Monthly Archives: December 2014

Why your kids (and you!) should learn improv

I wrote a letter to parents of kids who would enjoy taking my improv class later this winter. Most families just know me as a Latin teacher, and they may or may not know what improv is or how it could benefit their kids.

Here’s what I wrote to them.

Improvisation — creating unscripted theater on the spot — helps students develop their performance and leadership skills. It’s also a laboratory for learning to love their neighbor in the moment, and it’s an enormous amount of fun!

Your student might want to take improv if:
  • They love creative writing once they’ve thought of something to write about, but they wish coming up with new ideas didn’t feel so hard.
  • Their biggest complaint about the annual school play is that their character is in only a portion of it, and they want to be in the whole thing. They would live onstage if they could.
  • They would have auditioned for a bigger part in the play if it weren’t for all that memorizing.
  • They want a chance to perform at an actual improv theater at the end of the semester.
As a parent, you might want your kids to take improv if:
  • You want them to listen well rather than just waiting for their turn to talk.
  • You want them to grow in confidence and learn to take the lead sometimes.
  • You want them to share focus with others rather than always needing the spotlight on themselves.
  • You want them to understand that they can be a leader without being the sole person in charge.
  • You want them to cultivate awareness and generosity in their daily lives and have a lot of fun doing it.

If you or someone you know home schools a kid age 12-18 who might like this class, there is more information here.
If you’re thinking, “Never mind about home school kids ages 12-18 — I am an adult and I want to get good at that stuff, too!” then check out the free class I teach at Westside Improv.

Westside’s Soft Open

Westside Improv had a soft open this weekend, and my team, Circus Police, got to be the first group ever to perform on the new shiny* stage.

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The view from the tech booth: Dignan’s first Westside show! Click the picture to see when they’re scheduled to play again.

In college, my teams played for Extremely Full houses, because we were the only show in town for a student body that mostly doesn’t have cars or money. And it was an absolute blast! The venue, however, was a science lecture hall. It seated around 200, and while it was lovely that we regularly packed it out, I know the people in the back couldn’t see our faces. Subtlety didn’t carry to the back of the house, so we couldn’t play subtly.

Too big.

Since college, my team Circus Police has played in — well, in some odd places. We’ve done plenty of shows for audiences made mostly of our spouses and other groups of improvisers waiting for their turn on stage. We’ve also played for lots of empty chairs. And that’s totally fine; every time we play, we get a little tighter or a little braver. It was time well spent, but it can be disheartening to see 40 chairs and 5 audience members.

Too small.

But playing for a full house was a totally different experience. Westside seats around 60, and this weekend, it was full of the friends and family who had supported the launch of the theater in some way. The room itself isn’t huge, so that the back row and the players can see one another.

My husband said, “I hate to use this word, because it’s vague and I don’t know what it means, but the room had so much energy!” That’s the energy from the venue being small enough that the audience can see, and a big enough audience that the performers feel like all the practice is worth it.

Just right.

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The view from the tech booth of our Goldilocks venue and beautiful audience.

I’m looking forward to many more shows at Westside in the coming months. At the moment, Circus Police is scheduled for Friday evenings. We open to the public this Friday (12/12), and we’d love to see you there!

 

*It is not in the least bit shiny. It shows every footprint. I think this is awesome.