A note from Jen: The first Mashup was born in a car on the way to Whole Foods. And not a NYC car ride – this was a 10 minute conversation en route to picking up snacks for a reception at SECCA. Debbie Randolph was pushing, more than I was, to embody the spirit of improv in our next round of experimenting in museums at the 2015 NAEA conference. I remember having the conversation, getting excited about a great idea, then emailing the others to refining the car plan.
I’ve always had a level of tentativeness with truly incorporating improv into what I’m doing – blame it on years of hearing “improvisers are losers” from a theatre director who RAN an improv theatre. While others may have seen me as risky, I knew I was holding back some of the ‘crazier’ ideas. But over the last three and a half years, I’ve gotten bolder in taking the lead in improv integration within museum pedagogy AND owning my experience and opinions. The Mashup doesn’t belong to that little group of renegades from NAEA. It’s not mine – it doesn’t belong to any one person. We don’t have to be there to train people how to do it or to run it. The idea of experimentation within museums is present within the museum field already. But this celebration of failure/positive risk-taking/off-the-cuff/Yes, And mentality? This is improv. This is what, through The Engaging Educator, we are teaching and embodying – and have been for three and a half years, and will for many, many more. And here’s my experiment, embracing it all and running with those ‘crazy’ ideas that don’t seem so crazy once they get rolling.
So, moving forward we’re stewarding #MuseumMashup. This page is a place where we’ll promote, help organize, host resources, reflections, photos and information – it’s also where you can find organizers near you, and get involved in our next adventure this late summer/early fall – the Worldwide #MuseumMashup. That being said, welcome and do Yes, And the fun!
A note from Shaelyn: On the first Nationwide Museum Mashup Day, events were organized at 6 museums across the country. Museum educators, enthusiasts, and the public were invited to visit a site near them or follow along online with the hashtag #MuseumMashup. Between 10 am and 8 pm EST, there was only one half hour period when no group of museum enthusiasts was holding a Museum Mashup!
The hashtag generated nearly 800 tweets, with 300 original tweets and 400 retweets. Messages sent on twitter about the event appeared in timelines 800,000 times for as many as 3 million views. The hashtag reached #1 among trending hashtags in the United States in the evening. Whether participating online or in person, the first Nationwide Museum Mashup Day provided a wonderful opportunity for people to share the experience of looking at museums in new ways.
Visit our Storify summary of the day to see a recap of how it unfolded according to the tweets participants shared: https://storify.com/MuseumMashup/nationwide-museum-mashup-day
-What do is your role at The Engaging Educator? My role at The Engaging Educator is to help bring improv techniques and practices to the general public, businesses, and educators.
-Where are you from and how did you make it to NC? I am from Winston-Salem, North Carolina!
-When did you first start to love Improv? I first began my love of improv through my acting training in college and from there I began to teach and perform.
-What is something you want to Improv(e) on? I would love to improve on my self confidence as well as building others’ self confidence.
-Where is your favorite place in the city? My favorite place in the city is Tanglewood park with my dog or at the horse barn; or where I work my part time job which at is Camino Bakery, downtown.
-What’s a not-so-secret skill you have? Another skill of mine is visual arts, specifically comedic illustrations and drawings, as well as painting and design.
“AaahhhOOOgah” makes me feel like an ape blowing a trumpet to assemble the rest of the apes to war….basically planet of the apes.
“Yes, and” to theatre, comedy, pets, sushi, string lights!!
I like to think of teaching as translation.
Yes, it’s also about sharing skills, and the giving of perhaps new information.
But the most important part of teaching to me is the translation: how can I take what I know, and translate it into a language you can understand?
To be successful at this, you have to be a good listener. Not just an ears listener, but an observer of the entirety of a person. What is this person responding to? What does their body language tell me? What kinds of words are they choosing to explain themself? What makes their eyes light up?
In my work with young students with autism, the translation element to teaching was highlighted in bold. I learned to intuitively understand how many words a student could process at a time. I changed the way I spoke and explained ideas so that knowledge was accessible. I was mindful of cadence and emotion attached to words, precise gesticulation and clear body language, and the changing of energies and activities within the classroom to keep all students engaged in learning.
Through teaching Improv, Presentation Skills and Storytelling with EE over the past 6 (!) months I’ve learned: it’s exactly the same with neuro-typical adults.
