In 1993 Christian Utzman, in pursuit of a girl who worked there, joined the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in Black Point, California. Having been in drama productions all through grade school at Marin Waldorf School, improv performance at the circus summer camp Camp Win A Rainbow, and every single theatrical production at Urban High School of San Francisco, joining a renaissance fair didn't seem out of place to Christian. Performing as a Monger doing stage shows and street theater, Christian was given the opportunity to entertain from 9am in the morning until security would make him stop at 8pm at night. The ability for an audience to walk away from your performance was thrilling. The idea that the only thing stopping you from drawing a crowd of 200 people was your ability to attract and hold and audience was the greatest opportunity in the world. And the fact that there was literally no distance between the actor and the audience, forcing you to confront stage fright and to improvise your performance as needed was something that would challenge and inspire any actor. Christian quickly became obsessed with street theater, pushing his fellow actors to perform with him at every opportunity, and chalanging himself to learn from the audience he was performing for.
Having become consumed with the idea of being the hardest working actor at Renaissance Faire, in 1997 Christian decided he would start training as an actor in the off season and auditioned for an improv performance troupe at the College Of Marin. After landing a slot in Cannibals At High Tea, Christian's new director Max Pentelesque gave him the opportunity to not only rehearse and perform with the group 3 days a week, but also encouraged him to crash his improvisation classes as well. Soon Christian was studying and performing improv theater for more than 20 hours a week. Classes, rehearsals, workouts, and performances became his life and any opportunity to improvise more, Christian took. Within 2 years he had performed with over a dozen groups across the San Francisco Bay Area, founded his own troupe, and skipped over beginning and intermediate, and jumped right into performance classes at BATS Improv in San Francisco. BATS Improv, one of the largest improvisation schools in the United States, soon became his full time focus. Christian first landed a spot in their student performance group the Sunday Players, was then asked to become a full time member with their Thursday night performance group, The Belfry, and made friends with the BATS Main Stage Company and would frequently guest in their Friday and Saturday night shows.
Un-Scripted Theater Company
In late 2002, BATS Improv decided to cut The Belfry from their line up of performance groups, leaving 30 plus improvisors a choice: either rejoin the Sunday Players or find a new venue to perform in. Christian along with 7 other fellow improvisors decided to choose the latter and thus the Un-Scripted Theater Company was born. Along with the Un-Scripted Theater Company came the opportunity to push improv in a new direction. Rather than perform one off shows each with a different format like at BATS Improv or focusing on only one format like most improv troupes do, the Un-Scripted Theater Company chose to model its self after normal scripted theater companies, with a season of productions where each run of shows had its own director, marketing, and vision for the stage. This gave Christian the opportunity to not only lead and grow as a teacher when chosen to direct, but to also push himself as an actor when directed by others.
Probably the biggest influence on Christian Utzman as a teacher was Keith Johnstone. Keith Johnstone, the author of both Impro and Impro for Storytellers, was the founder of the Theatersports franchise and thus would come teach improvisation once a year at BATS Improv (BATS Improv being the Bay Area Theatersports chapter of the organization). This is how Keith and Christian met. Every year when Keith Johnstone would come to town, Christian would not only join the improv retreats he would lead for the BATS Company, but he would also audit all his other classes Keith was teaching while he was in the Bay Area and drive him to and from his hotel. It was this experience that made Christian realize that it isn't what a great improv teacher says that's important, but rather why they say it that is. Why do great acting teachers come to the conclusions that they do? Why is the art form of improv the way it is? What makes actors perform the way they perform on stage? Why does the human brain work the way it does? By bringing this kind of exploration of acting to his teaching, Christian Utzman hopes not just to teach students how to improvise, but rather to help actors become improvisors that will some day perform in Un-Scripted Theater Company shows and help push the art form of improvisation to the next level.