Laughing, Listening and Letting Go
DuPagePads New Improv Class
New this year, DuPagePads began working with volunteers to provide improv classes at our Client Service Center for families and individuals who are homeless.
Led by volunteer Jenn Fondel, who studied for a year at Second City and has started her own improv school for junior high and high school students, these improv activities provide more than laughter.
“These activities promote a variety of useful skills: improving listening, building confidence, practicing patience, communicating effectively and letting go of judgement,” says Carol Simler, DuPagePads President & CEO.
Fondel says, “Improv redirects your thinking. When you are in it, you have to accept all ideas, move forward with them and think outside the box. You don’t need to have any experience, you just make it work and get creative.”
These Improv workshops change the atmosphere of the Client Service Center. “When I walk in, people will often be sitting in silence, waiting for appointments. Soon after, we are moving tables and getting people engaged. Even if they don’t want to play, they watch and we ask for their ideas about where we are or what we are doing.
We start off by sharing something positive that has happened to us that week, to shift our thinking to pleasant thoughts. For 30 minutes, everyone is just laughing, and hopefully that gives them the power and momentum they need to take their next step,” Fondel shares.
A recent Chicago Tribune article mentioned some psychologists have seen therapeutic benefits of improv for people challenged with anxiety and depression. Studies regarding the effects of improv on the brain are ongoing and highlight that it is likely that the advantages will go beyond entertainment.
“Dealing with the trauma and stress of homelessness 24 hours a day can be mentally and emotionally draining for anyone. By providing this improv workshop, people can release some of that tension and laugh. Watching the class is fun, but seeing the clients at the end of the workshop leaving with smiles is what I think is most meaningful,” Simler says.