Social workers are taking improv classes to learn how to think on their feet - Generocity Philly


Oct. 24, 2016 3:45 pm

Social workers are taking improv classes to learn how to think on their feet

Improv comedy: It's not just for your annoying theatre friends anymore.

The founder of modern improv was a social worker.

(Photo by Flickr user OC Always, used under a Creative Commons license)

Improv comedy is a lot like kale: If you love it, you really love it. If it’s not to your taste, your one obsessed friend will keep trying to get you into it anyway.

Social workers and educators who have been avoiding improv might have a reason to give in: For the past three decades or so, studies have shown that improv comedy classes can help service providers better understand social behaviors and improve decision-making skills under pressure.

It makes sense. After all, the founder of modern improv comedy was a social worker who developed the practice to help children from diverse backgrounds interact.

In Philadelphia, consultancy Blue Door Group and People’s Emergency Center are partnering to host a three-hour improv comedy session for social workers and facilitators. It’s called Think on Your Feet, designed to help attendees learn how to incorporate improv activities into the work they’re doing and flex their “essential facilitator muscles of spontaneity and creativity.”

Past workshops have included educators and folks from community-based organizations, said Blue Door Group founding partner Jessica Levy.

“In improv, we use our whole bodies. It got us thinking about how we could use embodied approaches to dialogue – where we can use movement and voice, as well as improvised activities, as a way ‘in’ to discussing difficult topics,” wrote Levy in an email.

For example, one game might ask participants to “move around in different ways,” then reflect upon how those movements felt and the subtle impact those movements might have on space and the people in it.

“How would that apply to your work as a trainer? When do you take up more space?” wrote Levy. “When do you decide to take up less? How does race, gender, class, etc. affect the ways people take up space? We can have these conversations based on a shared experience, and not just on talking about it.”

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The next Think on Your Feet will be held Nov. 4.


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