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Improvisational theatre may be thought of as performed by gifted professional actors, but the skills necessary to survival onstage are being taught in workshops designed to improve corporate performance. Florian Bartsch, co-director and producer of The Improfessionals and NEW – The Improvised Musical, two improv theatre troupes based in Paris, told Expatriates Magazine about the secrets of listening on stage and what can happen when employees and managers are encouraged to test them.

How is listening a part of your improv theatre productions?
In “The Improfessionals Show” we listen to each other by focusing on the pull between spontaneously-created characters so that the story develops by itself. Everything happens so fast and is so complex that we have to be available for each other’s ideas. In my improvised musical, NEW, we listen to spoken language, music, and lyrics in order to play off each other. We have musicians listening to actors, we have an illustrator drawing sets based on the singing, the lighting technician is listening to the MC, who is asking the audience questions. It is a listening network in live performance.

What if something is misunderstood during all of this multilayered listening?
Having fun with mistakes simply creates growth in the story. This easily translates to the corporate world, for example in the development phase of a new product: you need mistakes to indicate where things need to be improved.

What are managers looking for in your workshops?
A lot of companies have the issue that their employees are not emotionally attached to the company or terribly invested in its goals. How can they motivate their employees to stay with them and make them feel recognized on a sustainable level? This is something we focus on in our workshops at HEC: if you’re a leader and want your people to hear your strategy, listen well. It is motivating to feel one is heard. This in turn helps group coherence and performance: reciprocity can be triggered.

A lot of people have the impression that leaders only dictate, but studies of top managers have shown that those who actively listen to their staff can deal with formal and informal problems sooner and more effectively. It can be dangerous for a company if employees can’t express their ideas freely. The same applies in improv: only if you listen can you play a great show.

Florian Bartsch is German and has been improvising and training in Paris for 15 years.

Upcoming shows:
The Improfessionals Show Every 2nd Wed Nov, 5th & 19th, Dec 3rd & 17th at 9.30PM

NEW – The Improvised Musical
Fri 7th, Nov at 8PM, Sun 14 Dec at 6PM, Fri 9 Jan at 8PM

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