When my improv group, Just Add Water, goes on tour, it’s 33% to do shows, 33% to lead workshops, and 33% to figure out once and for all how many people can fit on one inflatable mattress in somebody’s AirBnB. On tour, shows take a variety of forms, from tiny open mics at local restaurants to massive high school auditoriums. But our improv workshops with are all pretty consistent. We lead about an hour of games and song practice with kids somewhere between fourth and twelfth grade. Sometimes we do workshops for adults (or once, according to legend, for preschoolers), but typically we work in middle and high schools.
Workshops are really special for the group. They are almost exclusively a tour activity, and they’ve taught me a lot. At Yale, I almost never see my classmates interact with children. On tour, I will watch a close friend successfully convining a self-conscious sixth-grader to participate in a ridiculous game, which can be moving and revelatory. We all know how we improvise. But leading a workshop is something else.
Exploring the beach in L.A.
This winter break, we travelled to Los Angeles. One of our first stops was a high school a few hours outside the city. We woke up at 5 am to get to the school by first period. My car stopped for McDonald’s in the dark. These little journeys always feel like family road trips, if no one in your family knew where they were going. For the rest of the ride we were blasting music, eating hash browns, and drifting in and out of consciousness. As we approached the school, we guzzled caffeine so that no one would know we had all gotten two hours of sleep.
Knowing we had seven workshops ahead of us was daunting, but also fun. I always really look forward to workshops because being back at a high school with a bunch of college friends is so much fun. Everything that was stressful about your teenage years–workload, popularity, social drama, etc–fades into the background and you get to remember what was fun. We eat cafeteria burritos and run around on the soccer fields. We have no studying to do, not for high school and certainly not for Yale. (Thanks, pre-break finals!) It feels like being a real adult. Especially because we do have some responsibility–we have a job to do, but the job is fun. In fact, the job is joyful.