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Warwick Community School’s Improv Club teaches creativity, working together

  • Jonathan Mirin of Piti Theatre Company leads the Improv Club at Warwick Community School in an exercise called "Location, Location, Location" on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Fifth-grader Aiden Lucas-Mulle acts out being sleepy in the morning, while students raise their hands to join in his story. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Jonathan Mirin of Piti Theatre Company leads the Improv Club at Warwick Community School in an exercise called "Location, Location, Location" on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Three students act out eating in a restaurant. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Jonathan Mirin of Piti Theatre Company leads the Improv Club at Warwick Community School in a storytelling exercise on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. Students contributed one word at a time to create full sentences. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Students in Warwick Community School's Improv Club participate in a mirroring exercise on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline

  • Students in Warwick Community School's Improv Club try using a brown cloth in different ways as part of an exercise on Friday, Feb. 2, 2018. —Recorder Staff/Shelby Ashline



Recorder Staff
Wednesday, February 07, 2018

WARWICK — Eager hands shot up when Jonathan Mirin asked who would like to play “Location, Location, Location.”

With an idea in his head, Warwick Community School fifth-grader Aiden Lucas-Mulle pulled out a chair, sat down and pretended to fall asleep. At Mirin’s selection, other students approached Lucas-Mulle to try to shake him awake.

“Location, Location, Location” is one of several exercises 14 third- to sixth-graders participate in through the school’s Improv Club. Mirin, artistic director of Piti Theatre Co., started overseeing the club on Jan. 5 thanks to funding from a $1,900 Mass Cultural Council STARS Residencies grant.

While Mirin is used to working with children, he said Warwick Community School’s program is the first time he’s taught a workshop all about improvisation. The club, he said, gives children confidence in themselves, inspires creativity and teaches children to think on their feet.

“The arts education component is so important to have and preserve in schools,” Mirin said. “People think of it as a distraction, but it teaches fundamental skills that can stick with kids.”

Employers, he said, will want staff who are creative, work well with others and take risks — all of which students learn through Improv Club.

“I’m impressed with how much concentration and critical thinking is involved with coming up with their scenarios,” agreed Warwick Community School Principal Elizabeth Musgrave. “It’s fun, but it’s a lot of thinking.”

Musgrave herself said she loved dance as a child, and wishes her students could have three times as much exposure to the arts because of what they take away from those experiences.

“I think it builds confidence when kids do something new and are successful with it,” she said. “It opens up a new part of themselves.”

During Friday’s session, students used a brown piece of fabric in different ways, pretending to be different people or creatures like bears, ninjas and magicians. Later, by contributing one word per person, students strung together full sentences and stories about how Warwick got its name and how the school was built.

Other exercises included working in pairs, with one person being “the mover” and the other “the mirror,” mimicking the first person’s movements, and using imagination to transform a prop into something else.

Mirin came to Warwick Community School last spring to put on a solo comedy performance of “Sammy and the Grand Buffet.” The show was a fundraiser for the two surviving members of the Seago family, following the March 4, 2017 fire that killed Lucinda Seago, 42, and four of her children.

Having connected with the Warwick school community, Mirin reached out to Musgrave, proposing the Improv Club, which seemed like great winter entertainment.

“We actually were over-enrolled, but we stretched it to get everybody a space,” Musgrave said.

Aiden said he was interested in joining because he’d been in a few plays, and found the club to be fun.

While using props as different items is one of the exercises Aiden finds most challenging, he said his favorite exercise is “Freeze and Justify,” whereby someone starts a scene, another person “freezes” that person and a new scene begins. Improvisation, he said, allows for changing scenes quickly, without necessarily having an action in mind.

“You just add on and go with it,” he said.

Club members will continue to meet on Fridays through mid-February before getting a chance to “show their stuff and take a bow,” Musgrave said. The students will perform for their classmates on Thursday, Feb. 15, and will give a free public performance at Warwick Town Hall on Tuesday, Feb. 20, at 1 p.m.