What’s the background of AIN members?

Jul 4, 2017 | 5 comments

We are each attracted in our own way to be part of this community that recognises and develops the applications of improvisation.

I’ve not studied the figures, but it seems to me that almost all of us will have seen improvised performances, whether in live comedic or long-form improv shows or in jazz or dance. Anyone not?

That would often have been the trigger inspiring us to learn more, whether by participating in a class or by studying in more traditionally academic ways. The most common form of participation over the years has been to attend theatrical improv workshops, from which many went on to gain experience on-stage with an audience, or even grew committed enough to form own own improv performing teams.

That, for example, was my route, although – like Keith Johnstone – I turned out to be more of a director and teacher than performer. Along the way, we are struck by the insight that we were dealing in skills with many applications beyond performance and theatre.

I’d guess about half of the AIN members who attend the annual conferences have a history of appearing in an improv performing team. Very few will be doing so as their main professional activity, though some may be making a living as theatrical practitioners – eg lecturing, directing, acting.

Similarly, it’s true that only a small minority of AIN members make most of their living by directly Applying Improvisation under that title – although more and more are beginning to do so. Rather we are facilitators, trainers, consultants, academics, researchers/students, managers within organisations – all appreciating the value of improvisational tools and approaches, and incorporating them into our practice.

Does this reflect your experience?


  1. Robert Lowe

    Boy Scouts and republican politics as a kid, junior high and high school theatre, U.S. Navy public affairs officer, corrupted & enlightened by communes in the 1970s, and suddenly, and wonderfully delighted by, Improvisational Dance (not contact Improv), to my first workshops with a teacher who put us on the stage immediately, and let us grow in front of everyone. Into corporate America, headhunted to Atlanta in 1983 and expecting to find Improv where there was none. Founded Improv in Atlanta with a list of 15 games, a copy of “Improvisation for the Theatre” and a firm grasp on the seat of my pants. We now have five full Improvisation Theatres, three independent AI organizations (that I know of), some 30 independent troupes playing a host of venues, four college teams, at least two high schools, a middle school, and an early student teaching and producing Improv shows with K-5 kids. Early work and publishing in Applied Improvisation. Currently retired and mentoring teams at Georgia Tech, and Oglethorpe University. Just as excited by Improvisation today as I was 37 years ago.

  2. Alison Gitelson

    I became a facilitator after careers in optometry, IT and transformation. I consulted, spoke professionally, trained and coached before I discovered my talents as a group facilitator. And then I incorporated AI into my facilitation toolbox.

    I have never participated in stage improv. As a professional in all my other roles I improvised daily. Being able to think on my feet, solve problems, change direction, adapt a plan were all skills that had contributed greatly to my success. The funny thing is that as soon as we speak of improvisation in jazz, dance, comedy, theatre we make it seem to be something challenging that we have to be trained in as opposed to an every day skill. I think the big difference is that improvisation in jazz etc takes into account ones partner(s) and it is those collaborative skills that I wish to harness for my work in business.

    After doing a course in AI facilitation I turned to my daughter to add more activities to my toolbox as she had trained in dance and physical theatre. Those I sometimes have to adapt considerably to match the physical abilities of “normal” people!

    • Patricia Colley

      Working in all those capacities has required me to develop skills in facilitation, strategy, Design Thinking (creative + critical thinking), collaboration, cognitive and social psychology, ethnography/anthropology, storytelling, empathy work, architecture, and organizational development/communication. While I am not a formally trained expert in those disciplines, the work I do has required me to become highly proficient at filling those roles on-the-job. My current job title is Lead User Experience Architect at a software company. I also offer trainings and workshops in developing creative abilities, emergent leadership, and positive, results-oriented collaboration.

  3. Ketan Varia

    Interesting Blog.

    I came across improv late in my career. I noticed I had innate skills in facilitation when running workshops for large organisations. The skills of collaboration, agility, innovation are talked about constantly in large organisations, however the HOW is not well understood. Organisation are reliant on people with natural skills, rather than taught behaviours. Having come across Improv in 2013, its acts a powerful tool to practise skills that can make I feel could make a huge difference to organisations. However improv tools need to be crafted to work with real real organisational issues – something I am exploring.

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