What a delight to chat with beloved improviser, Jonathan Pitts. We chatted about improv, mythology, Joseph Campbell, and psychiatrist Car Jung who were some of his influences.
My interview with Jonathan was so much fun, I’m posting it as a two-part interview with our fascinating guest!
I’d taken a few classes with Jonathan, whose 30-plus years as an improviser and coach make him a master artist.
Jonathan is an award-winning international improv theatre artist and storyteller. He’s performed and/or taught in 25 countries and 81 cities in more than 1,200 improv performances. He’s the former Executive Director of Chicago Improv Productions; Co-Founder/Producer – Chicago Improv Festival; Creator/Producer – College Improv Tournament; Founder/Producer – Chicago Podcast Festival; Founder/Producer – Teen Comedy Fest. His experience also includes being a teacher/Director of children and teens with physical and/or cognitive disabilities.
Rich Baker is the author of the book Improv MadeEasierand host/creator of the YouTube show Improv Breakdown, Rich Baker has performed all over the U.S. with The Second City, ComedySportz Chicago, Mission Improvable, and his festival headlining duo with Rolland Lopez, Rollin’ In Riches. Corporations and organizations hire him to put on workshops and keynote talks about team building and creativity through his company Play Like a Team (www.playlikeateam.com) He’s also the director of the award-winning web series Third Shifton Amazon Prime. And he currently teaches improv to students from all over the world online with Rich BakerCoaching. Check out everything Rich has going on at https://richbaker.taplink.ws/
Rich Baker is one of my favorite improv coaches. I learned about his classes through our mutual friend, Shirley Wainess. He is a genius improviser, coach, and writer.
He is the author of “Improv Made Easier” at
What a thrill and an honor it was chatting with Improv Legend Paul Vaillancourt on our latest episode of Improv Interviews. Paul is a wonderful improviser and coach and wrote the book “The Triangle of the Scene” A very practical and easy-to-read method for approaching improvisational You can buy it here: https://amzn.to/2Oalcmk.
This was such a wonderful experience as Paul is a truly sweet person. We even did a scene together as he is also so generous! Paul is a writer, actor, director, producer, and most of all improvisor who has been teaching and performing improv across the country for more than 35 years.
He is a graduate of the Comedy Sportz Training Program in Virginia, the Second City Training Center in Chicago as well as the legendary iO in Chicago where he had the rare opportunity to study under the legendary Del Close. After his group, Bitter Noah was selected to perform their signature piece, the Improvised Movie, at the US Comedy Arts festival Paul moved to Los Angeles and founded the iO West where he has been teaching, directing, and performing (both written and improvised shows) ever since. During his time in Hollywood Paul has become a sought-after improv coach, producer, writer, and consultant working with many TV networks including Fox, MTV, VH1, Oxygen, History, and Bravo to name a few. Subscribe to his amazing YouTube channel PV at: https://bit.ly/2O5lxqw. His Improv Tips are short, powerful, and easily digestible clips to help develop all sorts of improv tools. He also has a great series about games for Harold as well as other great video resources. Follow Paul here on Facebook or IG and on Twitter @whatsupwithpv, CLICK HERE
Robert Moyer has devoted his life to playing and teaching Improvisational Theatre with Viola Spolin and Paul Sills. He tells his improv story about when he first met Paul Sills and later worked with Viola Spolin.
Robert and I met at Spolin workshops with Aretha Spolin Sills. His accomplishments are inspiring and after a long career of acting, directing, and teaching, he took up performance poetry in 1998 and has since won many poetry slams, including the 2011 and 2012 Poetry Slams conducted by the Poetry Council of North Carolina. He also won an honorable mention in the 2012 Free Verse(written) competition held by the Poetry Council. In 1999 he won a Head to Head Haiku Slam and began writing haiku in earnest.
Robert began publishing in 2005 and has since had hundreds of poems published in major haiku journals including Modern Haiku, Frogpond, Simply Haiku, Bottle Rockets, and many others. He has been anthologized widely, most notably in the tenth-anniversary collection of Acorn, and the seventh cycle. For the past 22 years, he has been the theater artist-in-residence, and resident poet at the Arts-Based School, a K-8 charter school that integrates the arts into the teaching of the standard course of study. He conducts projects in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, poetry, puppetry, history, Shakespeare, sequencing, stories, and, of course, theater.
Part 2. ROBERT MOYER – IMPROVISATIONAL THEATRE PIONEER
Our fascinating interview with internationally recognized artist Robert Moyer focuses on his relationship with Carol and Paul Sills and their gifted daughters. Bob shares Viola and Carol’s love of children and for the past 22 years, he has been the theater artist-in-residence, and resident poet at the Arts-Based School, a K-8 charter school that integrates the arts into the teaching of the standard course of study. He conducts projects in a variety of areas including, but not limited to, poetry, puppetry, history, Shakespeare, sequencing, stories, and, of course, theater.
