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3: THE 3 PHASES OF DEVELOPMENTAL IMPROVISATION
PHASE 1 - THE CATERPILLAR STAGE
Phase One of Developmental Improvisation is designed to prime the students by playing games that target different aspects of their brain that need to be exercised more and stretched. This phase starts building skills such as memory recall, reaction time, and problem solving with exercises to acclimate them to thinking quickly and out of the box. It also lays the foundation for building trust when working in a group, and sharpening their abilities to be spontaneous and logical in any given situation.
These group games also make it possible for most students who suffer from shyness and social anxiety to connect with and become familiar with working with the other students in a way that eventually emboldens them.
PHASE 2 - THE COCOON STAGE
Phase Two is where the students learn how to work off each other. Starting with specifically tailored games and techniques, students learn the fundamentals of improvisation, the proper rules and mechanics of how the scenes work and why.
In Phase Two, students dig deeper into The Fulton Method. Linda begins to lead her students into discovering all the hidden gems within the games that enable them to learn more about themselves and how the world works around them. It is in this phase, they start to get in touch with skills that up to this point only existed in their subconscious, while developing a more practical, no nonsense way of thinking.
Once they understand the rules of improvisation and understand how to use them and break them correctly, they are ready to take on challenges, both individually and as a group.
PHASE 3 - THE BUTTERFLY STAGE
Phase Three instills in students a higher level of sensitivity training by requiring them to use their heart intelligence (empathy, compassion, and sympathy) that only learning through causality can provide.
It is within these scenes that Developmental Improvisation capitalizes on the fact that one’s brain cannot distinguish between improvisation and reality. It only qualifies the experience. This work will hardwire the lesson learned by creating new neuro nets through these “life rehearsals.” As a result you will begin to see how students begin to develop a more pragmatic approach to issues, utilizing their creative problem-solving skills as they explore and come to understand their own innate sense of character, and recognize the content and quality of character in others.
Phase Three scenes are then followed up with extensive, in-depth group discussions as the students collectively deconstruct, analyze, and often debate about what transpired as a group, using their collective intelligence for a better, more complete understanding of what they all just experienced, and how the impact the choices made affected the outcome of the situation.
In a nutshell, Developmental Improvisation is where students can come to discover their own true light, while learning how to recognize it in others.
5: THE 5 PILLARS OF DEVELOPMENTAL IMPROVISATION
EMPOWERMENT: This is the first pillar for a reason. It is extremely important that the students feel a sense of empowerment the moment they walk in the door. Kids are not listened to or heard nearly as often as they deserve. They need to know that they and their opinions are valued and respected, and that their voice carries some weight. When I teach, I always let my students know right away that in my classroom, it doesn’t matter to me what others think including their parents; I am only interested in what they think. I encourage them to question my authority or challenge me if they don’t agree with whatever I’m saying, regardless of what it is I may be talking about. They come to know that we can have a conversation or even a debate on any subject as equals, especially when it comes to the work we’re doing together. I even allow them to call me out on anything they may not agree with. The key is that I promise them I will always respect what they think, whether I agree with it or not. They learn through experiencing what it is to agree to disagree with respect and why it is an imperative practice they must all come to understand for more positive interpersonal encounters.
SPONTANEITY: When one is being spontaneous, they have no time for prior frames of reference. They don’t have the time to stop and think about what they were told or consider whatever anyone else put into their heads. It is only through a spontaneous response that their own true voice comes out, and within improvisation games and exercises, it becomes instantly validated. Once the students realize that his/her intuitive response actually contributed in a positive way to the exercise, the student loses his or her fear, stops second-guessing themselves, and instead begins to believe in themselves and what they have to offer, building confidence and a healthier self-concept.
