Jude Treder-Wolff  (judetrederwolff)

LCSW, CGP, MT & Certified Practitioner of Applied Improvisation, consultant/trainer and writer/performer.  www.lifestage.orgwww.mostlytruethings.com

There are real-life, high-stakes situations in which moment-to-moment choices can have life or death consequences, specifically “no-notice” events like natural disasters, or shootings, which are, sadly, increasingly a possibility anyone might have to deal with in a public space. These situations call for the ability to prioritize and problem-solve under pressure and connect rapidly with other people, abilities that are most effectively developed through direct experiences. Heroic Improv, a model developed by researcher Dr. Mary Tyszkiewicz, (Dr. T) author of the chapter “Practicing For The Unimaginable: The Heroic Improv Cycle” in the groundbreaking book Applied Improvisation: Leading, Collaborating and Creating Beyond The Theatre helps small groups respond to high-stakes crises through training, facilitation and evaluation. Dr. T uses improv principles and exercises to train for exactly this kind of scenario. “The beginning of an improv scene feels exactly like a disaster,” she explains. “In both situations, people don’t know where they are at, whom they are with or what is next.”

It was her first improv performance, in front of hundreds of people, with a class that had bonded so closely it felt like a team, that led her to this novel approach to a difficult question raised by her work evaluating peoples’ response to disasters. “My research showed that traditional disaster training does not adequately prepare people for real life disasters or for the real emotions they might experience. Current training either provides book-based “knowledge” or teaches hands-on “skills” but does not strengthen one’s “ability” to put “knowledge” and “skills” together in high-stakes situations. Just think of any first-aid training we typically receive. Having “knowledge”of heart attack symptoms and the “skills” of CPR do not test our “ability” to move into action when there is a heart attack victim in front of us. Disaster training has to go beyond seminars and drills — the practicing of skills — in order to develop this ability.