For this week’s blog, we present a guest post from one of our esteemed guest clients, improve it! Chicago. Recognized frequently by the Chicago Innovation Awards committee, improve it! Chicago delivers teambuilding and consulting for companies. And they return time and again to Catalyst Ranch to host their sought-after public workshop teaching the foundations of improv comedy for use in the business world.
Professional improviser and Director of Operations for improve it! Chicago, Allie Keller talks about how performance and experience is uniquely affected by a venue.
Any improviser, when asked politely, can tell you the worst place they’ve had to perform. On a boat, in a clearing in the woods, in someone’s basement, at the back of a Chili’s in rural Indiana for what could only be the worst date night in the world (that last one might be a tad autobiographical). All the world may be a stage, but all stages are not created equal.
In fact, some stages are absolutely terrible for making audiences feel comfortable enough to laugh and engage with performers. That’s why, when you find it, it’s important to hold onto those perfect stages. Those rooms that create a warm environment for your audiences, and encourage everyone to laugh and leave their lives at the door for a brief hour or two.
When you find it, it’s important to hold onto those perfect stages. Those rooms that create a warm environment for your audiences, and encourage everyone to laugh and leave their lives at the door for a brief hour or two.
For us at improve it!, performing is a daily occurrence, and no venue is better to perform in than Catalyst Ranch. I’ve described the space at Catalyst Ranch to clients as “a hug”, “the happiest place on earth”, and “like you’re walking through a really creative person’s brain.”
Catalyst Ranch doesn’t just sit and wait for you to find it, it comes to you – every inch of the space is filled with warm personality. It encourages you to interact with it, to ask questions, to be involved with what’s happening and add to it.
As a business development company who uses improvisation to train on people’s soft skills, it’s essential that our clients feel safe and comfortable to be themselves as quickly as possible. We call it “the circle of trust”. Let me tell you – sometimes that circle is slow building. We usually average about 20 minutes for a group of adults to really feel comfortable being vulnerable and trusting us to try new things. Any event we put on at Catalyst Ranch, we know that time is going to be cut in half. As soon as people see the punny bottle of Purell “Williams” in the entryway, and are escorted into a room called “The Jitterbug” – they know they’re in a safe space where any idea is recognized and celebrated.
Our art form is based on the notion that you don’t need much to create anything, so it’s essential that the things you do need are the best: the players, the audience, and the venue. At Catalyst Ranch, we are always confident that we’ll hit a home run.
Allie Keller is Director of Operations for improve it! She is an improviser, writer, director, and improv coach who has studied at Northwestern University, The Second City Conservatory, iO Training Center, Annoyance Training Center, UCB New York, and Green Shirt Studio. She has produced and directed “Mic Fight“ and “Will You Accept This Rose: An Improvised Parody of The Bachelor“. Allie has over five years of experience in corporate training development and design and is an active member of the improve it! team as the Director of Operations.