Educational Improv WORKS

I would have never guessed that a juvenile justice department in Richmond, VA would be the first to embrace my newest inspiration, crazy scheme, and labor of love in the educational realm. But I just got back from a trip to Richmond, where I traveled with the phenomenal Antoine McKay — whom many of you will know as Bunkie Campbell from the TV show Empire. The purpose of our trip — and of the new project I'm launching — is to try to help some wayward youths find their voice and purpose through a program that uses improv-based techniques and exercises to help them expand their communication skills ... and their horizons.



Enter EIW: Educational Improv Works. I've been carefully nurturing this project behind the scenes for more than a year now, along with my spouse and business partner Kathryn Lake, and it's finally ready for its curtain to rise.

Starting this month, a group of 22 young men who need a lifeline to turn their lives around will gather twice a week for six weeks, to begin exploring their abilities in a new way — by tapping into the power of improv. Antoine will be leading the sessions, taking them on an adventure in social emotional learning that begins with their willingness to take a chance on the simple idea, "It worked for me ... and it can work for you."

Educational Improv Works is not just our name, it's a statement of fact: Improv works remarkably well as an educational tool. It opens doors, minds, and sometimes even hearts that would otherwise stay locked. We've built our mission around that fact.

And although we're starting with a group of disadvantaged youths, we think EIW is a learning approach with very broad applicability and eventually we're hoping to bring it into all sorts of educational settings: grade schools, high schools, Sunday schools ... you name it. (Although maybe not driving schools. Gotta keep those eyes on the road.)

Bringing Antoine McKay on board as a partner was the final piece of the dream machine. Antoine and I both attended Eastern Michigan University (where I did my graduate work after Bradley). He's an actor from Chicago who teaches improv classes at Notre Dame and Northwestern University. I was once his speech coach at EMU, and now all these years later he's a popular TV star — and because he's also got a heart of gold, he's soon to be the voice of EIW. Wish him luck, because technically I’m his boss. Gulp ... and scene.