For the past several years The Improv Network has made donations to the Detroit Creativity Project as part of their ongoing mission. This program, which places improv classes into the schools of Detroit is an amazing opportunity for children who might otherwise not have access to any arts education, but it is also much more than that. Any member of an improv community knows the power of the work we do on stage and the lessons we learn in class to change our lives for the better. Maybe we learned to be better listeners when we were part of a small college group in the Midwest or went to a big state school in the South. Perhaps we learned to support others as students in a bustling scene like those in Austin, Philadelphia, and North Carolina. If we’re lucky we might even be active in an entertainment capital like New York, Toronto, or London and make a living putting ourselves in the shoes of another character to see things from their point of view and writing or acting that out.
So today, I’m writing to ask members of The Improv Network to consider opening their wallets (or their iPhones depending on how high-tech you are) and consider making a personal donation to The Improv Project’s Generosity Campaign to Help Us Grow The Improv Project in 2017.
For the past several years I have served on the board of The Detroit Creativity Project, which is close to my heart because I grew up just outside Detroit and first learned to improvise from one of the DCP’s Founders, Marc Evan Jackson. The Improv Project has taught thousands of students since it began – and the power of improv could not be more clear than it is when you look at it’s impact on the kids this program has transformed. Recently, the University of Michigan studied the effect learning to improvise had on students in The Improv Project and the board were simultaneously thrilled and amazed by what they found. Although the research has not reached the point of publication, researchers found that participating in just ten weeks of The Improv Project led to statistically significant reductions in social phobia and depression – issues that more than half of the students in the program screened positive for at the outset of their participation.
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As we work to expand The Improv Project to reach more students in 2017 by raising $15,000 online we have been offered a generous challenge grant – an anonymous donor is willing to match any contributions made through Generosity until we hit our goal. As of the start of February, we’re just over halfway there and could not be more excited about the momentum we have.
If each member of The Improv Network would contribute $20 today we’d easily blow past this goal (and each of your donations would actually turn into $40 thanks to our match).
I often meet students at PHIT Comedy here in Philadelphia who pull me aside to thank me for starting the theater and creating a place that has changed their lives. The stories almost inevitably end with them saying “I wish I had learned to improvise sooner. I wonder how much better my life would be now if I had!” or “I’m one of the older students in my class, and I’m telling you – there college students don’t know how good starting now is going to be for them.”
I understand where these people are coming from, and it always reminds me how lucky I was to learn to improvise in high school. When I was 16 and living just outside Detroit I was lucky enough to work with performers from the local Second City franchise as part of my school’s sketch & improv comedy troupe. Learning to improvise gave me a group of friends to goof off with, an outlet to write and perform material about my frustrations with high school, and a set of skills that made me more outgoing in adult life. As an added bonus it gave me something I loved and led me to eventually open the and run my own improv theater near Sacramento.
Who knows – maybe there’s a version of yourself somewhere in downtown Detroit right now just waiting to learn to improvise and have it change the course of their life. Wouldn’t you like to find out? Wouldn’t you like to help? Join The Improv Project today and let’s see what The Improv Network can do together! To donate please click HERE. Any bit helps the cause.
Greg Maughan is the founder of Philly Improv Theater (PHIT), a nationally recognized comedy theatre producing & presenting "alternative comedy" (improv, sketch and stand-up) in the metro-Philadelphia area 52-weeks a year.