Summer Dreamers Learn the Basics of Improv and Performance

By Jason Earle – 12th Grade, North Allegheny High School

As a 12th grade student, I still come across many people who struggle with public speaking or performing in front of an audience.  Such actions require bravery, courage, and confidence, and the Summer Dreamers Improv program seeks to build these skills in its students.  Aaron Crutchfield, a former improv teacher at a community college in Colorado, is effectively teaching 10 to 12 year old kids to become comfortable in sharing their creativity with those around them.

During the commencement of the activity, Aaron stressed the importance of being a good audience while others are performing.  He expressed that doing so welcomes new ideas and different approaches to the performers and allows their imaginations to expand.  The students participated in a variety of games that involved improvising conversations based on real world situations.  One such game, hitchhiker, had one student pretending to drive a car while welcoming another student.  Once the “hitchhiker” had entered the car, the driver was to mimic the personality and movements of the new passenger.  Another activity required a student to tell a story about a single word.  As this person read the story aloud, a few others had to act out the events of the story on the spot.  After each performance, Aaron asked the actors what they did well and what they could improve upon.  He also allowed the audience to provide their own feedback.  This reflection created positivity while still noting areas for improvement.


The driver welcomes the hitchhiker into her car, imitating her new passenger’s behavior.

Although these exercises may seem to be just games for elementary children, it was clear that the students had obtained valuable tools for improv and performance while making their show comical and entertaining.  When I asked the kids about the atmosphere on the first day, many responded that they did not know anyone, nobody really talked to each other, and everyone was nervous to speak in front of a crowd.  I asked how long it took for those nerves to fade away, and all students answered that it took less than a week.  All of the participants had made plenty of new friends and become far more comfortable with performance in just the third week of the program.


Students quickly gather their thoughts to continue the improvised “Story of the Pineapple.”

A primary reason for the students’ comfort and enjoyment of the program was their teacher, Aaron.  The students admire his humor and upbeat personality along with the variety of educational games he creates.  Aaron stated that he loves seeing how the younger mind operates and is intrigued by the plethora of different ideas that the children produce.  He feels that the most effective ways in helping kids to get over shyness are by “recognizing anything as positive” and “making everyone feel connected.”  Certainly, these strategies have made an influence as the young improv students appeared as if they had been performing since birth.  The program has allowed these children to take a big step towards increased confidence and comfort in public speaking.     



Jason Earle 1Jason Earle will be a 12th grade student at North Allegheny High School this fall. He lives in McCandless where he plays soccer and basketball while pursuing various musical endeavors. Also, Jason participates in North Allegheny’s cable television station, NATV.

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