In 2019 I booked flights and left for 3 months to study at The Second City in Chicago.
They began in 1959 as a small comedy cabaret and have grown to become the first name in improv and comedy, with theatres and training centers in Chicago, Toronto, and Hollywood.
They've also taken improv off the stage, expanding their reach to include creative collaborations with a wide range of creative and corporate partners, wellness and education programs, and TV, film and digital productions.
Week one found me at orientation the day after landing, slightly jet lagged, but feeling pumped and ready to get started. I was struck by how large an institution that The Second City was, with about 6 different performance spaces and upwards of 20 classrooms.
Viola Spolin created improvisation for migrant children after the great Chicago fire as a way of engaging these kids and also developing engagement in the migrant community. Second City have taken this philosophy onboard, and the culture of the school is very much 'if non-english speaking children can improvise, then so can you'.
This really resonated with me because I often find that so many young people are so afraid of failing that they don't even try anymore, and this message gives them strength in their ability to just give things a go.
It is a philosophy that AITS also lives by. Failure is a good thing, and if non-english speaking migrant children can live without fear and be brave, then so can we.
The first set of classes were really wonderful. We got straight into developing scenes with our partners. There was no time to think and get stuck in our heads, which is great for improvisation, as this allows you to stay present and make a connection with your scene partner.
I have been teaching improv for 10 years now. I followed in my parents footsteps and their teaching experience, but never formally studied, so it was great to learn new approaches and get back to basics.
As we continued, I found that my lessons reminded me how much I enjoy the doing as much as I enjoy the teaching and it was great to immerse myself in this.
My takeaway from Week 1 was to remember to go "back to basics" and embrace the most basic principal of Yes, and' . This is a principle that you can use not only in improvisation, but in the practice of daily life as well.
When we build on others suggestions and reserve our initial judgement, we find that it creates a wonderful space for nurturing new ideas and helping others to see where these ideas may lead.
I was left with one resounding thought. Let's try and stop the 'no' in our work, home and personal lives, and explore what happens when we say Yes, and. Let's see what exciting adventures it can take us on!