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Second City comedy troupe brings improv to Aspen Youth Center

Erica Robbie
The Aspen Times
Andrew Knox with the Second City Comedy Troupe busts a move while he introduces himself to Aspen Youth Center kids Thursday.
Jeremy Wallace |

Just over a dozen middle school students took trips to the Amazon River, McDonalds and wherever else their hearts desired during an improv comedy session at the Aspen Youth Center on Thursday.

These trips were imaginary trips, of course, though the fifth- through eighth-grade students’ enthusiasm could have had you fooled.

“The kids are all naturals, and it’s a ton of fun for us to watch,” said Second City comedy group performer Alison Gates, who co-led the comedy session along with fellow Second City performer Andrew Knox.

Knox said improv has benefits for people of all ages but that it is an especially useful art and tool for children.

“Instead of kind of picking on each other, which is easy for kids to do, they’re making believe together and working together towards a common destination – whatever that may be in the scene.” — Second City performer Andrew Knox

“Instead of kind of picking on each other, which is easy for kids to do, they’re making believe together and working together towards a common destination — whatever that may be in the scene,” Knox said. “Teamwork is what you get out of it.”

The students engaged in warm-up activities and a discussion of improv comedy.

They also performed various scenes in groups of two or three in which they improvised a hypothetical scenario while also incorporating random elements into their scenes on the spot.

At the core of performing improv comedy is the “yes and” philosophy, Gates said.

“Whatever your partner gives you, you agree with and you build on it together,” Gates said.

Fifth-grade student Kevin Soreno said at first he felt intimidated to get up and perform before his peers, but that he “got used to it” after the warm up.

Isabella Castillo echoed Soreno’s fear.

“It is a little scary at first, but if I just didn’t look at the crowd, it didn’t really bother me,” the eighth-grade student said. “When you’re up there trying to make a scene for people to laugh at, it gets our mind away from the people that are watching.”

Aspen Youth Center Executive Director Keith Berglund said he thinks “it makes it a little easier that they’re all part of the Aspen Youth Center family.”

Aspen Youth Center’s Second City improv session was a first-time acting experience for Castillo and several other students, all of whom said they were interested in giving it another shot.

“I might have to try it in high school,” Castillo said.

Sixth-grader Adriana Cippioneri agreed.

“This was really a new experience for me, and I loved it,” Cippioneri said, adding that she hopes to do more.

Berglund said Thursday’s improv comedy session inspired him to look into other comedy and performing opportunities for the center’s children.

“It’s so fun to let down and bust out like that and just make each other laugh,” Berglund said, adding that he thinks it “really is a great skill.”

erobbie@aspentimes.com


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