Why every K-12 School needs Improv in the classroom…

First of all I have to give credit to Rosetta Caravello at PS 35 in Staten Island. How many parents are complaining out there about the removal of arts from schools and the 24/7 test prep and test taking mentality of New York / New Jersey Schools? Rosetta did something about it. This PTA Mom is basically volunteering to run an after school program so her daughters have something. And there must have been a need because the first time around she had almost 40 kids sign up. Additional kudos to the Principal, Melisa Garafalo, who was open to the program. Additionally the Deputy Boro President came out to see what we did to help them launch program yesterday and is exited to possibly repeat the program across the Island. Our show and workshop was a huge hit. This is nothing new but I think we showed an entire county this time what we can do to support local parents, teachers and students.

We have been saying this for years. We need arts in the school. AS adults we struggle with an 8-hour day without some break and diversion. Kids go nuts without something fun to do. And we think IMPROV is the best way to get arts back in the school on a tight budget of money and time.


William Fry, M.D., of Stanford University “Humor and creativity work in similar ways. by creating relationships between two disconnected items, you engage the whole brain.”

Ken Robinson – Author of “Creative Schools” said: “the whole system of public education around the world is a protracted process of university entrance. And the consequence is that many highly talented, brilliant, creative people think they’re not, because the thing they were good at school wasn’t valued, or was actually stigmatized.”


Students are leaving college today with great skills but can’t find a job. The economy is finally bouncing back but the old ways no longer apply. How many now start a job with a company, grow within that company and come out with a full pension ready to retire.

There will always be a younger harder working eager beaver to take your desk job. If you get hurt you jeopardize your ability to use traditional Blue Collar Skills.

But great leadership is always in demand. We have millions that think they can lead. Millions more regretting they work for horrible leaders. But what makes a great leader.

We believe we teach the skills to create great leaders and even better students.

We teach Improv to fortune 500 companies to create better teams and leaders. Imagine if your entire school is getting the same training.


So one of the biggest elements working against the arts? WE HAVE NO MONEY. Arts are the first to go and many arts programs are expensive. Band instruments cost a small fortune. Even if they are donated they have to be maintained. Theater requires costumes, props, sets, script rights etc. Sports can bankrupt a family these days.

WE – the founders of this company –  started doing Improv in 2002 because it was the most inexpensive way to showcase our talents to agents and casting directors. At some point we realized how to produce and market and started working full time as Improv Performers. By 2004 we realized how we could impact the K-12 world with our outreach programs and that became our niche. Now we are all doing TV and other great projects BUT we can mount an Improv show with ANYONE that we have trained. I do not have to lock in the same 4 actors because they memorized a part in a play. So I can get Broadway TV and Film talent at a fraction of the usual cost. We still pay better than retail as a day job and offer the best flexibility so they can audition and work at the big paying gigs.

At every workshop I tell students – if you really liked this go back to your school and create a team. If you do not have time/money for class, go to our website, watch a few videos and then just play those games. I cannot tell you how many current Improv Performers got their start this way after watching WHOSE LINE IS IT ANYWAY. I was a college actor doing Broadway shows and then playing Improv games at the cast party. It was 10 years later before I turned that into a career.

After a few workshops and classes, any student has the ability to perpetuate the activity with minor supervision. Some schools can afford to bring us in weekly, or for a full one-week residency. But many have us do a show & workshop program for the day. Every school has a parent or teacher that would love to become part of a theatrical type program after school. Some school teams meet during free periods. A few even work this into the guidance program as the see the benefit addressing Bully, Leadership and other  Character Building. Parents and Teacher interested can take our public classes for adults and learn the skills needed to help create a program in their school.

IMPROV Builds community

IMPROV concepts become a overall governing principal. YES AND… is a big Improv idea that now permeates corporate training and we think it should be in every school. YES AND… is all about giving every person and every idea a chance. In IMPROV we NEVER say NO!!! We take suggestions from our scene partners, accept them no matter how far out and then add details, build connections and create stories. IN the boardroom and classroom YES AND.. is all about EVERYONE gets a seat at the table. NO ONE should fear there peers. FEAR breeds hate and resentment (Bullies and Victims). FEAR leads to students and employees that do not participate in anything. Lack of participation destroys individual advancement and community. With Professional Development we tech faculty and staff to work as a team and valuable skill to bring into their meetings and classroom. A show & workshop program introduces our program to students. If budget for us to return weekly or full residency is not there, we have online tools that your staff can use to continue the work. We want to EMPOWER you to create positive change.

IMPROV is Language Arts & Character Building

IMPROV does more than teach cultural arts / performance. Improv is a valuable tool for teaching Language Arts and Character Building. Both of these need the infusion of hands-on application. It is very easy to justify IMPROV with in academic departments or guidance. We can get ARTS in the back door and achieve what these kids need from the arts. It is not a scam or gimmick. We teach story telling. We teach Brainstorming. We teach Creative Writing. We teach Public Speaking and Communications – projection, listening, focus, self confidence.

A student that does not fear embarrassment is a student that will quickly grow into a student leader. A student that overcomes the fear to speak in class at the appropriate times, speaks out less at inconvenient moments. A student that knows how to focus and listen, will absorb information organically. WE DEMAND focus, listening and respect, but do we teach them how? Our students LEARN to focus. They LEARN to listen – not just hear. They LEARN how to respect. We teach them how to even control nervous fidgeting – because how can you create characters’ bad habits if you cannot control your own.

More importantly do we lead by example. I can’t tell you how many times teachers and parents talk during performances, but then turn around and yell at kids for doing the same. LEAD BY EXAMPLE!!!

