then learn to fly? As we grow as improvisers we may inadvertently rely on habits, structure and tricks avoiding playing in the moment and true spontaneity. Learn the joy of being responsive instead of responsible and truly present and available in the moment,
Enjoy the free fall to play in with authenticity and honest connections. Enjoy a new level of integrity by recognizing and playing what the moment actually brings. Live in instead of play at. Learn how being in the moment elevates a scene from mechanical to fully alive.

Jill Farris began her improv career in 1992 in Seattle with Unexpected Productions. There she performed weekly in countless long-form shows and TheatreSports for 15 years. She has been a facilitator for corporate groups using improv for team building and communication such as Starbucks, Microsoft, Amazon, Google with Unexpected Productions. During her time at Unexpected Productions, Jill served as the Associate Artistic Director, Education Director, teacher, and performer. She returned to Unexpected Productions as Education Director in 2017. Jill became the Artistic Director of Unexpected Productions in 2021.

She has been on 13 performing and teaching European tours with Unexpected Productions in Germany, Austria, Slovenia, Switzerland, France, Italy and the Netherlands. While living in Philadelphia, Jill joined Stray, a New York improv group as a player/director, and performed at Armando Diaz’s theatre, The Magnet. She has also been a guest performer and teacher for Hot Cocco Productions in Hartford, Connecticut. She has also taught improv for Path With Art whose mission is to foster the restoration of individuals, groups, and society from the effects of trauma through arts engagement and community-building.

Jill is proud to be a part of Unexpected Productions and believes in the precepts of improv not only as the means to create spontaneous theatre but also as inspiring rules to live by.


Dre Anderson
FRIDAY 6/30 2:30pm-5:00pm  Hip Hop & Freestyling at The Market Theater

An improvised introduction to the foundations of Hip-Hop, and ways to infuse elements of rhythm and poetry into your improv scenes. Utilizing improv games as gateways to the fundamental Five Pillars of Hip-Hop. Students learn how to create fully improvised hip-hop songs. Applying the fundamentals of improv, coupled with freestyling, beatboxing and crowd techniques, students gain a deeper understanding of hip-hop, its roots and how to utilize these elements to amplify scene work and have even more fun on stage living the improviser’s dream.

Dre Anderson, Unexpected Productions’ ensemble member, is thrilled to be teaching this iteration of the Fundamentals of Improvised Hip Hop at the Improv School. Dre has been creating rhythm and poetry while collaborating with Seattle artists for over a decade. Seen hosting open mics throughout the Sound. Learn more about Dre here: 





Elizabeth West & Colin Smith
FRIDAY 6/30 10:00am-12:30pm The Art of Improvised Puppetry
at The Improv School in Georgetown

Puppets have surrounded us since childhood! In this workshop you will learn the basics of improvised puppetry, making it come alive onstage through focus and puppet manipulation. Similar to traditional mask work, improvised puppetry often serves as an important medium for self-discovery and spontaneous creation. In addition, by exploring the puppets’ physicality through specific movements, tics, and traits, the actor will gain great depth in their own abilities as physical improvisers.

Elizabeth Westerman has been interested in puppetry ever since her eyes were able to focus on Sesame Street. She has been performing puppetry since 2004 when she staged the first incarnation of Puppet TV – then known as The Cotton Gin. She began building puppets shortly thereafter and has created puppets for Wizards of the Coast and The Saturday Knights “Count it Off” music video. She has been performing improv with Unexpected Productions since 2000. 

Colin Smith became a member of Unexpected Productions’ Ensemble in 2008 and since that year, has been in every incarnation of puppet improv that UP has done. He was an assistant teacher for Lakeside high school introductory theatre, taught a 6th and 7th-grade unit in improvisational theatre at Hyla middle school, designed workshop “Accessible Comedy for the Camp Stage” for YMCA Camp Orkila staff; taught classes on improv at YMCA Camp Orkila, coached Mountlake Terrace High School to 1st place in the 2009 Hogan Cup Theatre-Sports tournament.


Ron Hippe
TUESDAY 6/27 1:30pm-4:00pm Improvising Songs and Lyrics
at The Improv School in Georgetown

Active and on our feet, we will explore techniques for taking your improvised singing, melody, lyrics and performance to the next level.  The class will include a pianist to accompany students singing. No singing experience or musical training required.

Ron Hippe joined Unexpected Productions in 1990. Since that time he has worked with a multitude of improv companies around the globe in San Francisco, L.A., Orlando, Atlanta, Vancouver, N.Y., London, and Austria. Ron has appeared in productions with the Intiman, ACT and Seattle Rep theatres and also appeared on Broadway in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play The Kentucky Cycle. Ron is a veteran commercial and voice-over actor for radio and TV as well as video games. In addition, Ron is a musician and singer-songwriter. When he’s not improvising, he’s providing vocals or playing keyboards and guitar and for multiple bands.




Joe Guppy
SATURDAY 7/1 10am-12:30pm Improv as Super Food
at The Improv School in Georgetown

Improv is a superfood for mental and physical wellness. Just as blueberries and dark chocolate are fun to eat, and good for our health, improv games are fun and entertaining, and nourish body and mind. Improv games are followed by an exploration of their benefits, including information on current brain science. For example, depression is often associated with isolation and physical lethargy. Improv games encourage fun and lively interactions with our fellow humans.

Joe Guppy, M.A.  is a presenter, writing coach, teacher, and improviser. He has presented on improvisation, psychology, and creativity for clients such as Microsoft, University of Washington, and Swedish Medical Center and has taught at Cornish College of the Arts and Seattle University. He is a co-founder and current cast member at Unexpected Productions’ Theatresports and is a former head writer and cast member for the comedy show “Almost Live,” which ran for 15 seasons on KING-5 TV. Joe has won 9 regional Emmy awards and a national Writer’s Guild award. He holds a masters degree in psychology from Seattle U. and was an individual and group psychotherapist for many years.






Matt Smith
WEDNESDAY 6/28 10:00am-12:30pm Excavating Memories at The Improv School in Georgetown

In this workshop we explore exercises that engage the memory.  We will access forgotten moments, old acquaintances, cool imagery, and crazy/serious/sweet parts of your life. Learn how accessing our own histories can enrich our improv.

Matt Smith is a Fundraising auctioneer, actor, filmmaker, improviser, solo performance artist, and communications consultant. Screen credits include Outsourced, Sleepless in Seattle, Spiderman, and KING TV’s Almost Live.
His monologues include Helium, All My Children, and My last Year with the Nuns, which was made into a feature film. Matt is also a partner with Cookus Interruptus, the popular web-based cooking show where healthy meets funny.

Matt has brought the principles of improvisation into hundreds of organizations to boost communication and creativity. He leads workshops at Freehold, in the International District of Seattle. Watch Matt’s TEDx talk on The Failure Bow.



All classes will be at The Improv School in the Georgetown District of Seattle or at the Market Theater in the Pike Place Market, downtown Seattle WA
The Improv School – 5700 6th Ave S, Seattle WA 98108
The Market Theater – 1428 Post Alley, Seattle WA 98101

We are excited to share more details with you over the coming weeks, so make sure to follow us!

Questions, comments please email