Most people think of improv as sketch comedy and entertainment. But what if I told you that improv started as a means to increase creativity and collaboration?
It makes a lot of sense because we human beings are innate players. One need only watch a child to understand this is true. We want to play. The reason we don’t is someone at some point told us it was time to get serious, to work hard and play less.
Yet play helps us learn and practice new skills in a way that is both fun and seemingly effortless. While we might think we are wasting time as we play, what we are actually doing is reprogramming our brain to think in new, more creative ways.
So how did it all start?
You might have heard of Viola Spolin. She is widely known for her part in creating improvised theatre education in North America. She worked in the fields of acting and social work and ran a program for groups of immigrant children and adults known as The Hull House in Chicago. Neva Boyd, her mentor, is considered to have established the idea that games and play can provide a structure that helps children act creatively and collaboratively in ways they may not be able to outside of the game. When given rules and guidelines of a game, children who did not naturally work together transformed into a collaborative and creative team.
Spolin then combined this concept with her acting experience to create theatre games as a framework for creativity, spontaneity and collaboration. She eventually published a book, “Improvisation for the Theatre,” containing hundreds of games that revolutionized the way acting is taught.
Spolin believed learning through creative games could help adults and children alike who might have difficulty socializing in new surroundings. Her goal was to create positive mental health through play.
Improv games that encourage spontaneity can be amusing and entertaining, which is how comedy theatre improv evolved into what we know today. In fact, it was Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, and his friends who created the most well-known improvisation for theatre school known today, “The Second City”.
When I sought out improv over 20 years ago, I was looking to create connection and add playfulness to my life. I had no desire to be a stand-up comic or improviser in the naturalized sense.
I intuitively knew to connect to the roots of improv - a tool for positive mental health through connection and play.
Improv’s roots are for personal development, connection, community, creativity and play. That is why it is a natural fit for personal growth, boosting creativity, shedding judgement, collaboration, and an overall sense of well-being.
Walking into that laid-back community of people looking at life as an opportunity for creative play dramatically changed my life.
Never have we been so connected, yet felt so disconnected. And now, with a global pandemic in our midst, we need the tools improv has to offer to increase our sense of connection and belonging through collaborative play!
Listen to your voice of intuition to add improv into your life. Join our community!