Improv for Wellness

An international applied improvisation for mental wellness initiative.

Improv for Wellness by Kaivalya Plays is a series of multi- arts initiatives, performances, workshops and sessions that explore how different tools and methodologies of improvisational theatre (or improv, as we know it better) can be used as an effective medium to acknowledge, recognize and confront issues related to mental health.

This is not a new project, our group has been steadily working on expanding our mental health practice since early 2018. The project started when our original theatre production Unravel, that explores the therapeutic effects of improvisation, was commissioned by the Goethe-Institut Delhi in May 2018. Along with the performance, we also started offering a workshop, where participants with no prior knowledge of improv or theatre could themselves experience these therapeutic effects and create a safe space to acknowledge, articulate (and potentially) address their own issues with mental health. In June 2019, we created a monthly improv for wellness program called HEADSPACE in collaboration with a local cultural institution called the Oddbird Theatre & Foundation. Over six months, we saw 150+ participants take part in these workshops and soon we expanded the program to include other arts-based interventions, such as drama therapy etc. In the meanwhile, our group conducted the workshop for a wide variety of educational institutions, corporates and the general public across India, Colombia, Spain and Germany – with participation from 1000+ individuals.

Overview

At the core of the project is the improv for wellness workshop which aims to create a safe space for participants to notice their thoughts, emotions, behaviours and capabilities using improv theatre games and exercises. The facilitator will take the participants through a series of games and discussion that will both allow the participants to identify their areas of concern regarding mental health and provide tools to deal with the issues they face on their mental health
journey. The introductory session also establishes mental health practices as part of a maintenance routine to help break down the stigma in talking about these topics. The workshops are open to anyone with no prior experience necessary to play. 

Audience & Themes

Each session or series of sessions is tailored to the participating audience’s specific needs and audience. For instance, while working with corporates we juxtapose the mental health aspects with ideas around everyday anxieties, work-life balance and preventing burnout. While working with colleges we usually end up working with theatre clubs, so the mental health aspects also extend to the idea around consent, safety, and respect while working in a rehearsal space. While collaborating with cultural institutions, we tailor-make the program keeping in mind their patrons. For instance, we have a monthly improv for mental health program with Oddbird Theatre & Foundation in Delhi where each session is different and builds upon the previous one. The language of the facilitator also changes keeping in mind the demographics of the participants (At our workshops in Instituto Cervantes, the cultural center of Spain in India and in our other collaborations in Madrid and Colombia, we conducted the workshops in Spanish). We have recently moved the workshops to an online format via Zoom and have received participation from over 300 individuals.

Watch A Glimpse

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