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Quick Wits Teaches Improv Skills in Midvale Elementary Schools

Apr 07, 2016 02:14PM ● Published by Amanda Butler

By Amanda Butler | amanda@mycityjournals.com

Midvale - The Midvale Arts Council (MAC) partnered with Quick Wits to bring “Quick Wits Comedy Improv College” into Midvale’s four elementary schools. A weeklong residency was held at each school during February and March, followed by performances for the school and the community.

Bob Bedore and Luke Millhouse facilitated the residencies, which were held for two hours after school. The residencies were open to all students and gave those who participated a chance to stretch their imaginations while learning the basics of improv.  

“Last year we sent Missoula Children’s Theatre into each of the schools for a weeklong residency and were hoping to do it again this year, but we didn’t get the funding to do that,” Suzanne Walker, executive director for the Midvale Arts Council, said. “So we approached Bob and asked if he could put something together. We are thrilled with what he has done. The great thing is that the skills needed in improv are skills that help with so many other areas of life. It was so fun to watch the kids gain confidence in just a few hours of working with Bob.”

“People look at improv as a silly form of theater, but there’s a real confidence builder in there,” Bedore said. “Not just confidence in yourself, but confidence in teamwork, in that, ‘Whatever I’m going to do, my teammate’s going to have my back and do what I need.’ One of the big lessons we teach in this is that it doesn’t matter who you’re teamed with, they’re the best possible person you could have been teamed up with. If they are thinking that about you and you’re thinking that about them, then you’re going to get through it.”

Bedore also stressed the importance of imagination and risk taking, in both improv and life. “We’re trying to teach them that their imagination is something that they don’t need to hide at any point,” he said. “What I’ve loved is just the imagination that the kids still have. When I do classes with adults, they don’t have this imagination, and it’s kind of sad that we tend to lose our imagination at some point, or that we lose our ability to just go out and do something. There’s too much thought as to, ‘Do I look silly?’ rather than being willing to take a risk as we become adults, but these kids still have a total excitement about risk taking.”

Millhouse agreed. “It’s really interesting to see the kids catch on and get it. Because as we get older, we just don’t have the simplicity that they do, and I think we overcomplicate things, especially on stage,” he said. “So it’s really interesting to see what their brains come up with, because they have a different sense of reality than we do.”

Bedore mentioned how rewarding it was to see the students gain confidence during the residencies. “After the first assembly, these kids came running up going, ‘I can’t believe we just performed for a couple hundred kids!’ We were working towards it during the week, but when they finally did it they just thought that was so amazing. They felt like they could take on the world at that point. It was great. I just really felt that that was cool because that’s what I want these kids to do.”

Millhouse hoped the students would carry what they learned in the residency through the rest of their lives. “I hope the kids get that improv is a life skill. I don’t know if the basic population knows that. We’re making stuff up every day,” he said. “Hopefully that knowledge will be very valuable for them growing up, because I didn’t have that.”  

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