By Denman Wall
Master Improv Teacher
One of our newest NYSAE members, Scotty Watson, Master Improv Teacher of Artistic New Directions, also known as ANDTheatre Company, has already made an impact on NYSAE through his comedy and acting skills. Although I met Scotty briefly prior to January’s Deep Dive on Engagement, it was witnessing his approach to engagement through improv that really said to me, “Self, you need to interview this dude for InView.” (Scotty, I just improvised there, right?).
The next time you bump into Scotty at an NYSAE event, be sure to introduce yourself. You’ll be glad you did!
Heeeere’s Scotty! (another improv moment for me…)
Denman Wall: Welcome to NYSAE! As a relatively new member of our association, what is the most intriguing aspect of our organization that you can share with our readers?
Scotty Watson: Definitely the Deep Dives. In a lifetime within the nonprofit space, I feel like I have “invented the wheel” many times over. By that, I mean that each not-for-profit organization I have joined has similar problems and challenges, and each organization feels like they are taking on those challenges alone.
We often have common educational and skill development needs. The experiences and training of NYSAE not only provides a menu of solutions but creates a feeling of community. We are not the only one taking on these challenges. We are not alone!
Denman: Thanks for that insight... Would you share a little bit about what you do and what the ANDTheatre Company does?
Scotty: ANDTheatre Co. assists in the development of new theatrical works. They help you take your idea from inspiration to production… through perspiration. Meaning that, similar to NYSAE, we give people the tools, training, and experience to do the work themselves.
For example, if you had an idea for a new show, I would send you to our Wednesday workshop program called Anything Goes! There, you could read what you have written out loud, or have actors read it for you, to a live audience. Then you can get feedback from theatrical professionals.
ANDTheatre encourages creative artists to use improvisation in the development of their work. That’s where I come in. I teach longform actor’s improvisation. Where improv comedy is all about the quickly delivered joke, what I teach is being in the moment, listening and following the scene where it goes. It often ends up very funny to watch, but it’s a more organic funny that comes from the situation and the characters.
Denman: You recently presented at an NYSAE Deep Dive on the topic of engagement. Tell our readers how you've been able to mashup improvisation with business coaching and professional development...
Scotty: I try very hard not to tell people how improv relates to business and professional development. I listen when THEY tell ME.
I do a lot of improv for business workshops whether it’s individuals coming to my workshops for professional development, or a business bringing me in as a team builder or to develop listening and brainstorming skills.
I try not to draw conclusions for the participants. I present the skills, we practice the skills, and then we discuss their application. Rather than tell my participants how to apply improv to their business life, I ask them how they might apply it. I’ve heard some fascinating applications over the years! There is no way I could have thought of all the creative and meaningful ways my participants have told me they’ve applied improv to their businesses. Nobody knows your business as well as you do!
If you’d like to join my next improv for business workshop please go to www.improv4.biz
Part of the proceeds of every workshop goes to ANDTheatre Co.
Denman: Who would you say are your mentors? Who did you watch growing up? Who inspires you now?
Scotty: Growing up I loved Jonathan Winters and Red Skelton. Both of them were comedians who used free association and physical comedy.
As a teacher, I was intensely mentored by Michael J. Gellman, the professor emeritus at The Second City Chicago, and Gary Austin, the founder of The Groundlings in LA. They gave so freely of their time that mentoring is a core value for me.
My improv philosophy comes directly from Elaine May, who talks about improv in a very no-nonsense manner, demystifying it with a simple set of 3 core principles that encapsulate all the necessary skills. She’s a genius!
Denman: Everyone who lives and/or works in The Big Apple has a "New York story." Tell us about your journey and arrival in New York City.
Scotty: I’m originally from Toronto. Canadians are very polite but they’re not very warm. New Yorkers are warm… But they sure ain’t polite. Let me explain…
When I first got to New York there was a local coffee shop I was going to every morning. They had cups by the register and, on the other side of the room, they had the coffee. Every morning I came in, grabbed a cup, walked over and filled it with coffee, walked back and paid.
On the third day, the owner yelled at me!
“You’re doing it wrong! You come over and you buy the cup! You walk over there and put whatever the heck you want in it, I don’t care. When you leave! I’m sorry I’m shouting at you but you’re doing it wrong and you’re driving me nuts!”
In Toronto, they would politely let you do it wrong forever. When that coffee shop owner yelled at me, I knew that I found my people.
Denman: I think I know that coffee shop owner! So, what is the coolest thing about what you do?
Scotty: I get to have intense learning experiences with many different people. When someone is taking an improv class, they often want to share what they’ve learned. That leads to the building of community. So, the coolest thing about what I do is I get to engage with my two favorite things… People and community. Which are, of course, the same thing.
Denman: What can NYSAE do to enhance the nonprofit and association community even further?
Scotty: One of the things that, in my opinion, the nonprofit and association community needs is to identify areas of overlap, and to work cooperatively. I often see organizations in the nonprofit space developing silos in an unhealthy way. Having an organization like NYSAE that can help us objectively identify areas of overlap and potential cooperation is incredibly valuable!
Denman Wall is the Sr. Director of Interactive Services at Dolci Interactive and editor of InView.