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We all remember the magic of play. Spinning around then collapsing onto the grass to watch the world spin around us. Pretending your doll was your baby. Fighting with plastic army men. In every case, we used our precious imaginations to take us away from the present world and lead us into a creative exploration of our own. These experiences empowered us. They brought us joy.
When is the last time you played?
Welcome to the world of Improv!
When I was a theatre major in college, improv was one of my favorite practices. It allowed me to strip off the should’s and open my mind to the spontaneous. To trust that everything I needed was already within me just waiting to be chosen. To release rigidity. To have fun!
The world of work can and often does, if not always takes us away from using the imagination to focusing on the practical. ie. What needs to be done today versus what would I like to do today?
The value of play allows us to enjoy the to-do’s. Improv is a great segue between work and play.
Meet Megan Mack
When Megan and her partner visited for dinner, we were about to call it a night, when suddenly she mentioned improv. What followed was a gate opening in my heart and mind to the dreams & joys I had in my 20’s. We laughed. We played. We did improv!
As it turns out, she’s an expert, so I asked her …
What is improv?
“Performing without a script. Everything is made up on the spot.”
What does that mean?
“You work with your teammates to discover characters, environments, relationships and scenes. I use the word discover intentionally because everything you need already exists in the space where you’re playing.”
Ah. Yes. Words of wisdom. Megan reminds us that sometimes we just have to get out of our heads for the innate wisdom to shine through.
How does this serve corporations?
“A lot of what we learn in improv makes you a better listener and speaker. It helps you to think outside of the box. When you do this with a group of coworkers, the hierarchy seizes to exist. There’s no power dynamic.”
Woah. How does that work? Do CEOs jump into this game or do they hesitate?
“Once they get past their initial nerves of jumping into improv, 99% embrace it. They work together. It’s a great bonding tool.”
Benefits of Corporate Improv Workshops
• Team building
• Staff relationships
• Public speaking
• Communication skills
• Thinking outside the box
Example of Improv
Participants are guided to begin by talking to each other. Using their listening skills, they follow the direction of the teacher/coach.
• Imagine you haven’t seen each other in ten years
• Pretend you have a crush on this person
• Act as if they owe you money
Megan shares that during this practice, participants can experience a variety of emotional ups and downs. The act of mirroring helps to develop empathy for the other person, and becomes an effective bonding tool. It also allows everyone to be silly together.
Being in the wellness world of conscious leadership, I asked Megan whether improv provided stress relief.
Does improv reduce stress?
"Absolutely. One of the rules is ‘Don’t think. Don’t get stuck in your own head.’ When you’re asked to go into a situation with a blank slate, you get to play! How often do you get to do that?”
Megan Mack leads corporate improv workshops and teaches monthly improv classes at the Rochester Brainery https://rochesterbrainery.com/collections/acting-improvisation She is the Executive Producer of programs at WXXI, and can be reached at email@example.com.
Creative Coach & Author, Alana Cahoon leads individuals to grow their businesses, expand their minds & heal their souls. www.AlanaCahoon.com
Read the article on page 324 in the May/June 2021 issue of RochesterWomanOnline
Alana writes her monthly column 'Mind, Body, Spirt' for RochesterWomanOnline focusing on the balance of all 3 in a creative manner, filled with inspiration.