Coming out of your shell: how improv inspired change in these teens

This Vancouver Island improv team competes at the national Canadian Improv Games.
Introducing Invested, the improv team from Courtenay, British Columbia.

The G.P. Vanier improv team is far from home. They've traveled by water, air and road to make it to Ottawa, and now they're finally ready to compete in the Canadian Improv Games (CIG) nationals.

Together, this group of teens will perform in a series of improv games at the National Arts Centre. The stakes are high: since most of them are in their final year of high school, their CIG performance could be the last time they share a stage together.

But that's what makes every last performance so special to them: "We've been trying to approach each competition with love and excitement," says Chloe, a member of the team.

Chloe went to G.P. Vanier school specifically for their improv team. Before joining, she remembers being shy and unsure of herself. But she came out of her shell when she started performing.

Joining the team was a big step for Nathaniel. He has a form of high functioning autism and found it hard making new friends, especially in the brutal social environment of high school. But improv taught him the significance of what is known in improv as an "offer." 

"Sometimes you need to come forward. You need to make an offer and see how other people fly with that. That helped me a lot in starting conversations," says Nathaniel. His improv team is one of the first friend groups he's shared a deep bond with.

On their performance night, G.P. Vanier gets this prompt from the audience: the Royal Society of Squirrels. They huddle up and plan a scene in the matter of 15 seconds. Each member of the team scrambles to action, creating characters and voices in a scene that unfolds in less than four minutes.

Will they qualify for the final round for a chance at the championship? Follow along with host Andrew Phung and stream the 2019 Canadian Improv Games on CBC Gem.