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

 

 

 

 

 

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”

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.

Parkinson’s improv therapy tickles Naples’ patients’ funny bone

Parkinson’s improv therapy tickles Naples’ patients’ funny bone
By Harriet Howard Heithaus Naples Daily News – November, 2017

Read about how improvisational theatre can benefit those with Parkinson’s and their care partners.

This improvisational theater class won’t teach pratfalls or stage entrances. But the Parkinson’s disease patients who are learning elements of that art with therapist Margot Escott can count on broad smiles and hearty laughter.

Click here to view a list of current classes

Continue reading “Parkinson’s improv therapy tickles Naples’ patients’ funny bone”

SOCIAL WORK & IMPROV COMEDY

As an MSW and an improviser, I am proud of the relationship between my two vocations and the women who pioneered social work and improv comedy, the “Mother of Social Work” and the “Mother of Improv”. How their lives intersected is inspirational to me.

Improv Improves Toastmasters Skills

Improv-Photo-for-FacebookHow does the popular art form of Improvisational Comedy help members of Toastmasters? Let me count the ways.

Improv Comedy Classes and Performance Groups have been mushrooming internationally over the past decade. Inspired by the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway” and comedians such as Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Steven Colbert who all studied Improv, there are hundreds of classes and thousands of Improv Players today. These fun and skill building techniques are being taught in schools, universities, health care, mental health (insert Article Below Improv anxiety) and now Toastmasters are learning to have fun and gain greater expertise with Improv Comedy. *see below what is Improv
Continue reading “Improv Improves Toastmasters Skills”

Improv Comedy – Play for the Health!

Margot Escott, LCSW, has been studying, performing and teaching Improv Comedy for the past several years for healthcare organizations and community groups. Escott has had a private psychotherapy practice in Naples for over 30 years and is known for her workshops on “The Healing Power of Humor & Play.”

The basic rules of Improv Comedy can also be applied to life and the therapeutic process. The most important rule of Improv is to accept what other players give you and to have fun. With the help of other professional Improv Players at this workshop, participants will experience how these concepts can apply to their lives as well. Audience participation not required but suggested.

Click to view a list of current classes

The workshop will include live Improv Comedy performance and audience participation in “win/win” Improv Games.