Why Family Improv
by Shana Merlin
But there I was, getting ready to teach my improv class, looking over curriculum in the lobby, getting frustrated. These are women–probably smart, successful, interesting women–who are killing time while their child is in an awesome class at the ZACH youth theater program. Their kids were getting to be actors and dancers, comedians and singers. And their moms were just waiting.And I wanted to tell them, “You are an actor too! A dancer! A comedian! You are an artist with things to say and do!” But I just smiled politely and waited for my students to arrive. I saw the parents hurry out the door with their children, whose classes ended right before mine began.
Now, I’m a mom. And I know that an hour of peace and quiet to read a book is a valuable thing. But I don’t get the sense from these parents running errands and checking Facebook that they are savoring these moments while their kid is in class. It feels more just like passing time. And I know that not everyone shares the same hobbies or interest as their kids or wants to be in a performing arts class. A lot of my dissapointment has more to do with my own fears about losing my own identity and creativity in service of my child. Either way, I feel like there could be a lot more Mommy/Daddy and me opportunities for families with kids of every age. Where kids AND adults can explore their creative alter-egos.
I like the model my soccer teammates showed. As my all-women soccer team, the Brew Dawgs, started having kids, women disappeared for a while with their infants, but then moms came back–with their husband and child in tow to watch their games. And as their kids got older, everyone got a turn on the weekend, playing a soccer game and watching a family member’s soccer game. Now that’s what I call a Soccer Mom!
That’s one of the big reasons I’ve started the Family Improv Class (starting Sunday September 29th, register now!). I wanted parents to get a chance to have all the fun these kids are having in their theater for youth classes.
I’m also a big believer in modeling the behavior you want in your kids. You want your kids to try new things and take more social risks? To be more positive and agreeable? To have more confidence in front of groups? To open up and share more of themselves with you? To get off the couch and in to the world of activity? Well, walk the walk. Show them that you do these things. And have them join in. I can’t think of a better way to model great behavior than a family improv class.
I like to imagine the conversation on the car ride over to the first Family Improv Class, where parent and child can bond about the anxiety of trying a new thing, not knowing who will be in class and if they will like it, making a pact to be a good sport and give it a try.
So here’s my plan for a typical day of Family Improv Class:
- At the beginning of class, everyone warms up together, playing schoolyard games, theater games, and other games that help connect, energize, loosen up and ground us in the present.
- Then we introduce the main topic or lesson of the day with a few demonstrations.
- Then the group splits up. Kids stay in one room while the adults move next door. Each group gets more practice with their peers.
- Finally, it’s showtime and the kids and adults come together to watch mixed age groups perform improv games and scenes together.
I’m excited about the new class and to learn best how to serve adults, kids and families with improv. So spread the word so we can fill up our inaugural class and make this a new standard offering at Merlin Works, adding classes for younger families as well.
Founder, Merlin Works