Why Improv?

Because the improv toolkit is transformative.

It has been well documented that improv training can build fundamental soft skills including

  • communication

  • collaboration

  • and resilience

 

In addition, a growing body of research has determined the benefits of applied improv in

  • reducing adolescent anxiety

  • promoting deep learning

  • and developing leadership

While improv originated on stage, its techniques have been applied broadly, including to leadership training at Fortune 500 companies and alternative therapies for social anxiety. At Unscripted, students develop core social-emotional and interpersonal skills through improv. We believe it is not just an activity for “theater kids,” but rather is a fundamental skill set for everyone. Through the power of play and humor, an education in improvisation can shift how our students view their own potential and their ability to navigate the world around them.

 

Through improv – both the skill set and the mindset – we equip our students with tools to thrive, empowering them to chase their dreams and to lead successful, fulfilling lives.

Want to learn more about the power of improv?

 

Improv training can foster life skills.

Life skills are inherent to improv. Just check out the 5 key tenets of improv:

1. Yes, and

The “yes, and” mentality is about accepting what someone has stated (the “yes”) and then expanding on that idea (the “and”). In life, it is often more fruitful to try to understand different perspectives and build upon someone's ideas instead of saying no right away.

2. Act and react

The beauty of improv lies in its unscripted and spontaneous nature. In improv, as in life, we often need to take action in the moment. By committing to our choices and neither second-guessing nor taking ourselves too seriously, we can continue to move forward.

3. Look good by making your partner look good

A great improv scene relies on effective collaboration and give-and-take based on trust. In order for everyone to shine, we take the focus off of competition and instead highlight the importance of teamwork and being generous without expectations of reciprocity.

4. Be vulnerable

With no set characters or plots, improv is often informed by our own experiences. Everyone brings something unique to the table by simply being themselves. In this form of theater, being honest, vulnerable and yourself are your most important assets.

5. There are no mistakes

We all make mistakes in our lives, but how we respond to failure is what differentiates an improviser from the rest. In improv, we take the fear out of failure and instead incorporate our mishaps into the scene. We move past our mistakes, appreciate the chance to improvise, and make the most of whatever transpires.

 

We're focused on the research.

Working with our network of academic researchers, improv practitioners, and educators, The Unscripted Project is committed to being research-forward in the approach and design of our curriculum. In addition, we are dedicated to taking a rigorous and methodical approach to impact measurement and will always continue to advocate for the widespread application of arts education within schools.

Below is select academic research discussing the benefits and applications of improv.

Why Improv Matters in the Classroom

Katy Smith, Katherine S. McKnight. Remembering to Laugh and Explore: Improvisational Activities for Literacy Teaching in Urban Classrooms , The International Journal of Education & the Arts, Volume 10 No.12, 2009, ISSN 1529-8094

  • School-aged children need opportunities to engage in the creative process, and these opportunities may not always come through the work routinely offered in classrooms, particularly in financially stressed urban centers 

  • Improvisation is a valuable tool for the development of young peoples’ literacies

  • Initial data analysis suggests that improv in the classroom contributed to individual students’ self-efficacy and strengthened classroom community

  • The young people’s increased engagement led to confidence with expression, helping them to extend their authoring abilities in both spoken and written forms 

Additional Resources

How Improv Training Can Improve Well-Being

Peter Felsman, Colleen M. Seifert, Joseph A. Himle, The use of improvisational theater training to reduce social anxiety in adolescents, The Arts in Psychotherapy, Volume 63, 2019, Pages 111-117, ISSN 0197-4556

  • Studied 268 Detroit middle and high school students who participated in a in-school improvisational theater program run by the Detroit Creativity Project

  • Teens screened for social phobia showed reduced anxiety after improv training

  • Reduced anxiety was correlated with improved social skills, hope and creativity

Additional Resources

Benefits of Improv in the Workplace

Gagnon, S; Vough, H; Nickerson, R. Learning to Lead, Unscripted: Developing Affiliative Leadership Through Improvisational Theater. Human Resource Development Review. Volume 11, Issue 3, 2012, pp. 299-325.

  • Improvisational theatre training creates a compelling experience of co-creation through interaction and, as such, can be used to build distinctive kinds of leadership skills including but not limited to adopting an external focus, adaptability to changing conditions, being curious and responsive and listening and collaboration

  • The use of improvisational acting to enhance leadership teaching is consistent with the emerging stream of research that emphasizes how art can be a valuable tool for improving the understanding and practice of leadership

Additional Resources

 
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