The Arts Outreach Program Implements Improv Workshops

The ARTS NC STATE Office of Arts Outreach is implementing a new initiative to offer arts-based workshops to IMG_9824classes and programs at NC State to encourage developing a wide variety of skills. Amy Sawyers, director of the Arts Outreach office, has a background in applied theatre and improv which she is using to educate students on improvisational theatre and how it can be useful in everyday life.

On March 26th, I attended one of her workshops where she and two student co-teachers, Doug Pluta and Miranda Day, were assisting her. The workshop was held in a public speaking class full of curious students from many different majors. One of the first activities was creating a scenario by using a cup, which gradually elevated to creating a scenario with another person. As the workshop progressed, it became clear that improv is an activity that not only comedians and actors can benefit from because it is just as influential in a public speaking class as it would be in an acting class. I learned that part of persuading and speaking effectively is learning how to judge an audience and connect to their reactions, which improv teaches people how to do. Although many public speaking opportunities will involve a pre-written script, there are many times when being able to think on your feet are valuable. Even everyday conversations could be considered improv because there is not a planned script to follow.


Amy Sawyers with students Miranda Day and Doug Pluta

Sawyers explained that improvisational theatre is a form of theatre where the performance is created during the same moment it is performed. The success of improvisational theatre depends on a combination of wittiness and following the rules of improv. Sawyers’ interactive improv workshops have the goal of increasing students’ skills in public speaking and leadership. Sawyers said, “Improv, while seemingly made up, follows a set of principles that include saying yes, being in the moment, listening, and taking chances, all of which apply to being a leader or speaker in this world.”

At the workshop, I learned that one of the basic rules of improv is known as “Yes, and…” The goal of this rule is to make the responding actor accept and build on whatever the other actor presents to him. For example, if one actor begins their improv skit by acting as a restaurant manager, the other actor must also enter that scenario without hesitation or rejecting the skit. This rule does not only apply to actors; whether brainstorming or writing a paper, a student will be able to continually produce ideas if they stay in a “Yes, and…” mindset instead of ending an idea with “No.” In all areas of life, showing that you view someone else’s ideas as important is respectful and professional. Being agreeable and positive is a valuable way of presenting yourself to friends and coworkers, and following this rule could also be useful in interviews.

On April 11th, Sawyers will open with an improv workshop for the CSLEPS “Leadership Under Development” conference at the Park Alumni Center.IMG_9830

Attending her improv workshop made me feel more comfortable and confident in public speaking, and the other students were clearly impacted as well. Despite coming from majors that ranged from Poultry Science to Communication, everyone became more confident and interactive in their acting and speaking while also having fun.


Sawyers said that the Arts Outreach program is excited to foster more partnerships across campus in an effort to use the arts to support learning, in both the personal and professional fields.

ARTS NC STATE provides many creative avenues on campus through their 6 major programs: Center Stage, Crafts Center, the Dance Program, Gregg Museum of Art & Design, Music Department, and University Theatre.