TRAVERSE CITY — Meg Ackerman never would have thought to seek out an improv class, but when a colleague mentioned she was thinking about holding some classes, it sounded like fun.

“I thought, ‘This sounds like something that’s going to take me outside my comfort circle,’” said Ackerman, a retired teacher, principal and the former director of Michigan’s Safe Routes to School.

“I don’t have grand illusions that I’m going to land on a stage at any point in time,” she said. “I just want to have fun. I just want to laugh.”

In November, Ackerman began attending drop-in improv classes hosted by Lisa Thauvette, an education consultant and improviser, and found it easier than expected. There’s no pressure to take part in an exercise she’s uncomfortable with, and for those that stretch and challenge her limits, there’s a safety net, Ackerman said.

The drop-in classes just barely scratched the surface, she said. Ackerman said she’s looking forward to learning more in a series of classes Thauvette is offering in January and February.

It’s a four-week course, with classes on Jan. 13 and 27 and Feb. 3 and 10. Tickets are $60 for all four classes.

Thauvette said she noted there wasn’t a huge improv scene in Traverse City when she moved to the area 1.5 years ago and so decided to start it herself.

“Improv for me is like the punk rock of theater — you never know what’s going to happen,” she said. “We’ve got so many great arts in Traverse City. We need some punk rock in the area.”

Thauvette studied and performed internationally with The Ghost Sheep, a professional improv troupe based in Brussels, Belgium. She has a masters of education in Montessori Association Montessori Internationale and founded and teaches at Tilt Think and Tilt Think Improv.

Tilt Think focuses on her education consultation, Thauvette said. Tilt Think Improv combines her passions of education and improvisation by applying the concepts of improvisational play to education, leadership and innovation through performances and workshops, she said.

“I can take it beyond, ‘Let’s do some funny things,’” Thauvette said. “I can take it to the next level — ‘How does this help us to connect to each other as teammates or as a community?’”

Improv is good for people looking to get out of their comfort zone, but also for professionals looking to improve collaboration or speaking skills, Thauvette said.

That connection element has to do with mindfulness and being in the “here and now,” she said. Good improv calls for active mindfulness because one must react to other people in an ever-changing scenario, Thauvette said.

The key is to react with a, “Yes, and…,” — accept whatever has been brought up and build on top of it, she said.

“There are so many people who say, ‘Oh, I can’t do that. I’m not funny. I’m not creative’ — and that’s me,” Ackerman said. “But it is fun and when you go you know that you can go at your own pace. So even if you think it’s not for you, it really is.”

“Improv for me is like the punk rock of theater — you never know what’s going to happen. We’ve got so many great arts in Traverse City.
We need some punk rock in the area.” Lisa Thauvette, founder of Tilt Think Improv

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