Fulton has found her niche in teaching improvisational theatre to children, and
she owes it all to the suggestion of her mentor, and dear friend, the late Avery
seasoned mainstay in American comedy, many of us remember Schreiber from his
popular Doritos commercials in the late 1970s.
He retired, and began teaching improvisational classes for adults. It was in one of his classes that Linda Fulton
came to know Schreiber after answering an ad for one of these classes in
Backstage West, in the late 1990s. “He
called me back personally. I never
expected “the man” to call me back,” Fulton recollects. “I started going to his class at his
home. Sometimes there were 6 of us,
sometimes it was just me. I was the only
one who came with a book, and I wrote down everything he did, every day. I didn’t even know why I did that. I guess I just wanted to learn all that I
could. And he noticed it.”
background in theatre began when she was a freshman in 1973, and she was
selected to be one of only 16 kids who were taught improvisational theatre, and
later long form improv by the high school theatre department. In 1984 she was accepted into the American
Academy of Dramatic Arts, where she graduated in 1987.
went on to perform and teach improv at the Wildside Theatre in North
Hollywood. “I understood how long form
worked. So, I started teaching. But they didn’t want to do it.” Discouraged,
she lamented her frustrations to her mentor.
It was Avery Schreiber’s suggestion that she teach kids. “Avery Schreiber encouraged me to be a
teacher,” she says. Teaching came
naturally to her. But teaching children
is where she shined. She opened Total
Improv for Kids in 1999, now simply
called Total Improv Kids.
2004 Fulton found a permanent home for Total Improv Kids when she opened the
Avery Schreiber Theatre, named for her friend and mentor. And it is in this theatre, that Linda Fulton
has been able to make some very interesting observations and discoveries about
students range from elementary-aged, on up to high school. She does not divide up her classes by
age. An eight year-old, could easily be
paired up with a 14 year-old in a scene.
They play off of each other, gaining strength in the art of improv by
being able to themselves look beyond normally acceptable boundaries.
diversity of her classes doesn’t end there.
She has children of celebrities, and she has inner-city kids as
well. “Many of our kids come from lower
socio-economic situations, and it isn’t the kids’ fault. They can’t be penalized.” So, she doesn’t turn them away, if they can’t
afford her $65 a month class. And it is
this spirit of giving, and Fulton’s love and belief in improv that has enabled
her to be brought to incredible observations and findings.
sees kids who come to her class withdrawn, and without a voice, transform
before her very eyes. A boy, living in
the shadows of his athletic brother, or an honor student who is the child of
drug addicted parents, or a child with Asperger’s Syndrome, who is emotionally locked
inside himself. For such varying
reasons, these are the kids who often times get overlooked, and under picked in
modern society. But, in Fulton’s class,
they gain confidence, and communication skills, and the ability to think
outside the box. They leave her class,
leaders in their schools. “Kids are
drawn to kids with this kind of energy.
This kind of confidence,” Fulton points out.
am not here to teach these kids theatre,” Fulton explains. “I am trying…it just upsets me that the
educational system is so left-brain oriented.
I’m dyslexic. Because I couldn‘t
put it on paper, I was invalidated at school.
But, this was the 1970s, and not much was done back then for many
left brain is referential. This is where
we learn our dates, facts, our time frame, etc.
But, the right brain is where we are creative, and where we are able to
engage in problem solving. These kids
are hungry to explore that part of their brain. What comes out is their own
continued, “Spontaneity is such an important tool. There is no point of reference. They become independent thinkers. No longer a follower. The problems in your life aren’t always going
to be solved in a book. All it takes, is
for them to have the confidence to do the things they never knew they had the
ability to do before.”
this is where her work really shows itself.
There is an exercise, where she has two students volunteer to sit in two
chairs set up on the stage. One is
handed a book, and is instructed to read, silently. The other is asked to share a story of
something that happened to them. While
the one student reads silently on the stage, the other recounts a story about
her dog, Valentine. Then, after about a
minute or two, Linda tells them both to stop.
She looks at the child with the book, and asks her to share with the
class what she just read. She proceeds
to tell in detail the things she just read. When she is finished, Linda then asks the same
student with the book to now tell the class about the story her partner shared
while she had been reading. In great
detail, she is able to re-tell the story her friend had just told, about her
looks over at me and whispers, “She was using both sides of her brain,
adds, “I want to give these kids the mental tools to know that life isn’t only
black and white. I want them to see
outside the box. All they know is that they’re
having fun. But, their parents see them
become different people. More
compassionate. More confident.”
has observed telling results in the lives of her students, and gives a few
examples. “There was a boy who was being
beat up. Gangs in the area were trying
to get him to join their gangs. This kid
was hungry for our class. He was
desperate to get his mom out of there. I
had no idea. I didn’t know what his
family life was I just saw him for 2-3 hours a week. He developed such a comradery with the kids
in the class. He came to me when he was
16, and said, guess what? I just
graduated high school. Then when he was
18, he said he had to leave our class.
He got a job as a medical assistant.”
told of another former student who has gone on to teach battlefield medicine to
the cadets at West Point. Using the
principals he learned in her class, he is able visualize possibilities others
can’t see. His skill first stood out
when he was in basic training, he then applied it when he went to war in Iraq,
and now he teaches it at West Point. He
has a broadened ability to lead his students in such a way as to train them to
anticipate obstacles that could affect their work while trying to assist a wounded
soldier in times of war. He has credited
the coolness with which he is able to handle stress as a direct result of his
first training, in Total Improv Kids.
of her students come from a life at home that is negative, and
non-supportive. She is experiencing
noticeable results in her students, even from the simple things like learning
to give, and receive positive information, and affirmation. She differentiates, “Laughing with, not
at. It’s very bonding.”
bonding, indeed. Fulton remains in touch
with many of the kids she has taught from the beginning. The father of one of her students passed
away, and Linda was the first person he called when he found out. When the boy from South Central was beat up
by gangs in his neighborhood on his way home from one of her classes, he called
Linda first, to tell her what had happened to him, before he went to the
hospital. These kids have found someone
they can rely on. Many of these kids
have discovered the first person they can trust, in Linda Fulton.
is cognizant that she is on to something significant with Total Improv
Kids. She continues her work, helping
her students achieve their full potential by developing their thinking skills,
problem solving strategies, and confidence, so that they can go out and make a
positive mark in society. Following the
footsteps of one who has done no less, herself.
Avery Schreiber Theatre makes its home in the NOHO Arts District amongst one of
the most densely populated theatre communities in the United States, second
only to New York City. The Schreiber is
available for rent for acting classes, theatre productions, or anyone else who
would enjoy the thriving Noho Arts District community.
Fulton teaches Total Improv Kids three times a week, and is always up for
adding new classes, should the demand increase.
She would even be willing to travel to your community, if she had 8, or
so, committed students. It is her desire
to reach as many kids as she can through this art form.
Theatre, 11050 Magnolia Blvd., North Hollywood, CA 91601
Check out their
Website at www.totalimprovkids.com
Email Linda Fulton