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Say yes, and then make it all up

Last Friday, Marc and I co-lead our first high school improv club meeting.

One of his students had approached him at the beginning of October to tell him that he was interested in starting the club, but in order to do so he would need a teacher sponsor.

Marc is amazingly involved at his school – he coaches soccer and rugby, and also leads the games and homework club – and he was more than happy to get involved, especially with how enthusiastic this young man was to get a group together to work on their improvisational skills.

Knowing that I did a ton of improv in high school and university and that I absolutely love to work with young people on all things theatre, he asked me if I was interested in helping him out.

It was all I could do not to jump up and down with my excitement.

(Okay, there may have been quite a bit of jumping up and down.)

These kind of opportunities are just so important for teenagers in terms of self-confidence and teamwork. My best friends in high school were my improv teammates, and we were all theatre kids who loved to perform and make ourselves out to be as silly as possible.

It would be my wish that every young person who is interested in trying out the performing arts to have this chance.

So if I can help make it happen, I will help make it happen.

I arrived at the school a little after the final bell had run for the day.

Man, you definitely forget how crazy high school is once you’ve been outside of those hallowed corridors for over eleven years!

The buzz of excitement, of nerves, of vulnerability, and silliness, of drama, and anticipation – the place just seems like an ever-seasoning soup, cooking in the craziest of cauldrons!

I went to the office to check-in and grab my visitor’s pass, before sitting down to wait for Marc to come and get me.

While I sat there, I marvelled at the seemingly unending stream of students that filtered in and out, either chattering to each other, or texting on their cellphones. Most of them were decked out in their Halloween finery, and many were munching on the mini chocolate bars being passed out by the student council in the main atrium.

Marc then came and got me and we walked to the auditorium.

There, seated on or around the stage, was a group of about twelve students, ranging from grade eight to grade twelve. Some of them were chatting away, while others looked a little nervous or shy about their decision to show up.

I asked them all to join me in a circle and we spent the first ten minutes learning each other’s name, by ascribing an adjective to ourselves that had to begin with the first letter of our first name, and then acting out the adjective. The next person would act out the previous person’s name, before doing the same for themselves.

The majority of the session was then spent getting the kids to become comfortable with saying “YES!” and supporting their fellow improvisers.

Improv is all about going with suggestions – whether they be from the actors with whom you are performing, or the ideas you get from the audience. A scene will go nowhere if someone says, “Ah, isn’t this an amazing day at the beach!” and their co-improviser counters with, “We’re not at the beach.”

Talk about killing the energy on the stage!

I am so proud to say that the group really bonded together and took this rule to heart. They were all super supportive of one another, and worked hard to make the scenes work, as well as make each other laugh.

And they even kept the inappropriate humour to a minimum!

(Although I am happy to report that the word “threesome” still absolutely destroys a group of teenagers. May this please, never, ever change!)

Honestly, it was just the best way to spend a Friday afternoon.

I cannot wait to go back and work with them again; I so badly want to ensure that these students have the opportunity to keep each other in stiches.

Because together, they’re sewing something great.

4 thoughts on “Say yes, and then make it all up

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