American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
P.O. Box 819
Spring Green, WI 53588
Box Office: 608-588-2361
Words have power, and few people know how to better wield that power than professional actors. Learn more about APT's new professional development workshops with Kelsey Brennan in this Q&A.
APT: What inspired you to create these workshops, and how did they come to be a reality?
Kelsey Brennan: I think actors are incredible. The skillset required to collaborate, improvise, and create a living story is wonderfully unique, and yet the fundamentals that an actor uses every day in rehearsal and performance are applicable to a huge variety of industries. At APT, our work centers around language and authentic communication, so I thought — why not share what we know?
I started writing workshops about four years ago, researched tirelessly, reached out to a handful of pros who provided indispensable advice, and eventually started teaching. During that time, I also worked with the Organizational Development team at Gundersen Health on their Leadership Initiative and was blown away by the progress that was made using structured improv and a little imagination.
APT: What does your skill and experience as a professional actor bring to these workshops?
KB: My work as an actor continuously requires me to listen for understanding, respond to offers with awareness and authenticity, identify my audience, communicate dense, complicated ideas and points of view, think on my feet, develop emotional intelligence, and practice empathy. These skills have not only allowed me to succeed onstage, they have enhanced my personal relationships over and over again. Being an actor is a nontraditional lifestyle to be sure, but the benefits are huge!
APT: What can people expect from each of the different sessions, and how do you tailor them to be valuable to different professional and non-professional groups?
KB: Each workshop I offer is a suggestion of skills we can explore: interpersonal communication, presentations skills, and technical language skills. Aside from those foundations, I think it’s essential to tailor each session to the specific needs of each group. Has there been conflict at work? Have the individuals known each other for a long time? A very short time? Is this a group of friends who want to be better listeners? Is this a group that needs to step outside of their normal workday and shake things up a bit? It’s all on the table! I love the challenge of making each workshop unique.
APT: What makes these sessions different than other professional development workshops?
KB: At the heart of it all, these workshops reflect what I’ve personally learned throughout my career as an actor within the unique culture of APT. Over the years I’ve developed my own aesthetic, learned what works for me and why, and made plenty of mistakes—and I’m eager to share it all! There are theories and practices of professional development that are tried and true, but the way I present those ideas is directly influenced by the experience of being an actor at APT.
The environment is loose, silly, and judgement free for a reason — that’s how the best art is made! These workshops rely heavily on imagination, game play, a sense of humor, and celebrating your failures as a necessary part of growth. It’s almost impossible to take yourself too seriously when you’re making it up as you go!
APT: What do you hope that attendees will take away from these sessions?
KB: Everyone learns differently. My hope is that every individual will walk away with one skill or idea that enhances the way they interact with the world. For example, what happens when you respond to a colleague or friend with ‘yes AND’ instead of ‘yes BUT’? On top of that, I pride myself on creating an environment that is relaxed, playful, and safe for everyone.
APT: What do you love about leading the workshops, and what the workshops can do for attendees?
KB: I love watching people find the courage to step just outside their comfort zone and be rewarded with a new perspective or skill. I’m addicted to these kinds of breakthroughs and they happen almost every time I get into a room with a group. It’s also my great pleasure to witness individuals learn new and surprising details about one another. That’s such a gift.
I really mean it when I say these workshops are customizable. Please reach out and ask questions. Let’s build something!
Learn more and sign up here.