When he is not appearing at the Sydney Fringe Festival or winning national Theatresports championships, talented performer Steen Raskopoulos can be found teaching private improvisation lessons, or improv, in homes and workplaces across Sydney. He is one of a growing trend of local performers who are teaching the art of improv to students, professionals and anyone keen to try something new.
Improvisational theatre, a form of performance art, isn’t just for the drama geeks who intend to become Australia’s next Nicole Kidman or Hugh Jackman. Improv techniques teach the individual many useful tips required in everyday life including creativity and the ability to think on one’s feet.
“I have certainly seen an increase in the amount of people wanting to give improv a go,” Steen says. “In a time when online communication is increasing via social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter, it is even more important that we continue to foster human contact and improv is a fun way to do that.”
Sydney drama teacher and host of a weekly social improv class, Tamara Smith, agrees. “As adults we stop willingly putting ourselves out of our comfort zone at age 18 and let our creative spirit be squashed by our everyday life” she says. “Our improv classes are helping me to listen and be more present in the moment, to be more confident in how I present to my students every day – and of course, it keeps me young.”
Building on the popularity of TV shows such as ‘Thank God You’re Here’ and ‘Whose Line is it Anyway’, Improv classes are popping up all over Sydney at community colleges, workplaces and homes.
Impro Australia, the home of improvisation in NSW, offers corporate training classes to businesses across Sydney. The training promises to “increase team members’ ability to think fast on their feet, to embrace and incorporate unexpected challenges and ideas on the fly and to create a group dynamic where people respond instantly and productively to each others’ input”.
Aaron Curtis, from Telstra, says the improv training “assisted his team to bond on a different level while out of their comfort zone”.
:The key ‘take out’ for me was don’t be afraid of change or what the future may hold, get in and give it a go and you will be amazed at the results,” he says.
Steen Raskopoulos isn’t surprised by the increase in corporate improv clients. “Communication in the workplace cannot be underestimated and improv is an effective way to encourage everyone to contribute,” he says. “It’s like a debate, only more fun.”