Improv!

When she was younger, [Westling] would often keep her ideas to herself, rather than risk rejection. Improv, however, turns this whole concept on end as the very premise is “yes, and…” meaning participants accept and work with whatever idea is handed them and then build off of it...

When she was younger, [Westling] would often keep her ideas to herself, rather than risk rejection. Improv, however, turns this whole concept on end as the very premise is “yes, and…” meaning participants accept and work with whatever idea is handed them and then build off of it...

Does the idea of doing improv intimidate you? It shouldn’t assures Hollis Westling, who along with Stephen Griswold is teaching Open Door’s Sketch Comedy and Improv Acting Class, July 18-22. The workshop, for teens ages 13 to 18, promises not only a plethora of fun, but the opportunity to walk away with something a little deeper: “the tools to help them find their own voice,” said Westling.

Westling has been doing comedy in one form or another her whole life, starting with basic banter with her father to eventually performing as part of Emerson College’s The Girlie Project. Griswold, too, is a member of The Girlie Project, while having also performed at Improv Boston and studied comedy writing.

Rejection is a big issue for teens. Westling identifies with this. When she was younger, she would often keep her ideas to herself, rather than risk rejection. Improv, however, turns this whole concept on end as the very premise is “yes, and…” meaning participants accept and work with whatever idea is handed them and then build off of it to the benefit of all those involved.

“Improv has definitely helped me thinking more quickly on my feet. I go to school in Boston and there are definitely people who will cat call you or call you names when you are walking down the street. Improv has helped me grow in confidence and find things to say back to them that diffuse the situation,” she said.

“A big thing improv helped me with was getting to know myself better, which may sound weird, because improv is all about working with people, but in improv there are also no gender roles, which can be very empowering—a boy can play a girl and a girl can play a boy. It’s very refreshing, especially for girls, to be able to improvise their own scenes as opposed to having them written for them in stereotypical ways,” said Westling.

While improv may help build confidence, it is at its heart fun and an alternative to more traditional types of camps. As Westling suggests, “It is very easy to talk about serious things when you do so in a funny way.”

Why not give it a try?

—Kim Gifford
Kearsarge Magazine