Robert Lowe Atlanta’s Godfather of Improv

Robert Lowe

Join me and meet a man who is lovingly known as the Godfather of improv. During his thirty-nine-year engagement in Improvisation Robert Lowe has been a player, an Improv dancer, a teacher, a director, a producer, and a pioneer in the uses of Improvisation for purposes other than performance. He has taught Improvisation, and stand-up comedy, in addition to personal advocacy.

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Background I began Improvising in 1980 with an Improv Dance Troupe called “Motion”, in San Diego, CA, directed by the movement therapist, Judith Greer Essex, a dance student of Merce Cunningham. (It was not Contact Improv, which was developing in New York City around the same time.) Though I have played, taught, directed, read, and studied extensively, my only Improv Teachers were in San Diego. Don Victor was an early student from The Second City. We played as “Fool Moon Theatre”. Jackie Lowell taught a wonderful set of spontaneity workshops. My other training in Improvisation has been in the field known as “Microtonal Music” which is founded on the fact that western music is based on a 12-tone scale, while the human ear can distinguish as many as 1,600 tones in a single octave, allowing for Improvisation beyond limits. Our teachers were Jon, and Jonathan Glasier, founder of The Interval Foundation, and students of Harry Partch, author of Genesis of a MusicAn Account of A Creative Work, Its Roots, And Its Fulfillments.   

Biggest news On September 25, 2019, The Atlanta History Center, internationally known, and largest in the Southeast, accepted my archive covering the beginnings, and development of Improvisation in Atlanta, from 1984,  for its permanent collection. The archive includes interviews with the first Improvisers, more than 40 videos of the earliest performances, photos, newspaper articles, flyers, posters, blueprints of the first Improv Theatre, letters, updates to the current state and more. I digitalized all the “authentic” records on an external hard drive, and the History Center expects to have it converted to their system by the summer of 2020 when it will be available to anyone in the world.

Books Improvisation, Inc.: An Applied Improvisation Handbook – Revised 2017. Available in paperback, and Kindle. First published as Improvisation, Inc.: Harnessing Spontaneity to Engage People and Groups – 2000, it was the first book in North America dedicated specifically to detailing the uses of the Improvisational Wonder for business and professional communication, and organizational and community development. The very first book dedicated to the subject was published by Paul Z. Jackson, (1998) in the U.K,  one of the founders of The Applied Improvisation Network, (I did not know of this book until 2011 when I met Paul at my first AIN conference.) Impro Learning: How to Make Your Training Creative, Flexible and Spontaneous. The second in North America was by Kat Koppett. Originally published in (2001). Training to Imagine: Practical Improvisational Theatre Techniques for Trainers and Managers to Enhance Creativity, Teamwork, Leadership, & Learning. Ask me about my first contact with Kat. Her Mopco Improv Theatre is one of the first major Improv Theatres in a third-tier American City. Anyone involved, or learning, about using this great art and communication science, who reads these three books, will have a great foundation. Other books telling of the people, events,  and times that are foundational to my life in Improvisation. Happy Vernday Birthcox: Revolution, Evolution, and an Uncommon Commune – 1970. The Greater Number: A glimpse of our Universe and Sort of Everything in it. It recently became my honor to introduce Improvisation, and Applied Improvisation, to an international community of therapists with a chapter in the anthology by Adam Blatner. Action Explorations: Using Psychodramatic Methods in Non-Therapeutic Settings. The chapter is   “Enhanced Simulations Beyond Psychotherapy: An Introduction to Applied Improvisation Beyond Comedy and Before Therapy”. It is available by itself at The authors and community are composed primarily of therapists who have either come from, or been influenced by Drama Therapy, which was developed by DR. Jacob L. Moreno, who was the first person we know of to produce Improvisation Shows in the U.S., as part of his interest in spontaneity in New York City in 1925. There are two other major foundations of my life and Improvisation. First is and having grown up in a violent, ghettoized, gang-run neighborhood in Southern California, during the 1950s and 60s. Second is my 40-year study, and practice of Aikido, Rank of Nidan – (2nd Degree black belt) with the title of Fukushidoin, (Assistant teacher).  

Resume 2018  Robert Lowe  Education BA, Mass Communication, Pepperdine College, Los Angeles, CA, 1969.

  • Student Body President • Who’s Who among Students in American Colleges and Universities.

With nearly 40 years working and playing in Improvisation and Applied Improvisation, known as the Grandfather (sometimes the Godfather) of Improvisational Comedy in Atlanta, having founded “The Lightside City Players” in 1984, “Comedy Atlanta” in 1985, and “The Next City Comedy Theatre” in 1988. In 1989 Robert had a significant influence in the founding of Georgia Tech’s continuing “Let’s Try This” Improv Comedy movement. Bringing Improv technique, fun, and exploration to business and organizations of every size and form, his work is known in more than 30 countries, and it has been noted that either Robert, and his work, or his students, and now students of his students, have had an influence on almost every venue of Improv comedy in the Atlanta region.

You might want to listen to my fascinating discussions with other improv innovators working with a neurodiverse population  Michael Golding and Sandra Bruce.

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