Learning Life Lessons from Improvisation

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In the last 18 months, I have been an exotic dancer, a beagle, a mechanic, an alcoholic,  a swinging single, and a corporate big shot. What am I talking about? What do I mean? Am I craaaaaaaaaaazy? Well, the jury is still out on that one..Do I have multiple personalities? I don’t think so.. (Yes you do) (No I don’t)

Actually, this new found creative freedom comes courtesy of  a series of Improvisation classes taught at the Dragon Productions Theater Company in downtown Redwood City. If you will stick with me, and my multiple personalities.. (Roses are Red, Violets are Blue.. I am a Schizophrenic and so am I). I can show you that Improv is a more than a wonderful creative outlet, it also has applications for life.

Improvisation  is about team work

One of the cardinal rules of improvisation is to always accept your scene partner’s offering. If he/she asks about your time in prison, you do not say,  “I was never in prison.” The proper response is  ” Yes And.”  This practice  fosters teamwork as you and  your partner work together to create the best possible scene. You reach a place of agreement.

On a related note, always take care of your partner. During a game called “Scenes from a Hat“, my partner and I were given a scenario called “The bus driver and the exotic dancer.”  She turned ashen white and was clearly embarrassed and uncomfortable at the prospect of being the exotic dancer. I volunteered to take that role and much laughter ensued as I attempted to give the bus driver a lap dance in lieu of paying the fare. While the role reversal was humorous, my priority was to make sure she was comfortable in that setting. She thanked me profusely multiple times.  I  am encouraged to carry this lesson with me into personal and professional contexts .

Improvisation is about listening.

It is important not to plan ahead when doing  a scene. Ideally, scenes should unfold organically which requires listening and responding to other participants.  One scene I observed began with two brothers looking at a museum exhibit of Revolutionary War articles and ended with the assertion that Lady Gaga is an alien overlord who is the true ruler of the universe. The scene worked because the two men onstage were actively listening to one another and were responsive. Imagine how actively listening to co-workers, clients, and superiors would improve the business world.

 Improvisation is about making and learning from mistakes

I have walked through walls, changed the size of objects, called my scene partner by an incorrect name, and many other faux pas. In this context, it is all part of the learning process. Unless one is a brain surgeon or an airline pilot or other vocation where lives are at stake, people  need to learn it is okay to make a mistake as long as it is corrected and learned from.

Investing two hours a week for six weeks in an improvisation class is well worth it. It allows you to step outside yourself, spurs creativity, and offers valuable lesson in teamwork and listening.

For more information on local offerings visit

Dragon Production Improvisation Classes