We all need a translation. Each group I’ve taught has been different, and I’ve tried my best to access and fulfill their needs. I love asking and listening to students explain why they signed up for the class, and what they expect to get out of it. It helps me tailor both the content of our time together, and the tone.
It’s been incredible to get to know and improv(e) with so many people through EE. One of my favorites moments in any class is the huge smile on everyone’s face as we pass the clap in a circle – adults! Clapping hands in a circle! The simplest thing you could think of, but beautifully difficult to make eye contact, establish non- verbal communication, and leave one’s self receptive to change at any moment. I love looking around the circle and seeing the playful grins and hands ready with anticipation. I try to offer pointers to make the exercise the most worthwhile based upon my translation of the group’s interpretation. Sometimes they need to speed up, and stop trying to be perfect and too nice; sometimes they need to slow down, loosen their bodies and enjoy the failures.
When we talk about “Yes, And”, I like to open up the discussion to the many translations of the phrase. Sure, we can take it literally, but what other words can we use to better understand the concept? What does it look like? What does it sound like? How can it benefit us? I offer up my ideas of the way the concept makes the most sense to me, but encourage students to find their own personal translation. In addition to practice, I recommend reading articles, discussion, and taking classes with more than one instructor to take in the material and re-appropriate it in the way that best suits your own self.
Translation can often be verbal, but effective teaching is done through modeling; the embodiment of the idea. Instead of simply explaining, the best teachers are.
In EE classes, this means making myself open to failure and publically embracing it, pointing out my own habits, and sharing examples of how I’ve reflected on the practices in my own life. In doing this I hope both to serve as an example of how to move through the class but also how to apply the practice to everyday life and share with others.
Translation is the space between: the communication connection of people sharing experiences and learning from them. Improv helps us to be active listeners and honest responders, and improves both teaching and learning.
– Jill Frutkin
I’ve written previously about how improv helped me professionally, but I thought my upcoming two-year improv anniversary was a great chance to share how improv has helped me personally as well.
I will never forget lying in bed the day after New Year’s of 2014 thinking about all my big dreams, and how scared I was to actually pursue them. I, like every other person with a pulse, wanted to be Oprah and I wanted to be wealthy (still working on both) and most importantly, I wanted to not be afraid to make mistakes. I was just shy of four full years post-college, and I was still playing tug-of-war with the idea of a perfect career (you know that one that you believe is possible before you realize that nothing is perfect?)
High-off of my resolutions for the new year and armed with a desire to get messy, I enrolled in my first improv class at Engaging Educator. I chose improv because I needed something that would push me clear out of my comfort zone into the ugly territory of uncertainty and hopefully failure. (Sounds dramatic I know. But isn’t everyone dramatic around New Years?)
That one small step into my first class at Shetler Studios would prove transformative. About 6 months after I started improv, I was let go from my job and in an instant I had to start over.
Suddenly, the same principles that I celebrated for aiding in my professional growth – being quick on my feet, committing to my choices, and always saying “YES AND” – were now my professional mantras and life principles as well.
As with any emergent improv scene, the beginning is messy and the best is always yet to come. In uncertainty there is possibility, but there is also confusion and overwhelming fear. (Just ask anyone trying an improv game for the first time.) I had always known what I wanted, now I had to make the choice to take the chance to pursue it – and slowly but surely I did. I applied to a graduate program in Educational Leadership at NYU, started a business that allowed me to continue working with high school and college students in the area of college and career readiness, and attended every conference, event, and panel on entrepreneurship I could find.
That was a year and a half ago.
Today, I am a semester shy of my receiving my Master’s Degree in Educational Leadership, Politics in Advocacy from NYU, through my business I’ve collaborated with thirteen non-profits and educational institutions to serve over 1000 students in NY and NJ, I’ve served as a keynote and conference speaker, and now I have the privilege of exposing others to the YES AND side of life as an improv instructor for the same company that first exposed me to YES AND.
I’m personally grateful for improv because it was a continuous reminder that with imagination, assertion and courage we can create – and that our lives are our greatest creation. I believe that when we let go, actively listen, and keep affirming our choices and each other than we can actively build new worlds and while building these worlds we see that the craziest, most surprising characters in life – are our true selves. When we YES AND life, we write scenes that we had no idea were even available for us to enter. A lot of my dreams have changed since I started taking improv, but thanks to improv and even more of my dreams have come true.
