Gainesville Improv Group Launches All-Ages Troupe

If you were to write a list of the activities elementary schoolers and senior citizens could bond over, improvisational theater might not make the cut. Stephanie Norman is trying to change that.

Norman, the founder and creative director of New Heights Improv, hosts monthly improv workshops for children and adults and is starting an all-ages improv troupe called “PG Squad,” according to the New Heights Improv Facebook page.

“For improv, a lot of people think of adults, but children need improv as well as a self-regulation skill,” Norman said.

Norman said she has been practicing improv for about three years and has been a preschool teacher for eight years, so PG Squad combines more than one of her passions.

Norman wants to focus on a curriculum that emphasizes the personal traits that can be developed through improv, such as communication, confidence and leadership.

“I want [kids] to not have to worry about authority but have that human aspect of being together,” she said.

Jeff Jurgens, director of the Gainesville Improv Guild, agreed that there are benefits for improv participants of all ages.

“I think it’s really healthy to have that interaction between different generations,” he said. “They find they have more commonalities than they do differences.”

Jurgens, who has worked with Norman through the Gainesville Improv Guild, cited improvement of memory and communication skills as results of improv participation.

“I’ve never seen an age where it hasn’t worked,” he said.

So far, Norman said, 50 participants have signed up. Parents of homeschooled children have contacted her because they see the troupe as an opportunity for socialization.

She said 22 people came to the informational meeting she held in January, which turned into a two-hour chat about improv. At the troupe’s next meeting, they’ll start incorporating some improv exercises.

The group’s current biggest issue is find a big enough space, she said. Norman said she has made arrangements for them to meet at the Headquarters branch of the Alachua County Public Library every other month but is looking for other community spaces for them to meet.

She said she plans on bringing in two other instructors as well.

Her long-term goal is to collaborate with other groups and hold pop-up improv events throughout Gainesville.

Norman also wants to encourage full family participation in PG Squad from kids and parents.

“This improv group isn’t me babysitting,” Norman said. “It’s more about all of us.”

If you are interested in New Heights Improv, you can find more information on the New Heights Improv Facebook page or by emailing [email protected].