Improv comedy show fosters creativity

By: Sherri Kolade, | West Bloomfield Beacon | Published June 14, 2017

WEST BLOOMFIELD — You might hear a made-up language, an original song or a new answer to a thought-provoking question like “Why is the sky blue?”

You just don’t know what you’ll experience during an “Evening of Improvised Comedy” at 8 p.m. June 17 at the Berman Center for Performing Arts,  6600 W. Maple Road.

Event proceeds will benefit the Detroit Creativity Project and the Improv Project, which provides improvisation training and classes to middle and high school students in metro Detroit, according to a press release. The Improv Project is a free 10-week course in partnership with DCP and Y Arts Detroit, a branch of the YMCA.

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Beth Hagenlocker, a West Bloomfield native, founded the DCP with her husband, actor Marc Evan Jackson. 

The upcoming event will feature students from the Improv Project and local improvisers, plus guest Travis Wright.

Hagenlocker said the performance at the Berman will showcase a lineup similar to an annual show done in August at the Detroit Improv Festival.

“I always tell people the unexpected always happens when our students perform, because they always inspire us,” Hagenlocker said.

Margaret Edwartowski, executive director for Y Arts, said that Y Arts is an arts and humanities branch of the YMCA for metro Detroit. 

“We facilitate the Improv Project that is being highlighted in partnership with the Detroit Creativity Project,” she said, adding that the five-year partnership has been a perfect fit.

She said Hagenlocker and her husband mentioned that they wanted to start something art-based in schools, and Edwartowski told the couple that that is part of her job description.

“I work for the Y, and we put art programs in schools, so it was a natural marriage from there,” she said.

Edwartowski, who is also performing in the show, said she wants people who attend the event to laugh and have a good time. 

“And see these young people who have just learned a new skill and the importance of arts education in our community,” she said, adding that Detroit has a burgeoning improv community. 

“(Detroit) also has many people that are doing quite well out in the entertainment industry that cut their teeth here. The funny thing is, not a lot of people here in the community even really know that.”

Hagenlocker said in a press release that the DCP will offer a new course this fall through a two-year project with the University of Michigan. Students will have a chance to apply improv skills to address issues like social justice, peer pressure and bullying, the release states.

“We’re excited to see schools use improv training as part of communications and business programs,” Hagenlocker said in a press release. “What really inspires us is to hear how students are using improv outside our course — to become better at working in teams, participate more in other classes and even just dream about the future.” 

She added that when it comes to improvisation, young people, especially, have realized through the DCP program that they can take risks, share themselves onstage and be creative.

“That kind of discovery is really meaningful,” she said. 

Tickets cost $9 for members and for $12 general admission, and they may be purchased at www.theberman.org, at the box office 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Mondays-Fridays, or by calling (248) 661-1900.