Improv company to hold workshops for confidence

(Caitlin Dutt/AQ)

University of New Brunswicks Student Services and Hot Garbage Players New Brunswick have created the free Improv for Confidence class to help students deal with social anxiety and problems with public speaking.

The classes will be held from Feb. 6  to Mar. 26 and are aimed towards UNB and St. Thomas students who struggle with low self-esteem, anxiety or social stress. The core members of Hot Garbage New Brunswick will use improvisation-style comedy to expand their confidence and communication skills.

UNB student services program coordinator Matthew MacLean came up with the idea after a colleague introduced him to a similar program.

“Jody Gorham, director of the UNB student accessibility centre, sent me a link to a similar program being offered to the public via Second City Comedy Company in cities such as Toronto and Chicago,” MacLean said.

“The idea stayed dormant for a time after that, but then through happy circumstance I was put in touch with Jean-Michel Cliche and his improv company, Hot Garbage Players. I told him about the idea and he was into it, so we started planning from there.”

MacLean tries to offer unconventional mental wellness workshops to foster creativity and spontaneity. His most recent was a D&D for Anxiety class held last semester, which encouraged improvised dialogue. However, neither MacLean or Hot Garbage have done anything like this before.

“This is sort of out of our normal comfort zone,” said Hot Garbage co-founder and St. Thomas alumnus Jean-Michel Cliche.

“Hot Garbage as a whole is expanding. We’re trying to offer different kinds of classes and change the way we represent ourselves in the community,” he said.

“Myself, Kirsten Stackhouse and Alex Rioux, the rest of Hot Garbage in Fredericton, we’re all educators and so we’re excited to take this next step into something a little bit different.”

Improv for Confidence classes will focus on being comfortable socializing and talking off the cuff, instead of centering around a performance like most improv classes. 10 out of the 18 spaces already filled.

According to MacLean, having a safe space where nobody uses a script is what makes improv so applicable to everyday life.

“We can worry about how we are perceived or if we will have anything to say in a conversation,” said MacLean.

“In an improv setting, you can play around with these situations in a low pressure way by learning that you can relax and have fun in situations without a script involving other people — just like everyday interactions.”

“Once we have an opportunity to have positive experiences, our confidence begins to grow and we can learn to transfer skills learned in the improv setting to everyday life.”

Cliche feels confident about the program simply because of the positivity within improv.

“The really cool thing about improv it that it’s the world of saying ‘yes’: it’s a world of accepting offers and trying things without being afraid of failure.”