Good communication skill is not just about being able to express oneself. It is also an essential ability that can put you on a path to a better job and happier relationships. A local organization helps people develop this skill by practicing improvisation and comedy in spontaneous situations.
The Las Vegas Improvisation Players, a nonprofit organization based in the Sunrise neighborhood, uses improvised comedy to transmit positive and supportive entertainment for the community at local events.
“It’s an art form to come up with scenes, songs, poems or ideas without any script or preplan,” said Paul Lirette, director for the Las Vegas Improvisation Players. “Performers create a false reality. The scenes are always unique because it’s the first time it’s ever been done.”
John Kinde, who saw a need in Las Vegas for an improvisation group, founded the group in 2001.
Kinde originally started an improvisation troupe in 1995 in California after visiting a couple of improvisation workshops and falling in love with it. When he moved to Las Vegas in 2001, he decided to start a new troupe.
“Everyone has different reasons for joining,” Kinde said. “Some join just for fun. Some want to learn more about comedy or acting. I wanted to become a better speaker.”
Kinde, who directed the troupe for 10 years and has since turned over the organization to Lirette, is a professional motivational humorist. He said he has carried the values and principles of improvisation with him in life.
“The biggest rule about improvisation is called ‘yes, and,’ ” he said. “Basically it’s when performers accept what the other person is trying to be and build on it. People become easier to work with when they’re in a ‘yes’ mode versus a ‘no’ mode.”
The group is made up of professionals and nonprofessionals of all ages.
Lirette said the group is aimed at people who are 18 or older. However, the organization will take in 16-and 17-year-old high school students who are studying improvisation at school.
Weekly workshops are offered for people wanting to get in touch with their comedic side. The workshops include exercises in a style similar to the TV show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” There are improvisation games, exercises in creating characters, physical and vocal exercises and musical improvisation, among other things.
“Scripted plays involve how to convey language and characters,” Lirette said. “With improvisation, you go by what someone else created and build off on that. You start as a blank character, and everything that someone else does adds to that character.”
One of the key talents for improvisation is having observational skills, Lirette said.
Kinde added that one of the key elements that set the improvisation troupe apart from others is that it also does musical performances. He has also made it a rule to keep performances clean and family-friendly.
“It’s too easy to come up with sexual, racist or religious jokes,” Kinde said. “It’s what I call a comedy copout. People should be funny for the right reasons.”
Since improvisation relies on other actors, it is important for the group to trust and be supportive of each other. Lirette said that if someone wants to be a certain character, then it is up to the rest of the group to play along.
“It’s important to treat other players on stage as though they were a genius,” Kinde said. “The goal of improvisation is to create a good, solid scene and relationship between characters.”
Member Jerry Cline has been involved with the group for five years.
“This troupe has really taught me to think outside the box and to always be on my toes,” Cline said. “It’s increased my communication skills.”
Cline added that once people get past the jitters of being on stage in front of an audience, improvisation adds a nice release from day-to-day life.
“Paul is a great director,” Cline said. “He is very patient with all of us. Paul is very gracious in his ability to teach and make us feel good.”
Carolyn Pelletier, a five-year member, said she enjoys the freedom of being able to play a different character.
Skits typically last between 90 seconds and three minutes at the most, according to Pelletier. Performers are able to adopt a new role and a new character during every scene.
“When you’re doing improvisation, you don’t think about anything else. You just go and have fun,” Pelletier said.
The workshops are offeredfrom 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.Thursdays at the American Heritage Academy, 6126 S. Sandhill Road. Workshops are $10.
Members are given an opportunity to perform at the American Heritage Academy once a month in front of an audience.
Admission to the 90-minute show is $10 The proceeds are used to cover the costs of guest speakers and performance locations.
The troupe’s next show is scheduled at 7 p.m. Jan. 18 at the American Heritage Academy.
“When you go to in an improv show, it’s usually funny, but players aren’t trying to be funny,” Kinde said. “They’re trying to be real. Life is funny on its own.”
For more information, visit lvimprov.com.
Contact Sunrise/Whitney View reporter Sandy Lopez at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4686.