Comedy Camp for Kids and Adult Workshops Are Offered at Comedy Playground in August
Helping kids find their voice through stand-up comedy is the goal of comedienne, actress, and drama teacher Susanna Spies.
The Princeton native, graduate of Littlebrook School and Princeton High School, will be back in her home town the week of August 19-23 to launch her Comedy Playground Summer Camp for kids and interested adults.
“With stand-up, I think you can show your own view of the world,” says Ms. Spies, president and founder of Comedy Playground. “I try to help students be comfortable with their own voice. They get to use real experiences, personal material, whatever is on their mind.”
An actress and stand-up comedienne, Ms. Spies has performed in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, among other locations.
Best known for her character work, she has introduced her “faces” on stages throughout the U.S., in “The Dryer”, featuring more than 30 characters in her one-woman show. She recently filmed Nuvo TV’s hit stand-up show, Stand Up and Deliver, and has performed at the most well-known comedy venues in Los Angeles, including The Improv, Comedy Store, Laugh Factory, Comedy Union, and many other venues throughout the U.S.
Always interested in working with young people, she was a drama instructor for middle school students in Los Angeles, and developed her own curriculum.
Eventually, this led to her establishment of Comedy Playground, a program for youth, headquartered out of the Hollywood Improv. The program started with three students, and now has reached thousands since its beginning in 2002.
Ms. Spies works with students ages eight to 19, as well as with adults, 19 to 45 in “Finding Your Funny” workshops, and for seniors 55-103 in “Senior Stand-up” workshops.
“Laughter is ageless, a universal longing, a tool helpful to all,” she points out. “One of my students was a 103-year-old woman who used a walker. She could focus on her own issues with humor. It’s never too late to laugh!”
People come to Comedy Playground classes for a variety of reasons, she adds. For many, it’s simply a chance to have fun, while others may be hoping for a career in comedy.
Point of View
“Some of the kids who have come to my classes have been successful in getting work in comedy,” says Ms. Spies. In fact, after eight weeks of classes in improvisation and stand-up comedy under her tutelage, all the students have an opportunity to perform at Hollywood Improv.???
The training process involves activities that not only examine the structure and delivery of jokes, but also encourages participants to express their point of view. “I’m encouraging them to share who they are through comedy,” explains Ms. Spies.
The three hour classes include improvisation and warm-up exercises, then developing stand-up routines. “It’s heart to head to hand,” she continues. “They feel it, think about it, and then write it. Stand-up takes discipline and focus. It’s very concentrated. You start with ‘What I feel’ and then think about it. That’s the premise, and then we develop a joke.”
The kids are free to have fun, without worrying that they may be wrong or making a mistake, she adds. “I like them to understand that there are no wrong answers. The hardest thing is to get them to believe that whatever they do is okay and won’t be wrong. They can feel free to be themselves.”
Students benefit from the classes in many ways, she believes. “It increases self-confidence and self-esteem, and also helps develop time management skills, presentational skills, critical thinking, and expository skills. It’s wonderful to see a very timid kid come of his or her shyness. They can blossom and become passionate about doing stand-up. I love bonding with the kids and giving them this opportunity. I’m really passionate about this.”
Ms. Spies is equally passionate about her own performances. As she says, “When I’m performing, I’m at home; I’m in my element, and am very free and liberated.
Comedy Boot Camp
Offering the Comedy Camp Workshop for kids and young people, aged 8 to 13 and 14 to 19, as well as for interested adults, is Ms. Spies way of sharing her skills with the residents of her home town. The camp will be held August 19 through 23, for one week. Cost for the camp is $375, with classes Monday through Friday at 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m.
“This is week-long comedy ‘boot camp’, with an ending show,” explains Ms. Spies. And no previous experience needed. As she says, “You don’t have to have any performing experience, as long as you have opinions, like to laugh, and have something to say. You learn your own stand-up comedy routine, develop it from ideas, and share it with the community.”
She adds that programs in the arts can always benefit from the generosity of individuals and organizations. “We will be grateful to anyone who supports us at any level.”
Energy and a sense of excitement accompany the Comedy Camp, and as she points out, “My motto is ‘Why sit … when you can stand up!’ and ‘We each have our own story … now is the time to share it!’”
Register as soon as possible. Places are limited. For more information call (323) 397-2709, email Susanna at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website: www.comedyplayground.com.