improv

Hire me to lead an improv workshop for your team.

You already improvise. You live without a script every day.

You already know how to improvise. You live without a script every day.

The only difference between your improvising in everyday life and an improvisor on a stage?

Their stage looks like a stage. Yours looks like everyday life.

The workplace, the family kitchen, the pulpit, the road trip, the classroom. Your entire mission field is one big stage and it’s filled with the improvising you do every. Single. Day.

What is improv and why improv for my team?

Improvisation, or “improv,” is theater off the top off your head. Unlike a scripted play, improv is all organic, usually starting with little more than a one-word audience suggestion. Actors have to listen to each other, share focus, allow give-and-take for status, and when one actor gives a gift, the other actor is ready to say, “Yes, and…” to build off that gift. When it’s firing on all cylinders, it’s a beautiful thing.

That’s improv on the stage. What about in your everyday life?

Believe it or not, it’s the same for you and for your team. When you listen to each other, share focus, allow give-and-take for status, give gifts to each other and say “Yes, and…” to build on them, you’re being intentional, missional, and firing on all cylinders, and it’s a beautiful thing.

Improv philosophy pairs well with team building and it pairs well with practicing our faith. We build our team moment by moment. And we listen to God for how we might use the gifts given to us to help build the kingdom. That, too, is a beautiful thing.

“Yes, and…” is at the heart of all of this. When we’re given a gift – a project, a leadership role, a mentorship opportunity, etc. – we say “Yes,” to that gift and embrace our role. Then, we say “and…” to build on it, do something with it, make it our own.

It’s the same with the love of God. God gives us the gift of love – unmerited, unconditional, personal – and we say “Yes,” to that gift and and embrace our identity as loved. Then, we say “and…” to build on it, do something with it, share it with others.

We can stumble into all of this, sure. We can “wing it,” absolutely.

Or we can do it on purpose.

Improv is faith on purpose.

It’s living life ready to say, “Yes,” to God’s love “And…” do something it.

Say Yes to God's Love

I’d love to improvise with you.

I trained at the Brave New Institute in Minneapolis, MN (where I also performed, taught, and coached), ComedySportz – Twin Cities, and with a variety of amazing improv coaches from around the country. I’ve performed at twelve improv festivals across North America, including Chicago, Denver, Miami, San Francisco, and Toronto. And I’ve been leading faith-based improv workshops for clergy, leadership cabinets, bishops, seminary staff, camp staff, and lay staff for 7 years, plus I taught improv acting classes and coached improv performance teams for 7 years before that.

I’ve led improv workshops for adults, teenagers, children, people who are homeless, people who are just meeting for the first time, people who are old friends, people who want to be better on stage, people who want to be better in the workplace, and people who want to contribute to her or his team or community.

I’ve recently facilitated improv workshops for:

  • Staff Training Retreat, LYFE Camp
  • Annual Participant Retreat, Dignity Center
  • Annual Leadership Retreat, Hennepin Avenue United Methodist Church
  • Clergy Leadership Academy, Minnesota Annual Conference of the UMC
  • North Central Jurisdiction College of Bishops, United Methodist Church
  • Annual Staff Retreat, Garrett-Evangelical Seminary
  • Bishop’s Extended Cabinet, East Ohio Annual Conference of the UMC
  • Young Clergy Retreat, East/West Ohio Annual Conferences of the UMC

And now, your team is next and I can’t wait to come to your city and meet you.

My workshops are fun, memorable, and use methods that help your team explore the topics you want them to explore.

One recent workshop participant told me, a good five months after the workshop:

“Our staff so loved your presentation! We talk about it a lot. Even this past Monday some of the staff were explaining it to our President and reenacting parts of the improv.”

Can you hear the lingering excitement around the fun we had?

Can you see how memorable the experience was to the team?

Can you see the methods we explored topics with still inspire months later?

That’s how your team can feel after we do a workshop together.

Improv Workshop Options

All of my workshops are ready for an established team or a random assortment of players to jump in and see what happens. I work with you in advance so the workshop is customized to your context, exploring what your team needs most so you get the most out of your team. If you take more than one of these workshops, you may find yourself playing some of the games more than once. However, the experience is always unique because the processing is different, the group dynamic is different, and we’re focusing on the workshop’s specific topic.

