Kids are natural comedians – they know how to tell stories, elicit a response and what makes them laugh from an early age. In times of crisis, those skills are even more necessary.
The Detroit Creativity Project and its leaders, including actor and comic Marc Evan Jackson, want to keep that laughter flowing, especially during the quarantines and related life changes related to the coronavirus.
Recently, the nonprofit organization launched a virtual version of its Improv Project, making its Improv games and exercises more accessible to the people who need them immediately, Jackson said.
“Improv is the common denominator that gave (many successful Detroit comedy artists in his generation) the mindset to success,” Jackson said. “It also gave us the mindset to fail, and that failing isn’t fatal. That trial and error? It breeds a fearlessness and empathy that the world could use right now.”
Every Monday, new games and exercises are being added on The Improv Project YouTube and Instagram accounts. To reach students without internet access, the organization will be launching a postcard series featuring improv lessons and games. Students and parents across metro Detroit are invited to participate.
Jackson – who worked in Detroit as part of the Second City improv troupe that included Keegan-Michael Key – said improv is important because it offers “humor in the face of adversity,” a muscle we all need to flex in times of trouble. Being vanilla or staying safe may be good for social distancing, but it isn’t what people generally need in being an entrepreneur, excelling in school or trying something new in life.
“If you make bold choices, you may stumble onto some gold,” Jackson said. “And good things happen when you make bold choices.”
For example, The Improv Project’s teaching artists are selecting improv games that students can play at home either solo, in pairs, or with a group of kids and adults. One of the first games to be posted is “Two Words at a Time.” In this game, a group of two to six people create a story two words at a time. One person begins by providing two words in the story. Each player then adds to the story, two words at a time.
“This is a great exercise to work on listening and building on other people’s ideas,” Jackson says. “It also helps students work on storytelling for other writing assignments.”
These online games and exercises will continue The Detroit Creativity Project’s goal to give students improv skills that help them develop social and emotional skills related to teamwork, communication, and problem solving. The training will also help students build literacy through storytelling.
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