Every Person Should Take An Improv Class

Jess Bryson teaches us improv at Bad Dog Theatre
Jess Bryson teaches us improv at Bad Dog Theatre

By Diana Condolo

I’ve taken the eight classes of the Foundations course at Toronto’s Bad Dog Theatre and loved them all! I am so thrilled that I took the classes and I must share my story with you in hopes that you will give them a try. (Disclosure: I was provided with the course on a complimentary basis in order to complete my review.)

I had just a little idea what to expect because I had a few friends who have taken the classes. My friends took it for personal growth reasons rather than trying to get into comedy. I knew that cultural references would be almost nonexistent, which is suitable for me because I really don’t follow celebrity news and I hardly know who is who.

Jess Bryson teaches us improv at Bad Dog Theatre
Jess Bryson teaches us improv at Bad Dog Theatre

I knew that I wanted to do improv for about a year and that now was the time to jump in and do it. In my case, I jumped in without testing it first. Bad Dog Theatre, like other places offering improv, have drop in classes – so you can try it on a small scale before signing up for a full series of classes. I just plunged right in without trying it. Everyone seems to love the class so I wasn’t worried about the plunge. Actually, some of my friends are thinking about taking the foundation classes again.

My main reason for trying improv was to build confidence. I knew that it was time to come out of my shell and find the person I wanted to be and finally start showcasing that person to the world. It gave me an air of confidence that I never had. I decreased caring what people thought of me and eased up on my thinking constantly of what I was going to do and say next. It helped me live in the moment and like myself while doing that.

The more you do improv, the more comfortable you get with it.

Do you avoid doing or saying things you want because you feel nervous around other people? Improv may be right for you.

Aside from that, I also have a job that doesn’t involve thinking on the spot. There is some thinking on the spot, but not a lot. In fact, I think work involves mostly the same type of thinking, day in and day out, but improv activates those thought processes in ways not usually used. The more you are used to thinking, the more you’ll think. It is great to think, and it is great to think outside of the box when needed.

You know how well the “yes, and” philosophy works in real life? At work, it helps build on other’s ideas. For example, someone asks if we can reach more clients by having a photo in our email marketing campaign. I respond that yes we can, AND we can try four separate groups with four different photos and see what kind of imagery receives more responses by performing analytics on our campaigns. What improv does is it teaches me to learn to agree with people and add to what people say. It really works.

Another instance of “yes, and” training at work is when there is a team building event planned and you normally call in sick that day. You don’t really like doing unusual things with people. But improv gets you in a collaborative mindset so you generate ideas of what to do with your team on that team building day. Yes you go and you collaborate.

Don’t say no just because it’s easy – find options and make it work!

I wouldn’t be entirely honest if I didn’t say that I was apprehensive. I was apprehensive a lot of the time. I worried about what I would say and worried about what actions I’d take too. I’m not a big talker and often just say what is necessary and get it over with. They made me talk at the classes; there was no corner I could hide in. But my classmates were so welcoming and encouraging and the teacher was very comfortable to be with. Yes, you are on the spot doing things you’d never done before, but we were all in this together and we were all laughing.

You know what? Laughter bonds improv teams together and builds strong trust with the group. Besides learning a lot, taking this class is the most fun I’ve had this year…well okay… aside from traveling. Yes, I had a lot of fun.

The improv classes also require using your imagination, which, in my case, has been taking a long rest. Your classmates select a gender, age, occupation and/or location for you and you make up a scenario based on the circumstances.

Improv training class at Bad Dog Theatre in Toronto
Improv training is essentially training in being a storyteller.

I love how improv allows us to go deep into an imaginary and magical world. Something that we would not think of ourselves but by using locations, characters, occupations set by the fellow improvisers we instantly create a world that is our own – but for only a few seconds. Because we have to pay attention to the other characters and move the story in whatever direction the others in our group deem. For we might have an idea of where we are going with our story, we may have to change the story based on what others say or do. We need to react to what others are saying and doing – much like real life – it does not always go how we planned, but it goes well if we can adjust as necessary. Life lessons that can be reinforced at improv.

Plus, improv students learn techniques to heighten the story or conversation. Improv skills give you license to add drama to presentation skills, as well as a little more drama to your ordinary conversation, enhancing your presence.

Bad Dog Theatre offers a full range of improvised performance classes for all levels of skill and experience for adults. Just take their introductory improv course: you will love the self-development!

Bad Dog Theatre , 875 Bloor Street West, Toronto