Stephanie Rae and The Black Improv Alliance

Stephanie Rae Improv Interviews
Stephanie RaeI know you will fall in love with Stephanie Rae as much as I did in this podcast. Stephanie Rae is an improviser, community organizer, writer who has been studying traditional and musical improv for the last eleven years. After falling in love with the form at the Washington Improv Theater, she moved to Miami, founded Negative Four Months, and created hit shows including Law & Disorder and The Laughter Games. She later joined the Society Circus Players, performing monthly in Coral Gables and in festivals including Miami Improv, Palm Beach, Countdown, and UCB’s Del Close Marathon – in which she conceived and directed a Boyz II Men themed improv show. Stephanie has taught weekly classes for Red Carpet Kids and workshops for teens and adults from around the world.

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Rick Hall – Actor, Improviser, Musician, Voice Over Actor, Story Teller

Rick Hall
Rick HallWhat a great chat I had with the multi-talented Rick Hall. He is truly a Renaissance man who grew up on a farm in central Illinois, in the town of Carrollton, with a population of 2,484! As a young boy, Rick sang and performed with the Carrollton Community Chorus and at church. He attended MacMurray College and he was planning on being a veterinarian, but after auditioning and getting cast in a show he slowly began to grasp the fact that this could be his career. (He actually played a veterinarian twice on the Seinfeld show!)
His improv career began at the Improv Institute in Chicago. The Improv Institute was founded in late 1983 by John Michael Michalski, who would go on to teach at The Second City in Chicago. The Improv Institute was a staple in Chicago and hundreds of local improvisers played there, including Jane Morris, Jeff Michalski, Jonathan Pitts, and Susan Messing.

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David Leventhal Dance for PD

David Leventhal
David LeventhalDavid Leventhal is the Program Director and founding teacher of Dance for PD. He tells about his journey to becoming a dancer and his career with the Mark Morris Dance Company. Learn how he helped start this amazing program in 2001 when a local support group leader who had a dance background approached the Mark Morris Dance Group with the idea for specialized dance for Parkinson’s classes – even before there was tangible evidence about the benefits of exercise and movement. I’ve taken several of these classes and the combination of simple movements and beautiful music creates a sense of wellbeing, calm, and energy.

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Marcus Sams Improviser & Teacher

Marcus Sams
Marcus SamsMarcus Sams is a beloved improviser and teacher in the Bay Area for 20 years. He is a dynamic, generous fellow who has developed incredible technology for on-line improvisers. In addition to fantastic classes on Improv, Marcus has developed techniques to move Online improv games out of the “Hollywood Squares” boxes into productions that look like TV & film. The Fixed Lens Improvisation Technique, a.k.a. F.L.I.

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Brian Palermo Improv at the Groundlings

Brian Palermo

Join me and meet the multi-talented improviser, actor, and true gentleman Brian Palermo. In his early days at the Groundlings, Brian was lucky enough to play with, learn from, and direct a gaggle of Big Name Comedy People that include Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Will Ferrell, Maya Rudolph, Lisa Kudrow, and many others. 

I met Brian at the Vintage Improv Festival this fall and loved his style of teaching. In our chat, we talk about his career in film and TV and his many years with the Famous Groundlings improv group. He is a beloved improv teacher; he’s been a regular in The Crazy Uncle Joe Show – which is The Groundlings’ weekly long-form set – every Wednesday for 19 years! The longest-running long-form set in L.A.   https://www.groundlings.com/shows

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Francine Wolf and Leigh Shein keep people laughing with Pants Optional Comedy on Zoom

Francine Wolf and Leigh Shein
Leigh Shein and Francine Wolf

Join me and meet Meet Francine Wolf and Leigh Shein of Pants Optional Comedy. They share their lengthy experience in improvisational theatre and tell us about how they are adjusting to virtual shows on Zoom to entertain and keep people laughing.

Pants Optional Comedy is an online improv comedy short-form show with an emcee and actors from Ohio, Florida, and the United Kingdom.  The show was conceived in May 2020 when producer, Francine Wolf of ZaZu Productions, LLC, was quarantined at home and live and on-stage acting was halted.  Having toured with a one-woman improv show, “Half-Baked Boomer,” for the previous two years, Francine thought it would be more fun to do improv with seasoned improvisers and friends.
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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

 

 

 

 

 

Deana Criess on the Joys of Musical Improv

Deana Criess PhotoJoin me and meet my friend Deana Criess, as we talk about the magic of musical improv and her work using improvisation games and techniques with her students at the Perkins School for the Blind. Deana is a professional improviser, master instructor, director, writer, and performer with a specialization in applied improvisation. Deana’s work has been featured on PBS, NPR, KBS (the Korean Broadcasting System), The Boston Globe, CNN, and Slate.com. Her original musical comedy, Lube had a sold-out premiere run in Boston.
 

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Jay Sukow Improv Interviews

Jay Sukow Improv Interviews

Join me today to meet Jay Sukow, an actor, director, filmmaker and improviser, who has been performing scripted and improvised work professionally for over 20 years. Jay has trained with improv legends that include Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell, Jon Favreau, David Razowsky, Keith Johnstone, Dick Schaal, Del Close, and Mick Napier. Jay is a faculty member of The Second City and has performed regularly as part of their “Those Who Can’t” Faculty Jam.

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Robert Cochrane Using Improv with Parkinson’s

Robert Cochrane

Join me and meet Robert Cochrane, an award-winning filmmaker, with numerous narrative and documentary features to his credit. His touching relationship with his father who has Parkinson’s was the inspiration for Robert’s Parkinson’s-themed documentary series, Boys of Summer. He is a Ph.D. student at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas (UNLV) studying the effect of improvisation on Parkinson’s Disease and Co-Owner of ComedySportz Las Vegas, which is part of an internationally-acclaimed improvisation league.

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