Guest Artist Spotlight: Shana Merlin

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Shana Merlin is the owner of Merlin Works, a company founded in 2013 by Merlin where improvisers are trained in performance, improv comedy and more. Merlin does improv herself and has been awarded “Best Improv Teacher” and “Best Female Improviser” by the Austin Improv Collective.

She began doing improv after she saw the guys on stage at Dad’s Garage Theater Company in Atlanta, Georgia. She saw how much fun they were having and wanted to experience the same joy, so she began taking classes and doing shows. In college, she played with the Oxymorons in San Antonio, Texas where she started getting paid to do improv comedy. Merlin thought she “was in heaven” because she was getting paid to do what she loved.

Merlin still does improv when she is not teaching others the technique and is currently working on two different projects. She is a performer in “The Cowgirl Cabaret,” an improvised musical inspired by small towns, country music and musical icon Dolly Parton. She is also currently training “medical professionals [on] how to communicate better, improve patient outcomes and reduce burnout.”

When asked what kind of new work excites her, Merlin said she likes “the intersection of edgy and accessibility.” She enjoys fresh pieces that are meaningful but are still made to entertain an audience.

Shana Merlin currently resides in Austin, Texas. Her company, Merlin Works, can be found at Zach Theatre on 1500 Toomey Rd. She advises theatre makers not to get “stuck in the ‘research phase’ [because] most things can’t be figured out by thinking it through.”

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