Improv for All!
Take a moment, if you will, to imagine the following scenario.
You walk into a room - concrete floors, white walls, modern looking chairs and desks. Surrounding you are 23 mostly 20-something individuals. You know that you’ve all been selected, or chosen, or hired, or picked - everyone is in the room for a reason. A few faces are familiar, but you don’t really know anyone - and for the next five months you’ll be spending most your waking hours working side by side.
What’s your first reaction? Would you be yourself from the first second? Or would you pull back a little, keep things contained and professional rather than genuine?
It happens all the time in classrooms across the country. Students who know little to nothing about each other file in and sit down and learn from their teachers. Eventually they learn about each other - who is fast, who is hilarious, and who _____. But learning is an exercise practiced by individuals - not an activity performed as a team.
Surprising fact: The first day at Hungry Academy, none of us touched the command line. No one opened up a text editor or tried to understand the basics of Ruby. Our first day was all about Improv.
Improv is about being comfortable in a group. It’s about letting that genuine, wacky, creative person show through a little. And the magic of a team comes when it’s members are comfortable enough to let the wacky come through.
Leading us in our improv journey was Jessie Sternshus, founder of The Improv Effect. In less than 48 hours, she took a group of friendly strangers and created a team. People who know each others’ names, but more importantly know each others’ personalities. We know that certain people are killer at organizing things or people. We know who in a group setting is more likely to aggressively start throwing out ideas and who is more comfortable letting the ideas flow for a while and then adding some really great concepts when things quiet down.
Most importantly, we learned that it is OK to fail so long as you learn from the failure. We learned that inside our Hungry Academy team, people won’t snicker or judge if we say something nonsensical. That the words “I don’t understand” won’t mark us as unitelligent or bad students or strange people. After all, after you’ve passed sounds and movements around a circle in a full-body version of Telephone it’s pretty clear that we’re all a little strange. And that’s not a bad thing.