Mr. Moyer founded and directed the United Stage, a participation story theater company, while teaching creative dramatics both undergraduate and graduate as well as theater at Grand Valley State University (MI). That company over the years has performed for audiences numbering over one million, including appearances at the Smithsonian Institution (6 times), the John F. Kennedy Center for the Arts, and the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Mr. Moyer has directed over 50 productions using the non-verbal, non-psychological approach developed by Spolin. He co-founded and served as chairman of the International Performing Arts for Youth for six years.
In Part 2 of our conversation with the fantastic Ira Sakolsky, we chat about his work teaching and playing improv in Connecticut. One of the wonderful events he co-created 17 years ago is The North Pole Express at the Essex Steam Train & Riverboat in Essex, CT. which is still playing to sold-out audiences.
Ira Sakolsky is a professional actor, musician, and composer, writing and performing for film, theater, television, and industrial shows.
Ira Sakolsky is a professional actor, musician, and composer, writing and performing for film, theater, television, and industrial shows. His Riverway Recording Studio in East Haddam, CT, has garnered many awards, including Parent’s Choice Award, Global Music Awards, and a Grammy nomination. Ira has studied Viola Spolin’s improvisational theatre games for 47 years. We first met at a workshop with Aretha Amelia Sills and I was struck by his energy, playfulness, and compassion. His love of drama and improv started at a young age.
From founding a not-for-profit to provide music therapy for hospice patients to being a stand-in Al Pacino and Woody Allan’s films to co-writing a new musical based on the online dating experience, Ira has shared his talents around the world. In college, his acting teacher, George Morrison, had been part of the Compass Players with Paul Sills and Mike Nichols, which led to Ira performing in Sills’ Story Theatre. He continues to have a busy career writing music, playing, and acting. He is currently co-writing a new film in which he’ll co-star and serve as the composer.
Cameron Dee is a lovely improvisor from one of my favorite places, Edinburgh, Scotland. We met when he was a substitute coach for Class Act curated by Jay Sukow at todayimprov.com.
Cameron started doing Stand Up Comedy at age 20 and was surprised how well received he was! He enjoyed the laughs for 7-8 years until he realized he just wasn’t having fun.
We chat about his path to improv starting when his family moved from Perth, Australia to Scotland. He continued with standup but found himself losing interest. Took his first 6-week course and has been doing it for the past ten years. We spoke of our mutual admiration for Jules Munns, at the Nursery.
Cameron gives his improv philosophy. “You have nothing to lose, and nothing to gain.” Check out his FaceBook and drop into one of his jams!
Cameron is planning a world tour. Check it out at: https://camerond.net/world_improv_tour.html
Meet Ali Turnbull. A wonderful writer and improviser that has Parkinson’s disease. She finds ways to inspire others with Parkinson’s Disease through exercise and laughter. We met at an Improv for PD class with the delightful Robert Cochrane. I laughed so much during this interview as Ali has remarkable wit and is quite engaging, Ali lives on the edge of the beautiful English Lake District with her husband Robin and a cat called LouLou. Her philosophy on life is expressed in this quote. “I have quickly decided that instead of mourning the brain cells I have lost, I will celebrate those that remain with the things I love – music, exercise, and the great outdoors.”
Assael Romanelli, Ph.D. is a prolific writer, clinician, and internationally known trainer. Our first podcast was on May 5, 2017, a few months before we both presented at the “Yes, and Mental Health Conference” in Chicago. I was so glad to catch up with him and his great body of work over the past 4 years. He has made a great difference in the world of research and clinical improv. He conducted a research project teaching improv to social workers in 2019 he and colleagues published the research project “I’mprovisation – Therapists’ Subjective Experience during Improvisational Moments in the Clinical Encounter”. Assael developed a training course for therapists in theater improvisation skills and observed its impact on their clinical work. The 17 therapists that he trained in this study all had a positive change in relation to their work.
This is our second interview with the fabulous Daniel DeWalt of Covered Bridge Studios and Theaters in the Chicago area. He has recently created a series of FREE Master Level Improv Sessions with their newest enterprise, Generations On The Bridge Improv Playground. Combining the talents of children, teens, and adults who have graduated from their conservatory Comedy & Drama Improv Program in a single group, this promises to be something quite unique. Daniel, along with other professional instructors, is emphasizing advanced improv concepts and they will be opening these sessions soon to graduate-level improv students from all over the country. For more information about these exciting masterclasses and other projects at Covered Bridge, contact Daniel at MycoveredBridge@aol.com