By Ed Karvoski Jr., Contributing Writer
Shrewsbury – Shrewsbury residents Lea Hench and Kathy Johnson met while facilitating the English Conversation Circle (ECC) at the Shrewsbury Public Library and soon learned that they share another interest: improvisational comedy. Hench is a retired theater teacher and director at the Bancroft School in Worcester. Johnson studied improv in Cambridge and currently coaches a group in Northborough. They were asked to offer an improv class at the library and they said, “Yes!”
Hence, the name of the course, “Say “Yes” to Improv,” which met for six sessions from March 5 through May 28.
“The first principle of improv is to say “yes,”” Hench explained. “Twelve people immediately did say “yes” and it's a very diverse group.”
Registration was capped at 12 participants, the majority of whom attended most sessions. They ranged in age and amount of experience with improv. The ECC facilitators found similarities between their two groups.
“We love the idea of people coming together from different cultures,” Johnson said. “How often is a 20-something-year-old going to be hanging out and laughing together with an 80-something-year-old woman? We see that in our ECC all the time. A dear woman from Iran laughs as she seriously asks a question of a man from Brazil. We love that interplay.”
The improv students interplayed at each one-hour session with various games that have become familiar to television audiences via “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”
“We also love the idea of people doing something they thought they could never do,” Johnson added. “Our 81-year-old student came because her life philosophy is to try everything once. She had literally no idea what improv is when she registered and she has come to every session.”
The instructors hope to offer the improv course again in the fall. They'se considering some changes such as possibly allowing more participants to register. They's prefer to schedule the sessions weekly, rather than periodically throughout a three-month period.
There's one element of this past improv course that the instructors definitely want to repeat: no charge.
“It's free and fun,” Johnson noted.
“It's a great bargain,” Hench added.