Improv techniques create strong public speaking skills for Upper School students

On Nov. 24, Brad McMurran taught the art of improvisation to Upper School students in Judy Davis’ AP Seminar and AP English Language and Composition.

McMurran, class of 1994, is the founder of The Pushers Sketch and Improvisation Comedy Troupe in downtown Norfolk.

After his time at Collegiate, McMurran attended and graduated from Old Dominion University where he studied acting and later went on to train at the Upright Citizens Bridage Theater in Los Angeles. He learned the art of improvisation under the leadership of Actress Amy Poehler and Actor Bobby Moynihan of Saturday Night Live.

In addition to his work with the Push Comedy Club, McMurran teaches improv workshops throughout Hampton Roads where he instructs individuals how to think on their feet.

This was McMurran’s first time on campus in more than 20 years, and he was extremely impressed with Collegiate’s continued advancements, including the Meredith Center for the Arts and the Hackney Theater.

“I host workshops for professionals, children and everyday people,” said McMurran. “Improv teaches individuals how to master quick thinking and public speaking.”

In the spring, the AP Seminar students will speak publically to an audience of their peers, which is why it was important for them to learn improv techniques earlier in the year.

Davis was thrilled to have McMurran on campus to speak to her students.

“Since our AP Seminar students will have to demonstrate their ability to think on their feet during their oral defense this spring, I am confident that Brad’s work with them on improv techniques will pay dividends for them later this year,” Davis said. “Part of my students’ AP Seminar exam score is derived from a team project and multimedia presentation, so we have been working hard on developing both our team work and public speaking skills.”

Students participated in several fun and interactive activities, which helped to build their comfort level in front of an audience.

“Almost immediately the students saw the application of their new found improv skills to the teaming and oral presentation components of AP Seminar,” Davis said. “The workshop not only improved their listening skills, which are essential to good improv, but also built their confidence, their ability to think on their feet and their public speaking skills.”

McMurran demonstrated various improv techniques, including yes and… and the declarative statement.

Students participated in groups of two, which allowed them to become comfortable in front of an audience.         

“I liked the class a lot,” said Katie Georges ’17. “I learned to think on my feet and how to use facts to make the conversation more interesting.”

“It was very interesting and informative,” said Rimsha Haque ’17. “He taught a lot of techniques that I didn’t know existed in improv.”

One of our seniors who really enjoyed the course and was the first to volunteer as a participant was Bash Townes ’16.

“I wanted to get myself out of my comfort zone,” said Bash. “That’s why I jumped at the opportunity to learn something new. I learned how to think on my feet, and it helped me to anticipate things quicker.”

McMurran encouraged students to take away four key components from the course:

  1. Patterns always occur in improv, use that to connect the conversation.
  2. Confidence plays.
  3. Improv can translate into real life; into everyday conversation, especially the yes and… technique.
  4. Take the energy from the other person in the conversation and build on it.

For more information on Brad McMurran’s improv class or the Push Comedy Club, visit



Dec. 4, 2015