CSWA, University of Calgary & Loose Moose Theatre
by Jennifer Bon Bernard
I recently had the privilege of participating in an improvisation course called: Act Your Science. The aim of the course was to provide the foundational skills for improvisation, which in turn would improve our public speaking and science communication skills. However, it turned out to be so much more!
Dennis Cahill, the Artictic Director at Loose Moose Theatre, directed each 2 hr. session, which ran for five weeks. Dennis’s directorship was always filled with compassion, clarity and patience. He shared his extensive improvisation knowledge and experience in such a fun manner we were excited to engage in a learning process that always resulted in full-fledged laugher!
The following core principles of improv were taught and repeated in each session. As you will see, the fundamental principles of improv can be applied to any relational interaction that one engages in, not just when performing on stage.
The importance of being present in the moment was a central theme throughout this course. It is critical that improv participants enter into interactions with pristine active listening, as nothing is rehearsed before the interaction occurs. The interactions that had the greatest impact and resulted in the most laughter occurred during the most authentic moments of exchange.
“Don’t think. Get Out of Your Head. Stop Planning and Just Go”
Dennis encouraged participants to say ‘YES’ when called to participate on ‘stage’. By the end of the five sessions, it seemed that everyone was jumping up to participate! I have to admit that I had to restrain myself to saying YES to allow others the opportunity to say YES! Dennis made sure to repeat that when we take chances, our learning is expanded.
“Just say Yes and You’ll Figure it Out Afterwards.”
Dennis was commonly heard saying “mistakes are good” and “don’t be afraid to make them!” We were always encouraged to be okay with making a mistake and to respond in a light-hearted manner when they occur with laughter and ease. Dennis wanted us to always remember that the audience is on our side and want nothing more than for us to succeed!
“If You Stumble Make It Part of the Dance”
The goal of this course was more then achieved! I feel confident in suggesting that all of the participants will be more present, take chances more often and be okay with making mistakes in future speaking opportunities. For myself, this introduction to improv has transformed into ensuring that I make it a life long hobby that I will regularly participate in. It the meantime, until we connect again, I will end by saying:
“It is Always Sad When a Good Show Comes to an End!”
Jennifer Bon Bernard:
Jennifer Bon Bernard is a graduate student at University of Calgary in the department of Community Health Sciences. She always enjoys having fun and exploring her artistic soul whenever the opportunity arises. Improv has brought so much laughter and happiness to her life that she will continue to make this apart of her creative journey forever! Jennifer highly recommends that if you ever the opportunity to enroll in an improv class that you say “YES!”
Act Your Science is the result of a collaboration between the University of Calgary, the Canadian Science Writers Association and Loose Moose Theatre. Act Your Science is scheduled to take place again at the University of Calgary in early summer 2017. Fifteen spaces are available for the five two hour sessions. CSWA members as well as University of Calgary science graduate students are invited to participate at no cost. Yes there will be additional field trips to Loose Moose Theater and a few pub nights because the fun just doesn't want to stop once you learn to listen, take chances and laugh together without the fear of making a mistake.