Learning Improv is a New Frontier for Many, How Do You Increase Comfort Levels? Part VI-Jude Treder-Wolff

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Jude Treder-Wolff  author of the book, Possible Futures: Creative Thinking For The Speed of Life is a performer, trainer and creative arts psychotherapist who is doing some exciting work bridging expertise in  improvisation and emotional intelligence.

On September 21st she will be co-facilitating “Improvisation For Developing Emotional Intelligence: A Workshop for Clinicians and Educators” an experiential and discussion training workshop for therapists, counselors, health care professionals and educators that explores the relationship between the practice and philosophy of applied improvisation and the skills and mind set associated with emotional intelligence in Smithtown, NY.

How do you help students to be comfortable in learning improv technique?
Students get comfortable learning improv techniques when I use them to build up the group. Building up the group is key to making improv safe and safety is key Jude saying something in performancefor new learning or creative development to occur. I use a device called “brain freeze” to train the group to call upon one another when they need help. If any point they get jammed up – which always happens – with self-consciousnes and go blank or don’t know what to do, they say “brain freeze” and all the action stops while the group helps the person figure out what to do next. We don’t use the “brain freeze” to process what triggered the stress response or discuss anything intellectually, just to reframe the problem from “I am under pressure to perform here and I have no good ideas oh no!!!” to “I am supported by this group of people, I’m not under pressure to perform, I’m part of something larger than myself.” It works if people use it. And when they forget to use it, we process that afterwards to great effect.
Each exercise has 3 dimensions:
  • The game or activity is designed to stimulate focused interactions between people, but everyone is free to choose their degree of participation;
  • The game or activity is designed to focus the interaction on an idea (e.g. why change is hard) piece of information (in a classroom this might be a set of facts on a given subject) or skill (at the NY Public Library, for example, the training almost always involves skills in communicating with difficult people, or working with unreasonable or unfair circumstances)
  • The game or activity engages thinking, emotion and social interaction in a positive frame:
We get comfortable with improv techniques by starting with simple, fun, exercises that have very low stakes and then taking time to discuss not only how they felt or were experienced but also their meaning and purpose to learning and growth. And  using both the improv game or exercises and the discussion to build up the group. We do this by encouraging open-ended discussion after partnered exercises, having pairs work with other pairs and developing their awareness of one another, and having people learn as much about each other as possible right from the beginning. I make the focus of the work learning about other people and that reduces self-consciousness about performing the exercise. Each exercise builds on the previous one – so I find that people who never did anything like this before and would have said “I can’t improvise, I’m not creative” if asked before the class or group are just doing it before they have time to think about it. The “make your partner look good” and “listening” rules of improv reduce the focus on how we look to others.
In addition to performing, Jude Treder-Wolff provides consulting for professional and personal development. Her book Possible Futures: Creative Thinking For The Speed of Life and blog Lives In Progress explores the ways technology is changing 21st century relationships and the creative mind set for success in the networked world. Her storytelling-style show Crazytown: my first psychopath was selected for the Midtown International Theatre Festival, the 2012 Chicago and San Francisco Fringe Festival and recently had 2 successful runs at Actors Theatre Workshop in New York. She has been interviewed for articles that appeared in national and local media, including the Los Angeles Times, New York Newsday, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Sun-Times, Chicago Tribune, Woman’s Day, and The Three Village Times. She can be reached at: lifestage_2000@yahoo.com

In addition to Jude there is a small group of experts providing similar training.  Whether you call it applied improvmedical improv or Beth B simply improv, the potential for building skill sets that help human beings grow and bring their bests selves to teams and organizations is profound!  

To learn more or schedule a workshop for your team, email beth@bethboynton.com.   

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