Current Workshops:

  1. Improv for Team Building – Assemble your team, relax around each other, and explore how you can step up to serve each other and unite around your mission when the goal is to play together. This is by far my most-popular workshop.
  2. Improv for Team Leaders – Inspire your team with a refreshed, generous attitude of empowering those around you to offer their heart to your team’s mission. 
  3. Improv for “New School” Leaders – Ready to dive into your calling, heart first? Let’s play and explore how to keep energy fresh as your vocational journey begins!
  4. Improv for “Old School” Leaders – Been around the block and ready to get refreshed? Let’s play and let the spark that called you into vocation in the first place burn bright!

Upcoming:

  • Improv for Evangelism – Get excited to open up about the difference your faith and your church has made in your life and in your community.
  • Improv for Preachers – Spice up your storytelling, exegesis, and range of dynamic delivery through improv and writing exercises that use improv techniques.
  • Improv for Worship Leaders – The bulletin may seem like a blueprint but breathing room can be better if we’re ready to welcome the unexpected in worship.
  • Improv for Youth Leaders – More than learning new games to play with your teens, this is a workshop to use improv to build community and strengthen your leadership.

Ten Common Questions

Let me save us both a string of back-and-forth emails and offer some responses to the most common questions I get:

Q: What’s the content and length of a workshop?

  • Typically, a workshop is 3 hours (while anything can be customized to suit your needs, including half-day, all-day, two-parts over a 2-day retreat, etc.). We start by establishing an atmosphere of safety and covering improv fundamentals (15 minutes), then we warm-up to build a group energy (15 minutes), play games and process them (60 minutes), take a quick break (15 minutes), return for more games and processing (60 minutes), and finally we wrap-up and share our missional take-aways (15 minutes).

Q: What’s the “vibe” of a workshop and my facilitation style?

  • Games will be silly and fast-paced, processing will be talkative and go deep, and there’s bound to be plenty of laughter throughout.  We start with speaking about safety and calculating risk. It’s amazing how quickly a group can build on each other’s energy, with introverts warming up and extroverts gladly sharing the spotlight. My facilitation style is to affirm curiosity. I refer to participants as “players” since so much of what we’re doing is, simply put, play! I will help you sound smart and feel welcome. I keep us task-focused while still holding space for wonder.

Q: What are the space and prop/item needs?

  • Most content is done standing as we’re able in The Big Circle in an open space. An exception is the upcoming Improv for Preachers, which needs both open space and table seating for all participants. No props needed. I’ll bring what few props are needed, if any. If a workshop requires something more involved, we’ll discuss it.

Q: Should I or my team bring anything?

  • An open heart, a present mind, and a playful soul are essential. Some players have been known to have a pen and note book to jot down an idea, from time to time.

Q: Will you provide a list of the warm-ups, games, processing topics, and facilitation guidelines so we can do this on our own without you?

  • Sorry, I don’t do that, thanks for understanding. However, there are some posts about improv and leadership in my blog and I’ve played with the idea of writing a book or creating some brief videos. Sign up for my email list to be the first to know if this happens!

Q: Will you travel? 

  • Of course! I’ve facilitated improv workshops in Minnesota, Illinois, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Where are you sending me next?

Q: What’s the theology of a “faith-based” improv workshop?

  • I’m a United Methodist clergy person and a Wesleyan. I have an ecumenical heart and am happy to learn more about your faith tradition so I can better incorporate it into the workshop.

Q: What is the cost of a workshop?

  • The 2018 rate for a customized, facilitated 3-hour improv workshop is $750 plus travel expenses (e.g. lodging, direct airfare with travel insurance, airport travel if incurred, mileage for local travel, per diem, etc.).

Q: If I’m really good at improv can you get me into Hollywood?

  • Believe it or not, I have gotten variations on this question! I’m flattered you think I have so much influence. Nope, can’t really do anything for you here, sorry. Drop my name and see where it gets you, I guess. Let me put it this way: if I wanted to be in Hollywood, I’d already be working hard to make it in Hollywood! If that’s where you want to be, well, isn’t that where you should be?

Q: If I’m really good at improv can you tell my bishop?

  • We’ll talk.

Let’s see if an improv workshop is right for you and your team. Please contact me today.

Say Yes And to God