Improv in the Third Act

“You can’t help growing older, but you don’t have to grow old.” George Burns

Improv Anonymous – WIth Improv Master and my first teacher Craig Price at the start of my Third Act

Almost a decade ago, my family sat in the hospital waiting room, waiting to hear the outcome of the surgery I was undergoing to repair the damage caused by a sudden cerebral aneurysm. My surgeons appeared with the good and the bad news for my family. I had survived the surgery, but my surgeon warned, it was too early to know if I would recovery my memory or ever speak again. To which my brother responded, “Too bad about the memory.”

As you can tell, I grew up in a family that laughed a lot. The 1950s were the stage for the “First Act” of my life. It was filled with hours of us gathered around a black and white television laughing along with “Leave it to Beaver,” “I Love Lucy,” Imogene Coco, Sid Caeser, Jack Parr, Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, Ernie Kovacs, George & Gracie, Carl Reiner. Regardless of what was happening in the world, these shows made you laugh and feel better.

Inspired by these comedy greats and by the work and teachings of Norman Cousins and others like him on “The Healing Power of Laughter & Play,” I used my “Second Act” to become a social worker and tour the country holding workshops to teach other therapists to use humor and play to help their clients.

I did recover my memory and to my brother’s dismay, my ability to speak following the surgery. But recovery took time and a friend suggested I try an acting class in a local community theater to help me through this period. My first classes were in a rundown former bar that had been abandoned during the great recession. Some of my classmates were actual rats and cockroaches. The teacher of the class was a charismatic fellow who taught improvisational theater. Although following directions was challenging, I had so much fun at the first class that I decided to sign up for a six-week class and have continued taking Improvisational Theatre classes and workshops ever since.

Improvising as the mother of the bride in Who Killed the Rabbi

So, there I was in my “Third Act,” recovering from brain surgery and a double knee and double hip replacements.  I was the eldest member of my improv group and I was not as agile as the predominantly young white men who made up the group. If I played a game that required sitting on the floor, I wasn’t sure if I could get up again! I suppose it’s not surprising that I was often cast as someone’s mother or grandmother. But I kept going because my teacher encouraged and validated me and soon, I began teaching as well. Being part of that improv team and working on supporting and loving each other was an incredible mind-blowing experience for me.

I wanted to learn everything I could about this improv and went to different parts of the country to study improv at festivals. Each time I attended a workshop, I came home with renewed energy and commitment to play. For 9 years I was fortunate to attend the Annual Improv Festival at Will Luera’s FST. I learned from so many terrific teachers and discovered that I could make choices! Through the festival, I met many folks that I’ve studied with on Skype and continue to do so on Zoom.

With my dear friend Dr. Daniel Wiener at his Rehearsals-for-Growth Improv for Therapists Workshop.

I left that team about five years ago and ever since then I’ve been teaching improv which I have learned in my “Third Act,” which is my love and my mission. As a psychotherapist I’ve applied improvisational theater techniques to my work with people with Parkinson’s and other neurodegenerative diseases along with their care partners, people with anxiety and depression, and people on the Autism spectrum.

The results have been terrific, and I believe I get as much out of teaching than my students do.

 

Ed Asner joined me for my Improv Interviews podcast

Several years ago, I started a podcast called improv interviews. Because there were a limited class-opportunities in my area, I wanted to talk to other improvisers, play with them and learn more about improvisation. Through my podcast — Improv Interviews — I met terrific therapists and other professionals who use improv clinically to help others. I have been blessed to interview some of my favorite improv teachers including David Razowksi, Jay Sukow, Aretha Sills, Jimmy Carrane, Susan Messing, Racheal Mason, Joe Bill, and a host of other wonderful improvisers.

Improv became the theme of my “Third Act” when I was 61 years old. I’m 71 now and am thrilled to meet other improvisers like Miki Manting and the folks at “Vintage Improv” who are making their “Third Act,” the best one ever by embracing improv.

The Pandemic has hit the theatre and improv world very hard. Improvisers rose to the challenge and immediately began offering online classes and workshops to support people through this difficult time. Being guided by Acceptance and Yes, and… we are resilient folks and giving hope and inspiration around the world.

Margot’s next workshop, “Improv for Wellness” starts soon. Contact her via email for more info: margotescott@mac.com

 

 

 

 

 

Tele-therapy during COVID-19 Social Distancing

Stress

As an LCSW who has been practicing in Naples for 35 years, I know that mental health is being impacted by COVID-19 and that affects our physical bodies as well.

My greatest concern for people who are experiencing fear is that they trigger the “Stress Response” or Fight or Flight Syndrome, stress hormones are released and these “stress hormones” cause several changes in the body, including an increase in heart rate and blood pressure. While we need to stay socially distant to protect ourselves and others, we shouldn’t socially isolate ourselves with our fear and concerns.

Fortunately, technology makes it possible for health care professionals to see their patients online. Physicians have been using Telehealth for the past 40 years and Tele-therapy since the 1990s. To ensure client safety, the CMS has lifted any HIPPA restrictions on this type of treatment and are recommending it as a safe way to continue counseling sessions or see new patients. You don’t need to be computer savvy to use Tele-therapy, and it allows us to see our patients and them see us. Telephone therapy is also available to people who aren’t computer friendly.

