Stony Brook’s Alda Center hosts applied improvisation conference

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Improvisation does so much more than make people laugh. It builds connection, trust, and empathy between people from all walks of life.

Improv can be used to break down cultural barriers, to assist with recovering from humanitarian crises, and to help scientists and other researchers share their work.

This last use is the mission of the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University. The others are a small selection of ways others apply improvisation to improve human relationships and connections. Hundreds of improv professionals regularly share ideas, information, and best practices with each other through an organization called The Applied Improvisation Network.

In August, the Alda Center will host The Applied Improvisation Network’s annual conference, which will discuss the power of improv to foster human connection, and mark the beginning of the Alda Center’s 10th anniversary celebrations.

“When Alan Alda founded the center a decade ago, he wanted to test his theory that improv could help to make complex science accessible, understandable, and engaging for people from all walks of life,” said Dr. Laura Lindenfeld, the center’s executive director and interim dean of the SBU School of Journalism. “Since then, we’ve made significant progress toward proving his theory, and we are delighted to begin celebrating our 10th anniversary with people who know firsthand the power and versatility of improvisation.”

The conference will draw more than 300 people from around the world to Stony Brook’s campus for talks and presentations about improv, performances, and a panel discussion featuring Dr. Lindenfeld; Alan Alda, Center founder, actor, and activist; and Aretha Sills, granddaughter of Viola Spolin, who is considered to be the creator of improvisational theater techniques.

“The workshops and speakers chosen to explore our conference theme ‘Communicating Over Barrier and Borders: Applications Of Improvisation In Society’ will illuminate the unique power of improv to galvanize our innate human capacity to connect, communicate and collaborate,” said Jude Treder-Wolff, The Applied Improvisation Network’s 2019 conference chair. “This is a remarkable moment for the field of applied improv, and this conference will explore its expansion into so many fields that range from school classrooms to corporate boardrooms, from therapy with disenfranchised people living on the margins to engineers, scientists and academics doing innovative work to shape the future. We are so honored to be part of celebrating 10 years of the Alan Alda Center For Communicating Science contributing to this work.”

Photo credit: Courtesy of The Applied Improvisation Network; Drew Tarvin presents at AIN Montreal