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Wexner Center allowing teens to improve improv skills

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Teens from across central Ohio will gather at the Wexner Center for the Arts to take their best shots at improvisational theater.

The Wexner Center will host a free, one-day workshop called Improv Theatre for Teens Saturday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Improvisational theater is a form that allows actors to work spontaneously without scripts, and sometimes uses audience participation to direct the production.

Though improvisational theatre incorporates acting, Jean Pitman, educator for youth programs at the Wexner Center, said it is a genre all its own.

“It can be very surprising and unexpected … which makes it very lively and interesting and very different from a highly-rehearsed, scripted kind of theater,” Pitman said.

This improv workshop is part of an over-arching program called Wex Lab.

“In Wex Lab, teens get to work one-on-one with a professional artist for an entire day on a project, either individually or as a group,” Pitman said.

Past Wex Lab workshops have included Single Shot Music Video, which allowed students to create a music video for area bands. During the Comic Shorts Wex Lab workshop, students worked in film editing and shooting video to create a comedic short.

Giving teens a chance to try out all types of jobs within the art industry is one goal of Wex Lab.

“In Wex Lab, teens get to work with an artist in addition to exploring career options in the arts,” Pitman said. “There are so many jobs in the arts besides actually being an artist.”

These labs also allow for networking among teenagers in Columbus.

“It’s a great opportunity for teens to meet other teens with similar interests from different schools or parts of the area,” Pitman said.

This spirit of working together is something Robin Post, instructor in the Ohio State Theatre Department and leader of the workshop, hopes to instill in the teenagers.

“They will absolutely have to support one another both technically and emotionally,” Post said. “It is virtually impossible to play in an improvisational way if you are feeling paralyzed by self-consciousness.”

Post, who has worked with and directed theater productions for youth audiences, said working with teens is both demanding and rewarding.

“The challenge with teens, and one I greet with open arms, is breaking down those barriers of self-doubt and reinforcing the mode of … team work,” he said.

After coming to Columbus in 2008, Pitman hoped to attract more students to Wex Lab by offering workshops that fit their needs.

“This program was already in place,” Pitman said. “I have just shaped it more to what I see teens and their parents are interested in.”

Though Wex Lab is aimed at teens, Pitman said these workshops do not take it easy on the students.

“Wex Labs are not some dumbed-down version of an adult event or program,” Pitman said. “We’re eager to engage teens with all their great thoughts … criticisms and interests.”

Pitman could not immediately make a student available for comment. She also declined to disclose how much it cost for employees to work at the workshop since participants don’t have to pay to participate.

Wex Lab workshops are open to all teens.

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