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school spotlight improv

In an improv class, Elias Lyman, left, 13, narrates as Arwen Sadler, on ground, 12, plays the part of a cat, Miette Alvarez, 9, plays an old woman, and Ruby Trudell, 8, is a fairy godmother.

Known for its improv shows and adult classes, Monkey Business Institute is now extending the benefits of the comedy form to children.

Brad Knight, a founder and owner of the Madison group, recently taught improv to a group of 15 youths ages eight to 13. It's a direction Monkey Business hopes to continue through more classes and a summer camp.

"The biggest thing you can get out of improv is how to work with other people," said Knight, who was assisted by Mary Conroy, an adult student of his. "With kids, it can build self confidence."

Improv forces the participants to be collaborative and in that way is "a really positive art form," Knight said.

Gideon Smith, 8, a third grader at Emerson Elementary Schol, said with improv you can't say "no" to someone's idea. Instead you can add on to it.

The young participants took part in various exercises to get to know each other and learned cooperative and listening skills. They also acted out stories using improv and learned the skills involved in pantomime.

A number of the budding comedians said they learned how to make it appear as if they were using objects in a type of theater that doesn't use sets, props, scripts and line memorization.

"The audience has to imagine that it's there and it has to look like it's there," said 10-year-old Ellen Dux-Dahms, a fourth grader at Chavez Elementary School.

Arwen Sadler, 12, a seventh grader at Hamilton Middle School, said she learned how subtle efforts such as changing your posture and voice can help tell the story.

Elias Lyman, 13, an eighth grader at Whitehorse Middle School, said he enjoys improv because you don't have to study a script or practice.

Improv is a way to make new friends, said 12-year-old Emily Richter, a seventh grader at O'Keeffe Middle School. Kaylee Yelk, 13, an eighth grader at Belleville Middle School, said she likes the spontenaity.

"You can put in as many twists and turns as you want," said 9-year-old Rosalie Powell, a fourth grader at Marquette Elementary.

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