Improv for Actors on the Spectrum

140704_yes improv_med
Yes! Its important
and . . .  here’s a way to start

Improv is a really important part of any acting class for people on the spectrum because improv develops and strengthens underlying skills needed for social interaction including:


turn taking

eye contact

joint attention and

flexible thinking!


What’s more – it’s really fun and always surprising and, as Tina Fey writes in “Bossy Pants”


“In improv there are
no mistakes,
only beautiful happy accidents.”

Thanks, Tina!


So, how do I introduce and teach improvisation to this special group of actors (with a wide range of varying skills and talents)?

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Using Knock-Knock Jokes as Short Plays

Short plays are “… a place for encounters not journeys, epiphanies not ideologies.”   – Steve Waters on Beckett & Mamet’s short plays

Encounters.  Epiphanies.  This is at the heart of Autism Communty Theater’s  games, improvisations and short scenes.  Encountering the other;  that “aha!” moment of connection, epiphany  – there’s someone else here! (and the encounter is transformative – even if fleeting.)

Luckily we don’t need to introduce Beckett or Mamet to our actors for these connections. “Short plays” can be introduced using “Knock, Knock” jokes. Yes!

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Creating a Scene with Nonverbal Beats FOR ACTORS ON THE SPECTRUM

Autism Community Theatre using nonverbal beats
Rehearsal for Bremen Town Musicians

Theatre provides so many opportunities to promote nonverbal communication between actors.  One effective way is to use what I’ll call “nonverbal beats.” Scenes are made up of beats (changes in character or action) which can be staged with nonverbal moments of joint attention, reaction or a physical gesture.  Nonverbal beats in theater actually heighten the action or dialogue that precede them; the silence gives more weight and resonance to what has just occurred.

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How to Begin Playmaking with Teens on the autism spectrum


How I Learned to Love the Bremen Town Musicians


bremen townshadowFor this first post I felt as if I should write some sort of huge three- or five-year plan for ACT Workshop, but “THE PLAY’s THE THING!”  and I want this blog to be about  playmaking and theater games with this special and diverse group of actors with autism spectrum disorder.

Today I want to talk about how we  are starting our scene work for The Breman Town Musicians.

Do you remember that tale? A donkey, dog, cat and rooster all set off on the road to Bremen town to play music. They meet some robbers, scare them away and . . . never make it to Bremen Town to play music.

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