IMPROV get EVERYONE involved

EVERYONE gets to participate equally in IMPROV. EVERYONE gets equal time. EVERYONE get out what they put in. Not everyone will become a professional performer, but that is not our goal. EVERYONE will get the valuable life training skills and grow at their own pace. But EVERYONE gets a chance to grow.

Be a knowledge sponge NOT a know-it-all. I had 3 students yesterday that spent their entire time trying to impress me by what they learn in Acting Class and correcting me. Their acting classes created Divas, not artists willing to learn and grow. The day you think you know everything is the day you stop learning.


In most theater programs there are a few divas and then everyone else’s kid plays a Tree in the corner. Not a valid use for time or money. The money from most students/parents support the diva creation of a few – or ONE in many schools. Everyone else learns resentment. I know some amazing theater teachers/directors out there, but many do more harm than good. Even worse competitions that suck the art right out of the young artist. Life becomes about beating everyone else instead of bettering yourself. And if you don’t win – if you are not THE BEST – your a loser.

I tell students, on TV I play the fat guy. In fact for ROYAL PAINS – the character was called Heavy Set Man. Still listed that way on IMDB. For me it was a paid vacation to Puerto Rico for a few days to eat free food and enjoy the ocean-side view from set and hotel.

But in IMPROV I can be the leading man, leading woman, Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister, Cat, Dog, or even a TREE if I so choose and it makes sense int he seen.

And because everyone gets to participate, everyone gets to benefit. I would argue our worst students left our program for the better. Lets face nothing is for everyone. But even those that “were not into it” definitely left with valuable life skills. They had no desire to perform or in some cases participate. But when they did so – no matter how reluctantly – they left stage better than when they entered. HUGE noticeable difference form parents and teachers EVERYTIME!


We truly thrive to be the best WE can be. And we celebrate make other look better by our support. With that mentality a team thrives. And in the process individuals grow far beyond expectation. The focus is 100% on the skills and ZERO on ego. Self Confidence and Self Respect is real.


One of our big mantras – stop correcting and judging. WHO CARES if someone messes up at ZIP ZAP ZUP. Do we really need to stop all forward progress by pointing out someones “failures”. It was not a failure. I fail to see it as a mistake. They said the wrong “SYLLABLE” but they did with GUSTO!!! That is what I care about.

I joke with students – if you are a brain surgeon working on my head, PLEASE NO MISTAKES!!! But otherwise WHO CARES? You’re 9 years old. This is the time to MAKE MISTAKES and LEARN FORM THEM!!!


Go big or go home, right. We get students to break downs those walls of fear and speak out – at the right times, when it is their turn. Be absolutely still, lying in wait. i use this moment to teach about potential and kinetic energy. The real trick to being a great artist is potential energy. The absolute high intensity or stillness is an artists greats tool. A great musician can move the world with a great piano (soft tone not the instrument). An actor or dancer can move the world with one subtle look. You are so intensely focused that when you finally speak, EVERYONE listens.

When you do finally speak it is loud and proud. We can still have fear and insecurity inside – I do. But we are not ruled or held back by it. Instead it gives a great sense of vulnerability. With ZERO fear we are sociopaths. When we mask fear we merely overcompensate and become egomaniacs with whom no one wants to deal.

IMPROV is 100% Application

A lot of theater training/rehearsal is spent memorizing scripts, learning blocking and otehr preparation. IMPROV is 100% performance. Even in rehearsals and classes, every session is like a mock performance for their peers. So every minute is learning how to apply the skills set or public speaking, team, story telling and more. There is more time doing and less time preparing. So a 10-20 hour program maximizes growth potential. A student does one 60-minute session with us and is changed forever. Right away they are a little more self confident and willing to take chances. They are more willing to participate in class. Some – after one session – immediately become student leaders.


The problem with Theater, to non-theater kids, is a lack of cool factor. But COMEDY is loved by all – or nearly so. When we go to inner city schools and say we are going to teach you how to be funny like Kevin Hart, kids listen. They respect the career and potential. Also, we never put guys in make up or tights. As an actor I have done this often but I get a lot strange looks when I don’t get all the make up off and go to get a bite to eat. You would think by 2015 we would be so over this, right? TRUST ME WE’RE NOT!

But we could be. While doing the COOL thing students come together. SHHH theater are being theatrical – but that’s our secret. Like everything these days you need proper branding.

I liken this to an old “Little House on the Prairie” Episode – WHICH I SAW ON RERUNS as a kid. I’m not that old… Bu the teach of the one-room school house in the middle of no where was insisting everyone learn French. She was out of touch with the needs of her students. If I remember correctly it turns out there were Spanish and Chinese speaking immigrants in the area and it was suggested that those languages would better prepare the children to survive their reality.

My experience in schools, is not only have we taken out the arts, we have greatly diminished oral communications. We had an entire semester in 10th Grade Language Arts called ORAL COMMUNICATIONS.


Quite simply STUDENTS NEED THE ARTS. When I was Director of Instruction for the Comedy Hall of Fame, they had a promo video that started with Jerry Lewis saying his child’s class schedule had math, reading, science “BUT WHEN DO THEY GET JOY?”  Not every students need to become an artist but every students needs a chance to express themselves. Every student – and faculty / staff – needs a break. I never understand assemblies that teach Math. Do they really get students exited about math? But when they get to relax and laugh at school with a cultural arts performance, they have a reason to see school as a fun place to go, not a necessary evil parents force them to partake. At the very least assemblies should be the opposite of academic. They should be FUN.

FOR THE RECORD – This should have been first and foremost. But we will get there… together!!!

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