At 4th Wall Theatre Company we teach all of our students three simple rules; be safe, be brave, and always be respectful. We call them our “words to live by” as they are good guides outside the classroom as well. Tuesday at our showcase with the Down Syndrome Guild (DSG) our instructors, Molly and Karen (affectionately known as KK), proved their bravery as well. We could not be more proud.
They decided to do the entire showcase with improvisation (improv).
Now you might be wondering, “What’s so brave about improv?” or even “What is improv?” It is a form where the actors make up lines on the spot, with no aid from a script. Think Chicago’s Second City or the famous television show Who’s Line is it Anyway? Even though it is performed on the fly, it actually takes a lot of training.
KK had the stroke of genius for the entire DSG showcase to be improv. This may seem unrealistic: People with Downs can sometimes have delayed processing time. The world of improv, as you may have guessed, requires rapid-fire thinking.
But the thing is, KK and Molly know these students. Working with them for over a year they know what they are capable of and where they can be pushed. And they were right: The showcase was fantastic!
There was a particular student who was only given one line in her first play with us because she came off as so timid. Tuesday she “led” the scene coming up with lines and plot twists right on the spot. I had tears in my eyes watching her grin ear-to-ear on stage.
Another young actress does a fine job whenever she has to stand on stage and hold lines in hand. However, Tuesday she blossomed! She spoke more clearly, and engaged with the audience and her fellow actors. Just like some actors are made for rote line memorization, others are more built for improv.
And that’s my point: There is no distinction between “people” and “people with special needs.” That’s why 4th Wall Theatre was started in the first place. To answer the question, “Why not?” Why not have people with special needs on stage? Why not have them write their own plays? Tuesday KK and Molly pushed the envelope and asked, Why not have these students tackle improv?