Improv Interviews with Margot Escott, LCSW

Welcome to Improv Interviews with Margot Escott, LCSW. Improv Interviews are podcasts with innovative improvisors from all over the world and therapists who are using improvisation in their clinical practice.

More about Margot Escott, LCSW: Margot Escott incorporates over 35 years experience as a counselor, speaker and teacher in her wellness classes that are designed to use humor, play and improv to achieve well being. In addition to teaching and performing improv professionally, Margot has presented workshops and seminars on “Therapeutic Value of Humor and Play” on a national level and was a featured speaker at the Chicago “Yes, and” conference on Improvisation and Mental Health.

Gary Schwartz Part 2 of 2

Part 2 of my podcast with Gary Schwartz, an award-winning TV and film actor, director, comedian and a master improvisational acting coach whose 30 years as a performer and improv teacher has helped transform the lives of thousands of people, both on- and off-screen. He studied and worked with Viola Spolin,the mother of modern improv, and is the only master teacher to have ever earned an endorsement from both Viola Spolin and her son, Paul Sills, the co-founder and director of The Second City.

Click to listen to Part I

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John Dawson (Part 1 of 2)

I met John Dawson through our mutual friend Nick Johne from Chicago’s Second City. They had worked together at Toronto’s Second City before they both immigrated to Chicago and Dublin. His first foray into using improvisation for improved mental health was 7 years ago when he was approached to design and facilitate a series of Dramatic Arts for Wellness Workshops for D.C.U. (Dublin City University) in association with St. James Hospital Dublin’s mental health division. John’s taught his improv-based workshops in Critical thinking, Creativity and Effective Communication/Collaboration Skills for corporate and institutional clients such as Google, Airbnb, DropBox, Twitter Ireland, Dublin Institute of Technology, Dublin City University, and H.S.E. (Health Service Executive, Ireland). You can learn more about John Dawson at: www.dawsondramaworks@gmail.com Email: dawsondramaworks@gmail.com

In part one of our podcast we talk about John’s development as an improvisor and also his connection with our dear friend Nick Johne.

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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.

With Parkinson’s disease, there are accompanying problems with facial rigidity (or masking), gait impairment characterized by a stuttering gait as well as anxiety and depression. Some of the Improvisational exercises we use are directly related to these issues.

We do an exercise called “Show, don’t tell, your feelings” where students have to use facial muscles to portray a feeling. This exercise is important as students can recognize the need to use their muscles to indicate their emotions. Parkinson’s Disease can be isolating not only for the individual with PD but for the family as well. In these eight -week classes, participants work with partners and in small groups to play a variety of improv exercises each week, while learning about improvisational theatre principles. In these lively classes, participants get a chance to express themselves non-verbally through movement and music activities. To aid in cognition and memory skills, improvisational games present fun challenges to solve.

There is growing research on the therapeutic benefits of Improvisational Theatre Games for people with PD. The neurology department of Northwestern University has partnered with Second City since 2015 researching the benefits of teaching improv to people with PD and their caregivers_. Their research showed that improvisational theatre games help to cultivate focus, improve communication, and promote well- being. Our groups have 8-10 participants. We begin by explaining Acceptance and “Yes, and…. “ We also focus on the concept that there are no mistakes, only gifts. Acceptance is an important concept as people with PD have difficulty accepting their disease. The idea that they don’t have to like it but rather accept the reality can be a way to help with the denial that often accompanies this disorder. This holds true for the care partners as they too are often in denial. Allowing time for games, no one is pressured to speak quickly and others don’t try to “interpret” is also important especially for care partners as they become used to “doing” everything for their partner and often end up controlling and, in some cases, demeaning their partner. I use a brief mindfulness exercise in all classes as it gives them time to slow down and calm their thoughts.

Some of the games I use that are very effective and easy to learn are:

  1. Everybody Go
  2. Pass the Sound
  3. Show don’t tell (a feeling)
  4. Mirror
  5. Story Spine 
  6. Zip Zap Zop
  7. Three changes
  8. Gibberish vocal warm-ups
  9. Gibberish Translator

Even if folks are confined to wheelchairs we can make accommodations. I’ve seen wonderful improvements in many of my students and am honored to work with these brilliant, genius improvisers.

Margot Escott, LCSW is a psychotherapist in Naples for 34 years and has been involved with Naples Parkinson Association of South Florida for over 20 years. She has received improv training from Gary Schwartz, Craig Price, Jimmy Carrane and Stephanie Anderson. She has taught and performed improv comedy including mental health practitioners and was recently a featured speaker in Chicago at the “First Annual Yes, and Mental Health Conference” in 2017. Her podcast, “Improv Interviews” is at https://margotescott.com/podcast/


[1] Laughter is the best medicine: The Second City improvisation as an intervention for Parkinson’s disease (http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1353802016304321

Northwestern Medical partners with Second City for Improv for Parkinson’s

http://parkinson.org/blog/research/comedy-clinical-study

Craig Price – Changing Lives through Improv

Join me as I speak with improv master Craig Price who is using his 30+ years of improv experience (including training with the great Del Close) in wellness classes that use improv to improve the lives of those who are differently abled. Craig shares with us the wisdom he learned from both Second City and IO with Del Close – To always play at the top of your intelligence, to encourage each other and to lift each other up. You can learn more about the classes Craig Price offers at The Sugden Theatre in Naples Florida by clicking here.

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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.

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Marshall Stern – Zenprov Master

Meet Marshall Stern who is an Author, Teacher, Lecturer, Public Speaker, Radio Host, Podcast Host, Musician, Actor, Songwriter, World Traveler and Improvisational Comedian and a self proclaimed living example of ADHD in action! Marshall is the author of 2 books, Meet the Buddha Kill the Buddha and Practical Buddhism Lectures. Marshall is also hosts the podcast Zenprov with his partner Nancy Howland Walker.

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Musical Improv with Nancy Howland Walker

 

Join me and meet Nancy Howland Walker, a legend in the musical improv field and a delight to speak with. Nancy is a SAG/AFTRA actor, writer, teacher, and trainer and author of Instant Songwriting: Musical Improv from Dunce to Diva (available at Amazon). She has appeared in hundreds of commercials, videos and live industrials, and has been performing, teaching, directing, and producing improv since 1989. She has written and performed comedy shows for businesses all over the country, and has run casting sessions on three different continents.

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Cameron Algie – Improv for Anxiety

Cameron Algie first attended The Second City Training Centre to deal with his deep-seated fear of crowds, strangers and going out in public at the suggestion of his therapist. Cameron has gone from barely being able to walk to the subway without having a panic attack to becoming one of the most respected improvisers in the country. Cameron was the 5th person I interviewed for my podcast series and has been an inspiration in my using improv to help clients with their anxiety.

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Beth Boynton – Medical Improv Pioneer

Beth Boynton is an organizational development consultant and Medical Improv Practitioner specializing in communication, collaboration, and culture. She’s written three books on communication in healthcare including the industry-first; Medical Improv: A New Way to Improve Communication. (CreateSpace 2017). She is currently working on a Teach Medical Improv ebook series designed to help healthcare professionals faciiltate fundamental activities in their facilities in an affordable, effective, and time-efficient way. beth@bethboynton.com.

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