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I’m not an acting person. For real. I’m not. Look back at any of the cringey video projects I had to do in high school and you’ll be convinced. And I’m definitely not a comedian either. All of that in mind, I really don’t seem like I should be in an improv class. But it happened in the midst of confusion during my first semester after dropping a class that didn’t suit me (which is perfectly okay, by the way!), when I was looking through the course catalog and found a class called “Improvisational Techniques for Communication.” And thus, my journey began.

Improv class students pose for a picture

A few of my classmates at an improv show!

As a class at Hopkins, the course combined theory and practice: while most of class time was spent doing actual improv, there was a little bit of reading and writing as homework as well. And one of the requirements of the course was to see three improv shows at the Baltimore Improv Group theater, which was absolutely amazing.

Two books, titled "Improvise." and "the Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual"

Yup, these were our “textbooks.”

And the final? Actually performing at the theater in front of an audience.

Students perform on a stage

My class performing on stage for the final!

Some things I learned along the way:

  1. It’s absolutely positively a good thing to step out of your comfort zone.
  2. Not all of your classes have to be boring. Explore something new for your first semester!
  3. Anyone can improvise.
  4. Don’t focus too hard on the funny.
  5. Good communication is about listening.
  6. A lot of the techniques used in improv can be applied to the professional world.
  7. In the words of my instructor “Nervousness and excitement are basically the same, except one of them you have control over.”
  8. Getting a laugh in an improv performance is the best feeling in the world.
  9. Audiences find the most unexpected things funny.
  10. Improv troupe names are the best. Mine was the “Butter Bean Biscuit Brigade.”
  11. Station North, the neighborhood where the BIG theater is located, is a wonderful place.
  12. Don’t be scared to take a risk.
  13. Don’t be scared to mess up.
  14. Taking an improv class makes the best conversation starter.
  15. When in doubt, just improvise.

So if you’re not really sure what you want to take here at Hopkins, I’d recommend looking through course catalogs. While they’re cool, don’t limit your search to the science, math, writing, and history classes. Whether it be improv, dance composition, or introduction to digital photography, I think you’ll find that there’s more to Hopkins than you think.