This year, I had the immense privilege of coaching a youth improv team, from Nepean High School, for the Canadian Improv Games (CIG). It was a fascinating experience to share my particular improv expertise (mostly drawn from Second City, New York’s Upright Citizens Brigade and Chicago’s iO theatre, normally used by adults in generating sketch comedy) with teenagers learning a style informed by Keith Johnstone’s Theatresports, among others. It was a pleasure to work with such a fantastic group of poised, confident young adults, who were eager to learn new skills and techniques, and whose dedication brought them to the CIG’s regional finals.
It was bittersweet, too, because these were the kinds of kids I wish I had been friends with in high school, or the kind of teen I would’ve liked to be.
When I was in high school in Toronto, I adored Whose Line is it Anyway?, and felt an itch to perform, but my electives were taken up by visual arts and technology, so I couldn’t take the drama class — and we didn’t have dramatic extracurriculars. In my part of Toronto, there were no schools with CIG programs and I had no idea that companies in the city (like Second City and Bad Dog) ran teen classes. I didn’t think to look for it, frankly, because I never knew improv was something you could learn.
I eventually started learning improv when I was 23. All the wonderful things that you pick up when you’re immersed in improv classes and workshops (making friends! learning confidence! coming up with ideas!) came way after those awkward teenage years when I could have really used them. Even though I eventually co-founded an improv theatre with two partners in crime (my husband Chris and close friend Val, both of whom I met through improv), I can’t help but wonder how accomplished I’d be if I started a decade earlier.
That is why we’d like to give students the chance to try this wonderful artform who might not get the opportunity otherwise. And, for those who do have some experience, we’ll be teaching you some new tips and tricks to take back to your regular teams. Our course, the equivalent to our Longform 101 level, will give you a whole new set of skills and an exposure to what improv is like outside of the school environment.
From August 14 to 18, we’re offering our Teen Comedy Week, a weeklong improv intensive (with elements of standup and sketch) to youth enrolled in high school, facilitated by myself and Meghan Murphy (CIG alum). It’s open to new and experienced improvisers alike. Click here for more information and how to register: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/
And if you’d like to dip your toe in before committing, we’ll be leading a FREE workshop Saturday June 10, co-facilitated with Alex Wozny (CIG alum): https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/
If you’re a teen, don’t wait like I did and give improv a chance!