Leadership Spotlight Honors Class

By Samara Demray

This year for the Honors Program here at Peace, there was a class offered this semester called Leadership Spotlight Improv (BSA-391HL) and students do not have to be in the Honors Program. This class was taught by Dr. Newhouse in Leggett Theatre due to COVID-19 restrictions. 

The basis of this class as stated in the syllabus, “This course is designed to introduce you to some fundamental principles associated with the study and practice of improvisation and explore some ways that such principles might inform the way people create public personas.  We will not be learning to “be good leaders” per se but will analyze how a few basic skills associated with leadership in public roles (schools and businesses) can be enhanced by an understanding of basic theatrical improv techniques.”

In this class, students did improvisation activities on stage to get them out of their comfort zone, helping develop sets of skills through games, scenes and scenarios, skits, and so much more! Through those activities, the goal was to apply these activities to real-life social as well as professional situations. Students gained knowledge on how to interact with other leaders through this class.

Photo by Dr. Newhouse

Some of the most liked activities throughout the semester were, Developing and Maintaining Character, Dude scenes, and Advanced Status.

Developing and Maintaining Character activity came from a scenario called “Hitchhiker.” In this scenario, there are three people in the scene and they rotate when they pass the hitchhiker. The hitchhiker gets in the “car” and now becomes a character and the others in the scene must follow the scene based on the personality or character traits the hitchhiker began with. 

Through that game, students were able to figure out how to listen, portray, and maintain that character or personality throughout the scene. By doing so, in leadership, you may have to do things or be in the spotlight at all times and you must find a way to maintain who you are and not let others take you out of your character.

The next activity is the Dude Scenes. In this particular scene, two people are given a scene to act out and they must only use the word “Dude” and add emotion to their dude dependent upon the scene. Then, two others come on and act out the Dude scene by using words trying to figure out what the previous two students portrayed. The hardest thing about this scene is trying to match up what the Dude scene meant in words. 

The activity taught students that they need to pay attention because everyone thinks differently and creates their reality based on the impact of what they have heard. Everyone also interprets differently which means that all leaders take leadership differently.  

Advanced Status was the hardest activity that the students had to do in this class and challenged everyone to think. Since this is a leadership class, most of the students were student leaders or are leaders in whatever they may do. The status activity goes like this: four students are given a number one through ten with one being the lowest possible status and ten being the highest status. Students don’t know what number they are given but know the number of others.

With that, the students must treat others based on their number and then order themselves based on how they were treated. This challenges students to take on roles that they may not have taken on before. 

Students within this class found themselves learning about who they are, what kind of leader they are, and how to become more self-aware. Most feel like this should be a class that is required because you learn more about yourself and others that you are surrounded by daily!