Cheers to another year of YES AND, Aooooogah’s and awesomeness for you!
The teens focused on the TEACHING aspect of improv this session, versus the whole package. Teaching improv isn’t easy, especially when you are teaching people who don’t want to be actors. Our teens pushed through their own challenges as well as the challenge of working with friends. The teens are looking at walls while speaking, because we’re working on their personal teaching style. All of them rocked the weekend, and we’re so excited for our January and February workshops!
Jen note: Since the conception of this program, it’s been a learning experience for me and the team. We’ve realized our way of leading reflections IS really special, and hard to teach. It’s something the teens will be working on in the next few months, and a focus of our program – but it’s definitely what makes EE and our teachers special! Excited for 2016, and the growth and expansion of this program to NC!
We’ve invited our wonderful Engagers to contribute reflections, articles, musings, etc., to our blog on a monthly basis! First up, Engager Minna Taylor. Read on, and don’t forget to subscribe to our blog via Bloglovin. – Erin
I was down in South Carolina with my parents over Thanksgiving. They are solidly in the baby-boomer generation and I am grateful for that. Anyone under 35 can appreciate our parents’ endearing curiosity about the latest gadgets that so far exceed their formative expectation of what technology could offer, that their engagement with said devices is what you expect from a child of my generation’s fascination with dial-up internet – the wonder it beholds! However, regardless of the technological acquisition (my mother is an avid Amazon shopper), they maintain a high level of analog nostalgia. They read the printed paper every morning, including completion of the crossword. They clip articles and mail them to me. They write letters. They have a landline telephone. Despite my awe at my mother’s crossword prowess, it was the telephone that spawned my consideration.
Much of my investigation into modern methods of communication has been on the loss of interpersonal comfortability and freedom in vocal expressiveness. There are a myriad of variables contributing to this social atrophy – fear, advertising, expectation of immediate gratification, privacy invasion – but I propose that it all began with the daily integration of our cellular devices. As advancements were made in our digital connectivity, so began the degradation of human connectivity. It has reached such an alarming degree that I assert many of us can go days – if not weeks – without engaging in truly meaningful conversation. That level of intimate sharing and presence is becoming an experience relegated to fairytales and John Hughes movies. We are losing the ability to say hello with an openness and allowance that was once standard engagement.
As I watched my parents pick up phone call after phone call, I began to consider the frequency with which I actually spoke to others in my life. My parents were expressing sincere interest and investment in the the conversations they were having. There is no way to compensate for that energetic sharing over text or email. No emoticon can represent the sparkle in my mother’s laugh or the warmth in my father’s tone. That is communication beyond the words and the level of communication that has now become reserved for the big things – birth, death, and marriage. It feels intimate to use our voices. To call?! To pick up the phone?! To consider taking some one’s time, anxiously waiting to say hello, all while secretly wishing that the savior of voice mail will prevent the firm, unquestioning attempt at contact with that person?! You commit to the following in a phone call: I want to talk to you. I am demanding your participation in a dialogue. You matter to me. I want to matter to you …
Let’s not, as we enter a new year, lose sight of the importance to exercise actions that make us human. We must reinvest in play, curiosity, patience, and community. The emotional and psychological effort required to make contact is a reflection of a constitution that is unexercised – atrophied. Slowly begin to integrate deliberate points of human contact and that fear you feel, that anxiety of engaging other people, will melt away. We will rediscover that we are all human and possibly empower ourselves to connect, embrace, and evolve toward a reintroduction of our basic right to use our voice and express ourselves freely. Go forth and engage.
Where are you from and how did you make it to NYC? I was born and raised in NYC.
When did you first start to love Improv? In the 6th grade when I took a 10 week course at my school.
What is something you want to Improv(e) on? I’m a really bad procrastinator so time management takes top priority on my list of things to get better with. I haven’t started yet, but I’ll do it eventually.
Where is your favorite place in the city? I love going to Union Square with my friends.
What’s a not-so-secret skill you have? Sometimes I sing a song from a musical that’s relevant to the situation I’m in. My friends consider this more of an annoyance than a skill.
“AaahhhOOOgah” makes me feel nostalgic and excited.
“Yes, and” to Netflix, books, whipped cream, hot chocolate, campfires, comfy sweaters, hugs, music, and pressing the stop button on the microwave right before it beeps