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  • Katie Jenaway

A Year as an Unscripted Project Co-Facilitator

When I signed on as a volunteer co-facilitator with The Unscripted Project last fall, I was excited, but I was not sure what to expect given that we were in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic, and Meera and Philip had just launched their organization with the intention of holding our workshops in the classrooms. We quickly pivoted to virtual workshops and learned how to adapt our curriculum to the online space. With conducting these seminars for the first time and completely online, each class brought its own joys and challenges.

In my first class, I worked with a group of 11th and 12th graders in their film studies and production class. One of the biggest obstacles to overcome in this class was working with students during their first class period of the day, when they have barely woken up. Thankfully, I had a great partner in my teaching artist, Susan, who brought high energy to the class, and she really pushed the students to challenge themselves. By the end of the course, many of the students were willing and actively involved on camera. The students supported one another and the classroom teacher was a consistent participant and role model for her students. The games that were most successful in this class were the ones in which the students created and acted out a scene, which makes sense given that they are aspiring writers and filmmakers.

Film students following a successful class

My second class was with a group of 9th graders in a mini-course (an enrichment period during the day), and this was a more energetic and enthusiastic group. Several of the students had a background and passion for acting, so we were able to do some more advanced exercises with them. My favorite activity with this group was when we created a presentation for the students, and each student had to explain an individual slide, which was covered in nonsense, and they had to completely make up what was on it. I loved this activity, because it required the students to work together and practice their extemporaneous speaking skills.

Nonsense Presentation Activity - Students make a convincing case!

My third and most challenging class was a group of 6th graders in a homeroom-style class. What made this class more difficult was that we were working with a large class of over thirty students during their homeroom period, so many of the students were just waking up, or still asleep. My teaching artist, Tara, and I took it in stride, and we really encouraged the students to be silly, which made it fun for all of us. One of the most rewarding moments in teaching this class as well as all of the courses I’ve taught this year, was when in one class, we asked students to reflect on an exercise we had just completed, where we had practiced a mock job interview, and a student connected what we did to the concept of “yes, and”. I was so excited to see how that student could see how improv could be applied to real-life situations.

Over the last six months as a co-facilitator in these online improv workshops, I built up my confidence as both an instructor and an improviser, making me feel as though I could lead a class of my own someday. It eased the anxiety I was feeling in my everyday life, and I saw this happen in my students too. To encourage the students to be engaged in our activities required me to be more present. It also created a safe space for me to use my voice, try out new ideas, and practice life skills that I have brought into building my own business. Most importantly, it was a fun way to unwind from daily life and connect with new people in a period that has at times, felt isolating.


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