My approach to teaching:
I don’t care how much talent or training you have; I’ll meet you where you are.
Technique is a means, not an end.
When we support each other unconditionally onstage, mistakes
become impossible and the impossible becomes attainable.
My perspective on training for the industry:
Meisner’s definition of acting — “living truthfully in imaginary circumstances” — is also the definition of improv. Improv puts a high value on flexibility, authenticity, and confidence …and so do casting directors. If you know who you really are, nobody can take that away from you.
Meet John Ratliff:
I’ve been performing improv since 2005 and teaching it since 2008. I trained at ColdTowne in Austin and at iO and The Annoyance in Chicago, and I’ve studied under Liz Allen, Matt Besser, Keith Johnstone, Susan Messing, Mick Napier, and Miles Stroth, among many others. I perform around town with various groups, including Ratliff & Jackson, The Glamping Trip, and Art Car. At ColdTowne I wrote, directed, and performed in The Church of Indeterminate Divinity, an “improvised secular service” featuring original live music, and appeared in the shows Stool Pigeon and Dinner for Six. I was in the original and subsequent casts of the Hideout’s Austin Secrets and performed improv for 43 hours straight in that theater’s 2013 Marathon. In 2011 I was named Best Improv Teacher in the Austin Chronicle Best of Austin awards, and in 2011 and 2015 I was voted Best Teacher or Coach at ColdTowne.
There are a lot of reasons I love teaching improv. It’s thrilling, it’s accessible, and for various reasons its infinite potential is just now beginning to be realized. But it’s also an art that produces almost immediate changes in people who practice it. I love the art form, and I also love the effect it has on people who experience it. More than any other art I know, it brings you into direct contact with who you really are.
The principles of improv aren’t complicated, but they’re profound. You could spend the rest of your life exploring them, and the more you explore them, the more they’ll change your life. Over the years my students and I have noticed those principles showing up in a lot of unlikely places, including (but not limited to) Buddhism, horsemanship, 12-step programs, team sports, photography, painting, poetry, music, surfing, and sex. I’ll bet once you start doing it you can come up with some others.