Improv with an impact
Using the President’s Engagement Prize, seniors Philip Chen and Meera Menon will create a nonprofit to bring improv training to Philadelphia public schools.
The Unscripted Project is designed to run 10-week improv courses for students in grades 6 to 10 in Philadelphia public schools taught by teaching artists from the Philly Improv Theater, which was founded and is headed by a Penn alum.
The project’s mission is to use improv training to empower students to speak confidently, collaborate effectively, and embrace the value of practice and perseverance. The goal is to transform how young people view their potential within and beyond the classroom.
“Everything we’ve learned to this point in terms of our theater experience has translated to success in the real world,” says Chen, a real estate and finance major and cinema and media studies minor from Melbourne, Australia. “We truly believe to our core that improv is a transformational tool: the ability to operate in uncertainty, be adaptable, and be able to react appropriately, is crucial right now.”
Chen has been on the stage since fourth grade, the year his elementary school offered performing arts classes. That experience led him to join the Young Australian Broadway Chorus, a theater training program. In high school he was cast in lead roles in musicals and was even in a professional production of “The King and I.” Chen said one of his most memorable experiences at Penn was being part of “Yellow Face”, a pioneering play celebrating Asian American identity by the Front Row Theater Company his junior year.