A group of Italian teachers and an improv teacher take a photos after class

What a great past few days I’ve had! Full of grown-up playtime, using improv exercises to help participants connect, have fun and be more effective presenters and performers.

So far, that’s pretty usual. In the past 25+ years I’ve taught and performed literally countless improv shows and workshops. I’ve even written a book about improv a few years ago. So yeah, I know my stuff. But this past week the two workshops were pretty special. 

I taught a storytelling and improv workshop in Italian

The first workshop was special because I taught it in Italian.

I speak Italian. It’s not great, but I mean… it exists. And that’s cool. But when I’m speaking Italian I’m more aware of my limitations than my facility with the language. I’m limited in terms of how I can express myself. That’s why i was reminded of the phrase “in bocca al lupo” when preparing for it.

But a few weeks ago I received an email: there’s a group of Italian teachers coming to Amsterdam to do an artistic enrichment programme, it said. We’re looking for someone who can teach improv and storytelling in Italian. They got my name from someone in Amsterdam improv institution Easylaughs, I think.  

And fast-forward to Thursday and Friday and I got to spend two delightful days with a group of Italian high school teachers from Calabria. They were delightfully warm and funny and a little bit naughty. And, because they didn’t really speak English, we didn’t default to English, instead perservering in Italian, to the benefit of us all! 

I taught performance improv in The Hague

And then on Saturday, I made my way to The Hague to work with a widely mixed group of players, courtesy of the AATG. Some of them had years of improv experience, and some for whom this was their first exposure. It was a great mix of enthusiastic folks. And it was great to be able to work with them in English! 

But there’s an added twist. The workshop was the first part of a multi-stage plan to boost the improv skills and performance opportunities for improvisers in The Hague. It’s the brainchild of my friend Henri Colens. The next step of the plan is a weekend intensive in April that will culminate in a Sunday evening show.

That’s right, one weekend of improv training that finishes with an improv show (!)

A group of adult students practice improv in a theater warehouse

The history of the one weekend of training that finishes with an improv show

I did this a couple times already in my life. First in Rome, then in Brussels. It’s kind of a mad plan, but I love doing it, because I think if you want the improv bug to bite deep and truly infect the victim, give them a hit of audience response (ideally laughter). 

That drug is a potent punch, and coupled with the intro to improv from the beginning, this has the potential to turn you into a lifelong improv devotee. 

The last time I did a workshop of this type was probably 12 years ago, in Brussels. And the first time I did it we were living in Rome. At that time, I convinced an English-speaking theater to let me run a weekend workshop (in fact, I think at that time it was two consecutive weekends). In that case there was plenty of time to get rooted in the fundamentals of improvisation, like 

  • Listening
  • Yes, And
  • Group environment creation
  • Creating a character
  • Scene essentials
  • Narrative structure
  • Improv handles
  • Introducing improv games (stage presence)

And now i’m happy to be back in the improv saddle again, teaching a workshop format I haven’t taught in a long time. Ohm and also, I taught one in Italian!