POST FALLS — With the snap of his fingers, Presley DuPuis activated his young pupils to talk, talk and talk.
This was followed by a similar exercise — "Don't Stop Singing."
"The key is to move," he told the class Wednesday morning, playing a few notes on the keyboard. "Music moves along at an infinite momentum until someone decides to make it stop."
DuPuis, an improv coach and musical director for Christian Youth Theater North Idaho, shared his talents and insight with seven youths during day three of Coeur d'Alene Summer Theatre's improv summer camp, held in Expressions School of Performing Arts in Post Falls.
"How can you sing wrong? You cannot," DuPuis encouraged them. "What if you think you're not a good singer? It doesn't matter."
The five-day camp, led by seasoned and local improvisational theater actor Nick Lyons, engaged the campers in activities such as creating and going through a make-believe obstacle course and taking on different character traits while building scenes.
Improv is unscripted, unrehearsed and unpredictable, requiring actors to play well with their peers.
"It's very upbeat," said Adrielle Aguirre, 14, of St. Maries. "It introduces you to new people that you never thought you’d meet. And the fact that they’re in the same class with you from all different journeys in life makes you think like all these different people from so many different lives came together and they can be the best of friends."
Adrielle became interested in improv and theater within the past few months. She said this camp has taught her how improv works and how unique it is for each person.
“You’re not going to be the best one there, there are going to be people who intimidate you, but you aren’t going to be the worst," she said. "You’re going to see people who you think might need more work, and it might even be yourself that you’re seeing."
CST artistic director Jadd Davis said improv has a phrase: "Say yes, stay in and make the other person look good."
“It’s good for keeping the mind nimble, especially kids at this age,” Davis said. "Their minds are quite nimble at this point and they’re able to latch onto these techniques and really run with them.”
CST has been hosting summer camps for five years, but this is the introductory year for improv. Davis said improv truly is "theater for life." It teaches quick wits, teamwork and confidence, all while promoting personal growth.
"The things that scare us the most are probably the things that we should put ourselves through to encourage personal growth and artistic growth,” he said. "Improv is one of those things for most actors that is terrifying. It forces you out of your comfort zone, you aren’t able to sit there and be prepared. You have to learn the skills."
Lyons, 20, has been practicing improv since he was in seventh grade. He said he loves teaching it because everyone needs a little more humor in their lives. Improv, although serious at times, often lends itself to laughter.
“I also think improv is a very valuable skill. Right now I’m improv-ing, I didn’t rehearse this conversation," he said. "Improv is for everyone."