‘Improv School’  offers grownups lessons in play

Ali Rafter

Ali Rafter, one of the leaders of Redlands Footlighters Theatre, wants adults to have fun.

She founded “The Improv School” at the nearly 75-year-old theater. “We produce six shows a year, each to an audience of roughly 1,100 people,” said Rafter, who is vice president and scholarship chairwoman for the Footlighters. “I wondered what would happen if those in the audience were given an opportunity to explore time on the stage, without the pressure of auditioning and the commitment of two months of rehearsals.”

Anyone who is willing to give it a try would make a good student of improv, she said. Improv is about saying “Yes!” and supporting your fellow players.”

Rafter has studied improv for more than 30 years, drawn mostly by how “it trains you to listen, to stay present, to cooperate with others and to find the humor in any given situation."

A graduate of UCLA’s School of Theatre, Film and Television, she began teaching improv at the West LA First Baptist High School 20 years ago and taught creative drama to immigrant children in Los Angeles for several years.

After moving to Redlands 16 years ago she offered private acting lessons and led theatre camps for kids at the Redlands Conservatory. Since then, Rafter has studied with the likes of “Improv Theatre” and “The Groundlings” in Los Angeles where Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell and Melissa McCarthy got their start. She became a founding member of her own improv team, “Tastes Like Burning,” in Rialto “because driving to LA on weeknights and spending more than $300 for a course didn't fit with raising a family here in Redlands.” Now, she is excited to be offering improv classes here in our own backyard.

She emphasizes that no experience is necessary to enroll. “Improv is a tool for loosening up, sharpening our listening skills, and being accepting of our mistakes...I see couples and friends benefitting from the class.”