“Yes, and…” Ask anyone in improv and they will tell you it’s one of the most useful skills you can learn. Improv (short for improvisation) is the art of creating something out of thin air and is useful for acting, comedy, creative thinking, public speaking, and leadership. In this form of live theatre, the plot, characters, and dialogue are made up on the spot. As such, every performance is spontaneous and unique – there will never be another show exactly like it ever again.
Marietta-native Jon Bolden is hosting a series of drop-in improv workshops this fall for anyone interested in learning the art of improv or sharpening their skills. After teaching improv at The Hideout Theatre in Austin, TX for seven years, Bolden wanted to offer training while spending a few months in the MOV and share something that has brought him so much joy over the years with his hometown.
Even if you don’t perform comedy or acting, it creates joy simply through the process of working with others in a creative and supportive way.
Having taught classes around the world and in different languages, he says his favorite part is watching a terrified beginner become fearless in a very small amount of time.
“I enjoy it, particularly the educational and teaching side of it, because it ignites my brain in a way that no other activity does,” he says. “Even if you don’t perform comedy or acting, it creates joy simply through the process of working with others in a creative and supportive way.”
Bolden likens it to the joy one gets from cooperative sports. “When people are working together effortlessly, it feels you with positive energy.”
On my walk home, I remember thinking ‘I have to figure out how to do this.’
He also appreciates the accessibility of improv. Anyone can do it, at no cost, he says, and all kinds of peoples and bodies can be involved (unlike a lot of hobbies that require expensive gear or a level of physical capability.)
After being loosely involved with theatre throughout high school and college, Bolden discovered improv after moving to Austin, TX in 2006. “I saw an improvised show the day after Christmas and it was the most amazing thing I’d ever seen at the time,” he says. “On my walk home, I remember thinking ‘I have to figure out how to do this.’”
Much like a lot of things in life, he says it’s all about practice – it’s a constant reminder of how to work with others in a positive way. When you’re practicing improvising, you are focusing on two things: the people with you, and the present moment.
Sometimes when we have certain professional or social roles we can get stuck in our expectations to lead or follow.
“It’s a form of active meditation in the sense that there’s nothing else to think about except the person you’re working with and the exercise you’re doing,” says Bolden. “Sometimes when we have certain professional or social roles we can get stuck in our expectations to lead or follow. When improvising, our playing field is entirely leveled and it often is a break from our roles and a gentle empathetic look into other peoples’ roles and minds.”
Bolden believes a well-run improv class should be the opposite of stressful and says participants can expect to be in a very nurturing and safe environment. “Initially, it is a slow undoing of our traditional educational process, where we learn something and then can be right or wrong about it.”
He invites participants to relax and not worry about a thing, particularly an expectation to be funny, interesting, or “good.” “You can expect to be on your feet a lot with some breaks and to be fully engaged.” It’s not a traditional classroom environment. Instead, participants will be in large or small groups with Bolden there to guide each step along the way.
The workshops will be held on the second floor of the IncSwell Building at 204 Front Street in Downtown Marietta on October 29th and November 5th from 7:00 – 9:30 p.m. Those interested are strongly encouraged to register in advance by filling out this form. Beginners and experienced actors alike are welcome, there are no prerequisites for showing up. While the workshops are free, Bolden will have a donation basket available if participants are so moved.
As Scott Adsit (or Pete Hornberger from 30 Rock if like me you’ve memorized the entire series) once said, “The rules of improvisation apply beautifully to life. Never say no, you have to be interested to be interesting, and your job is to support your partners.”