New England Spotlight: Improv Asylum in Boston

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October 14, 2013, 10:25 am
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(NECN) - A Massachusetts company is teaching us that life does imitate art. Our New England spotlight is on the Improv Asylum in Boston.

Night after night, for the past 15 years, local comedians have been bringing the house down at the Improv Asylum; it’s a popular spot in the north end where you never can tell what will happen next.

Co-founders Chet Harding and Norm Laviolette have been there every step of the way.

“On stage, we get a suggestion from the audience. We don't know what they are going to yell out. We then as a cast of five to six people create a comedic scene out of that. There is no prior planning or scripting or figuring it out,” Harding says.

“When you and I have a conversation, we are actually following a framework, right? We are not stepping on each other. We are listening to each other, we're trying to move the conversation along; that's a theatrical skill set that we use on stage to teach improvisation but also to teach other kind of communication skills,” Laviolette says.

When they're not acting, Harding and Laviolette are now teaching those communication skills to the corporate world.

Several local and national companies have signed up, including powerhouses like Gillette, Red Bull, Nokia and Boston-based company Life is Good.

“We think of ourselves as an art house, so the more that we sort of engage and get creative juices flowing, that's certainly something we are excited about,” says David Oksman.

The folks from Life is Good let NECN’s Steve Aveson join in on their corporate training session. For about an hour, they stood in a circle performing exercises that almost seemed like kids' games.

They are intended, though, to teach us how to move great ideas along.

“The goal and rule of improvisation is a concept called yes, and, which means simply I'm listening and I'm building off of your idea, with my idea and together we create something, whereas corporations are sometimes built on yes, but; we're saying no to each other. We're to force fit our idea through,” Harding says.

According to the guys at Improv, saying no to colleagues at work is the biggest mistake made in a corporate setting. That's why their corporate training sessions are so popular

It allows people to say yes and say it often.

“By listening to someone else, it unlocked an idea that you didn't even know that you had.”

Life imitating art is a strategy for success.

The Improv Asylum puts on comedy shows seven days a week, selling out their 200-seat club on a regular basis.

Tags: Boston, Norm Laviolette, New England Spotlight, improv asylum, chet harding
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