Whether it’s in class during regular school hours or late on a Monday night, students at Keene State College are meeting up and acting out — with improvisation.

Dan Patterson, theatre and dance professor at KSC of 36 years, said that most of what he teaches is fun. The brand-new improvisation class is no exception.

The current fall semester is the first time that the Improvisation class was offered in the curriculum.

Patterson described it as an “experimental course,” picked up because of the increasing popularity of improvisation.

“Improv has become pretty popular among, well, everybody,” Patterson said, “After all, who doesn’t like ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway?’”

Patterson said the class of 36 is made up of a diverse group of people.

“I’ve got some theater people, some people from the improv club on campus, some who did Improv in high school,” Patterson said, “It’s a real mix of people. All kinds of majors.”

Patterson firmly believes that students will take away skills and principles from the class that will help them throughout their lives.

One exercise Patterson likes to use in class to teach these skills and principles is called “Yes, And.”

“I think the ‘Yes, And’ principle is sort of a life principle,” Patterson explained, “It essentially means that whatever comes at you, you can’t refuse it or deny it. You have to say yes and accept it, then add to it.”

Patterson continued, explaining other skills from the class that would be helpful.

“In terms of business,” Patterson added, “They always say that they’re looking for people who can think outside of the box. Believe me — this class is learning how to think outside the box.”

Patterson mentioned the plethora of other skills students are likely to pick up from taking the class, such as problem solving, collaboration, working in groups and overcoming stage fright.

“We think of stage fright as being afraid to go on stage. But stage fright is also just being fearful of being in public, having to speak in public, having to make presentations, things like that,” Patterson explained, “This class really helps people to overcome those kinds of things.”

Talking about the class thus far, Patterson said, “We’ve been having a lot of fun.”

Students in the Improv class, as well as the club, are definitely agreeing with Patterson.

“I’ve always liked comedy,” KSC student Sean Malone explained as his reasoning for joining 3 Ways ‘Til Sunday, the school’s improv club, sophomore year.

Now, as a junior, Malone acts as the vice president of the club.

The club gathers at 10 p.m. on Monday nights on the second floor lobby of the Redfern Arts Center and is open for anyone to come and join.

Emily Orell / Equinox Staff

Emily Orell / Equinox Staff

Malone, who is in the improvisation class as well as being a member of the club, explained the difference between the two, “In the class we’re going through different styles of improv, while in the club we’re just focusing on one specific style.”

“The people who come aren’t exclusively theater majors,” Molly Millard, co-president of 3 Ways ‘Til Sunday said of Monday nights, “It’s a wide variety of all sorts of people who all have different interests.”

Millard, a junior at KSC, said that she decided to come to Keene partly because of the improv program.

“My senior year in high school, I was at the New England Drama Festival in New Hampshire and Keene happened to be there,” Millard explained.

“I ended up taking an improv class with 3 Ways ‘Til Sunday, the improv club at Keene, and they’re kind of the reason I chose to come to this school,” Millard said.

During his time on campus, KSC alumnus Jon Adams, who graduated last spring, was an active member of 3 Ways ‘Til Sunday.

“I initially heard about it at the Activity Fair on Appian Way,” Adams recalled, “Improv is one of those skills you need to have as an actor, so I figured I would join the club to get better at it for my classes.”

What Adams has learned in 3 Ways ‘Til Sunday has helped him on-stage and off.

“When you’re in the middle of a production and someone forgets their lines you’re able to pick up their slack by knowing the gist of what’s going on next,” Adams explained from a theatrical standpoint, before adding, “Improv really just helps you think on your feet. It’s how you deal with people and keep a conversation going.”

When it comes to the skills that students are picking up from Improvisation, Millard and Malone agreed with Adams.

“It really works your social skills,” Millard said, “It’s all about not being afraid to say anything and just go for it, because we’re a very judgment-free club.”

“The class doesn’t exactly fit with my major,” Malone said after mentioning that he is a math and secondary education major, “It’s just an elective I decided to take.”

Malone added that he wants to be a teacher and believes skills he is picking up from the improvisation class and club will help him in the future.

“Improvisation is a big part of teaching,” Malone explained, “It teaches you how to think on your feet.”

Millard enjoys watching this part of the transformation that occurs within students who come to the club weekly.

“There’s a lot of people who will come in the beginning and just watch, but by the end of the semester they’ll be up playing games,” Millard said, “You can really see how comfortable they get in front of the group.”

Improvisation is an interest Millard hopes others will try out.

“There are no mistakes in Improv,” Millard said, noting one of her favorite aspects of the club, “You can always make something out of it.”


Jill Giambruno can be contacted at jgiambruno@keene-equinox.com

Share and Enjoy !