To find a therapist in Collier who is providing this service you may go to Psychologytoday.com and search by your zip code. I am here to answer any questions you may have margotescott@mac.com

Mary Guzzy Rehearsals for Growth

 

Mary GuzzyMeet Mary Guzzy, professor of Humanities and Theatre at SUNY Corning Community College I Corning, New York. I had the pleasure of hearing Mary present at Dr. Daniel Weiner’s 4th Annual Conference for Growth Conference this past October, Rehearsals for Growth.

Mary has been a student of Rehearsals for Growth for several years and is finding a way to use improvisational therapy in her work. Mary’s presentation was on her visit to the Greek Island of Samos where refugees from the conflicts in the Middle East have been relocated.

Continue reading “Mary Guzzy Rehearsals for Growth”

Support for those with Parkinson’s

 

Finding Support & Information
While the diagnosis of Parkinson’s Disease (PD) may be frightening, it is important to remember support and interventions are available right here in Naples, Florida both for those diagnosed with this disease and those family members who now find themselves in the role of Care Partner. Many people are familiar with Parkinson’s disease, which affects one million Americans, with 60,000 new diagnoses each year. But there are several other neurodegenerative disorders that have Parkinson’s like symptoms called A-typical Parkinson’s or Parkinsonism that are important to be aware of.

Continue reading “Support for those with Parkinson’s”

Tips to Help Seniors Thrive During Their Transition to Assisted Living – Guest Post Sharon Wagner

 

Sharon Wagner
(Guest Post)
Moving to an assisted-living campus does not have to feel like walking into a foreign land. Change is not always easy. At no other time in life is this as blazingly true as in our senior years when we have to make a decision about where to live. Mobility issues, financial struggles, and living too far away from loved ones can compound to the point where it is no longer safe for us to stay in our own home. When this happens, you have a choice: go into assisted living feeling like it means defeat or have a positive attitude and make the most of your situation.

Here are a few things you can do to make your new community feel like home.

Continue reading “Tips to Help Seniors Thrive During Their Transition to Assisted Living – Guest Post Sharon Wagner”

Improvisational theater games for people with Parkinson’s and Care Partners

Improvisational Theatre Games for people with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners is not just fun but therapeutic.

Parkinson’s Disease (PD) is a movement disorder that affects up to 1 million people in the US and doctors diagnose 60,000 new cases each year. Improvisational Theater Games, based on the work of Viola Spolin, are being used clinically all over the world. Improv classes are being offered for stress management, Autism, dementia, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and other neuromuscular diseases.

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Improv as Therapy

Gulfshore Life Magazine
Melanie Pefinis
February 2019 (Pages 63-64)

The Naples Players put on a great show, as we theatergoers know. But maybe not all of us know that the 65-year-old institution seeks to educate our community as well as entertain it. There are the KidzAct youth program, internship opportunities, diverse creative workshop offerings for adults–and inclusive classes for people with additional needs, including improv for individuals with autism and those with social anxiety.

Margot Escott was familiar with the mission, so when she approached the players about bringing her own improv classes to the company, she knew the techniques she used with Parkinson’s patients would fit right in.

Continue reading “Improv as Therapy”

Theater Programs for People with Disabilities

Theater Programs for People with Disabilities
Hello SWFL by Antoniette Meyer
October 9, 2018

The Naples Players provides a wellness program that helps people with disabilities like anxiety, autism, and Parkinson’s. The program teaches people improv skills that can translate into their day to day lives. “One of the beautiful things about improv is this rule of acceptance. We have to accept what our partners give us on stage. We have to be able to work together,” said Naples Players’ Education Director, Craig Price. In the Improv for Anxiety class, they have a rule that there are no mistakes. By creating a safe and welcoming atmosphere, it helps students enjoy the class without the fear of being judged. “Most of us with anxiety have the fear of ‘Did I say the wrong thing?’ ‘Will they accept me?’ ‘Did I do it right?’ There’s a lot of perfectionism with anxiety,” said Margot Escott the Theater Therapy Instructor.

Click to view a list of current classes

Click here to read more and view Hello SWFL’s video.

Learn to ad-lib your way through anxiety

Learn to ad-lib your way through anxiety
Florida Weekly
September 13, 2018

“Improv for Anxiety,” a six-week class in expressive therapy offered by licensed clinical social worker Margot Escott, starts Saturday, Sept. 29, at the Sugden Community Theatre in Naples.

Up to 20 percent of adults in America suffer from anxiety, making it one of the most common psychiatric complaints today. Using improvisational theater techniques to relieve anxiety is a relatively new option to talk therapy. It started several years ago at Second City in Chicago and is now blossoming in theaters around the country. Offered in a fun, supportive environment, this new approach to alleviating social anxiety, phobias and ordinary forms of shyness requires no prior improv or theater experience.

Click to view a list of current classes

Click here to read more at Florida Weekly

Improv Camp helps ADHD, autistic children

Improv Camp helps ADHD, autistic children
by Margot Escott for Naples Daily News
June, 2018

Summertime has many offerings for children’s camps. But the Naples Players Wellness Program offers a unique class for children who are on the autism spectrum (ASD), have ADHD and sensory processing issues.

Craig Price, Naples Players Education Director, is the instructor of the Acting & Improv summer camp and provides a unique experience for these children. The fundamentals of improv comedy help build self-confidence and improve communication skills, challenges for those with autism. Click here to read more in Naples Daily News.