As we continue to delve into the Improv world at A Mind Apart, we thought it was about time we helped you understand a little more about what it is! Our resident comedian and improvisation specialist Joe Thompson helps us to understand more about where it came from, why it’s popular and what the personal benefits to young people can be when they jump into the world of Improvised Comedy.

Improvised Comedy (Improv), popularised in the 80’s by the television show Whose Line Is It Anyway?, is the art of building comedic scene’s from audience input. It involves no set, no costume, rarely any props, no scripts and no director. Instead, everything is on the shoulders of the performers on stage. They write, direct and perform everything together on stage. It’s for this reason improv can be a valuable skill to learn to develop confidence, teamwork, flexibility, adaptability, positive communication, listening and much, much more.  In area’s of the USA, where improv is much more widely known, it is enjoyed by thousands both as a viewing experience and a fun activity to do together with friends and fellow performers. The late, great Robin Williams, when talking on improv, said ‘sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, but when it does, it’s like open-field running.’

Between the ages of 13 and 21, everything in a young person’s life changes. They go from being children to adults, all within 8 years. Typically, this will mean going from a world of low responsibility to a world where they are expected to control their own lives. Every year sees an increase in responsibility, a broader understanding of the wider world, as well as almost daily personal changes and challenges as each young person tries to work out who they are.

We try our best to prepare young people for this: we give them as much information as we can about the world as we understand it, we guide them as best we can, and we try to prepare them for what the world might throw at them. However, how do we prepare them to expect the unexpected? How do we prepare them for unpredictable change? How do we help them embrace uncertainty and thrive in instability? How do we arm them for today’s world of rapid evolution and relentless change?

Improvisation can be one of the answers to these questions.

In simple terms, Improvisation is performance without prepared material; no script, no rehearsed scenes, no prearranged characters. It relies on performers building and forging their own narratives alongside their fellow performers on stage. It only works if the performer takes risks and supports the risks of others. It involves countless moments of uncertainty, where performers have to find their way to the next interesting point in the scene collaboratively. In short, improvisational performers become adept at adaptability.

Through learning improvisation, young people can learn these vital skills in adaptability and risk taking. This is why A Mind Apart is bringing back our holiday workshops, Improv for Teenagers. In these workshops we will explore and reinforce these skills and ideas in a fun, playful environment focused on making everyone feel welcome and safe.

12th October 2017, Joe Thompson

The Improv for Teenagers workshop will be running Friday 3rd November 6.30pm – 8.00pm at our studio at The Burton Street Foundation. All aged 13+ are welcome. If you would like to know more, or would like to talk to us about our work with improvisation in general, please call us on 0114 232 1172 or email or register for the workshop online at (click on the workshops tab)