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Middle School Improv

My week at Alki Middle School was a blur.  I had 30 6th, 7th, and 8th graders for 47 minutes a day for 5 days.  It was a mad dash to impart some basics while providing plenty of opportunity for practical and active involvement from the students.

They had some great success with this silent emotions exercise that I like to do.  It was surprising some of the things these kids would bring out.  One kid played Hannibal Lechter in a scene.  That was surprising to me.  He ended up being a Lechter who was trying to reform, but he would nibble on pieces of himself.  His dinosaur friend was trying to help him through a rough part in his twelve step cannibals anonymous program.

It was amazing that these kids were oftentimes naturally drawn to do really good environment work, and they were champs at taking risks and refining things rapidly on the fly.  That’s when I started to realize that the short attention span often meant that they ‘got it’ but were bored waiting to ‘do it’.  The flip side was that they often had violent imaginations and were prone to power struggles.  I had to give a little speech on finding the ‘love’ in scenes and how it’s boring for the audience to watch violence (not to mention how people won’t want to play with you if that’s what you’re about).

I also loved working with my friend Abby whose students these were.  We need more improv training in American schools.  I want to know more about how the Canadian Improv Games are structured and administered.  I’d love to do the same in the US.

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