EXPERIENCE: Experience equals memory! I’m not talking about recall and regurgitation. I’m talking about the memory that becomes understanding and intrinsic knowledge. It’s learning through causality that becomes an indelible part of their character and stays with them unconsciously for life. Think of when you were small and were told not to touch something because it was hot. Just hearing the words probably had little to no impact. But when your curiosity got the best of you and you touched it anyway and got burned…then you learned! That experience of the pain became understanding and intrinsic knowledge and became an indelible part of your subconscious mind and thus, a part of you. Experience can actually become a part of a student’s procedural memory, which makes their response automatic. They no longer have to consciously think about it anymore. It becomes a part of what defines their very character and projects exactly who they are to others.
SENSORY PERCEPTION: This is very important because improvisers rely on “space work” to make the invisible, visible! A cornerstone of Developmental Improv in general, space work is simple in theory, and challenging in practice. It’s taking empty space and using your sense memory to create what you need in the moment by understanding how to use and manipulate the space itself. Once the participants are put through a series of exercises, they eventually are capable of tricking the brain into believing objects are really there. They can take space and create something they can actually feel in temperature, texture, and weight, as well as see, hear, smell, and even taste. This is not “pretending.” This is developing skills using sensory perception to alter their very reality, which their brain takes in as actuality. With consistency, practice, concentration, and focus, a student can get his or her brain to react as if the object was in fact really there. This is a very important component of Developmental Improvisation as it allows the students to create different environments. It is within these environments where various circumstances can take place that the students must find effective solutions in real time. This tricks the brain into accepting the situations as real, resulting in the brain creating new neuro nets of understanding that can last a lifetime in preparation for possible future circumstances.
COMMUNICATION: Every student needs to understand that like all other species, we all have the potential to communicate in many ways and on different levels. Not just with words, which are something we have all come to rely on. This is why in Developmental Improv, when students need to learn how to communicate, the first thing to do is take their words away. This way they have to explore and find new ways in which to communicate their intention. This is a journey unto itself. Each individual has to discover the different ways they can give information in their own way, and often without speaking. Be aware that what they discover may work for them but may not work for others.
3: THE TRIFECTA
The trifecta is teaching students how to use all the neurons in their body, and not just the ones in their brains. It helps students align their levels of consciousness through their cognitive (brain), emotional (heart), and intuitive (gut) states working together. In other words, each student needs to get in the habit of evaluating what they think (cognitive) with how that decision feels (emotional), and then see if their instincts (intuition) creates a resonance if all three are alignment. That agreement communicates if it’s the right decision or not. The heart and the gut never lie and very rarely steer us wrong; it’s only when our brains overthink or second guess that we get into trouble. What makes it trickier is that it’s the brain that ultimately decides what choices we make. At the same time, we can’t neglect what we’ve learned, know and experienced, so that the brain, as the third component can help us with perspective. Therefore, the goal is to get all three of these working together consistently and harmoniously, naturally
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The Founder of Developmental Improvisation
After several struggles in the classroom growing up with an undiagnosed learning disability, Linda felt she had no value and dreaded the future she foresaw for herself. When she was a freshmen in high school she took a class in something she hadn't heard of called...IMPROV.
It wasn’t long before Linda began to notice changes within herself. Eventually she became aware that it was Improv that was changing her. She was no longer content hiding in the shadows and began to feel confident enough to use her voice, to make a difference in her own life, her way.
When a severe illness struck Linda’s husband, she was advised to find a diversion. She decided to fall back on improv. It was then she met her friend and mentor, Improv legend Avery Schreiber. It was Avery who first encouraged Linda to teach. In that moment Linda realized that she might be able to help make a difference with kids who were experiencing the same struggles.
Linda opened her improv school TOTAL IMPROV KIDS in 1999. She used this school to study the effects of improv on kids as well to try and replicate what Improv had done for her. During the 20 years of running the school and working with kids, she developed what eventually came to be called “The Fulton Method” for teaching Improv to children.
The Fulton Method served as the inspiration for what is now known as "DEVELOPMENTAL IMPROVISATION."