We've heard a lot about these guys lately. They've been holding performances and
workshops at Proctor's Theater and they're teaching a class that starts tomorrow night at The Arts Center of the Capital Region.
They're adding improv to the list of stuff to do in the Capital Region.
What is improv? It's theater without a script. It's audience participation. It's making it up as you go along.
And Kat Koppett says it's not just for theatrical types. Koppett is a twenty year improv veteran. She's performed with troupes in NYC and San Diego. Today she teaches improv in classes and in business settings. She also performs with the Mop and Bucket Company (Mopco.). She says there's a lot that real people can learn from improvisation.
Why would someone take an improv class or go to a workshop?
It's incredibly fun. Individually and communally fun. People have met and stared dating from the classes, people make new friends. Other little splinter improve groups grow. It's a really supportive and collaborative environment that supplies the kind of community that we're really sort of starved for these days.
It also helps you to be more spontaneous in other parts of your work and life. It helps you learn to be present and listen better. Some people take it to help them overcome shyness or or fear of public speaking. We've got lawyers who want to improve their skills at trials, teachers, engineers. Most of the people who take our classes are not planning to be professional performers.
But you're working up in front of an audience without a script. Isn't that scary?
Why? We're making it up. People are afraid of failure. Improv teaches you to celebrate failure. It's the first of three rules.
1. Celebrate Failure: Don't censor yourself. That judgment voice that we all have can be very strong. You're almost always thinking of something, but you'll think "that's too boring" or " that's too obvious." One of our big sayings is "dare to be boring." You learn to celebrate the failures. Mopco is an incredibly supportive environment where you can do that.
2. Focus on your partner, not yourself: You're working to make the other person look good, and they're working to make you look good.
3. The Yes...and? rule: You see, hear, receive and accept what your partner has to say and then you add to it and offer something to them. This is the most important rule and it kind of encompasses the other two.
Why would someone go see an improv show? What does the audience get from it?
We want the audience to get all the same things they'd get from any good theater; a good story, a sense of excitement. But improv adds that circus element. When you watch someone perform in a circus you wonder if they can do it. You think, " I could never do that," or "what will happen if they fail?" But then they see the performer succeed. Or they see them fail and celebrate that failure. And it's fun.
Also, the audience participates, so we get to customize the show for them. We'll ask questions about their day, or have them call out a movie style they'd like to see us perform in. And that supportive environment we have extends to the audience. It's not like stand-up, where audience members can sometimes be made the butt of a joke. We use the "yes, and" rule with them, and focus on making them look good. I think the audience feels taken care of. It's like they're a part of the company instead of on the outside. It's very equalizing.
In addition to working with Mopco, you run a company that teaches improv in businesses and other non-theatrical settings. What do people in those settings have to learn from improv.
The most important rule in improv is the "yes. And?" rule. You always say yes to what your partner gives you. The "and" part is that you add to that in some way. Improv strengthens your "listening muscles." It helps you accept what someone else is saying
or doing rather than blocking them. Then you have a better chance of getting what you need. We've worked with doctors to help them listen to patients, business people who are working with clients and employees. Improve helps improve communication and leadership skills.
There are still spaces for Mopco's improve class at The Arts Center of the Capital Region. The class begins tomorrow night and runs through 10/27. You can catch the company in action later this month at Proctor's with Spontaneous Broadway shows from September 19th-21st
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