Springer Opera House offers Academy for adults

Springer Institute teaches business skills through stage skills

sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.comFebruary 9, 2012 

The Springer Opera House is constantly trying out new things, and one of the most innovative is Springer Institute.

It started a couple of years ago when parents would go up to Springer artistic director Paul Pierce.

“They would come up to me after the Springer Theater Academy sessions, and ask ‘What have you done to my child? He (or she) is now polite, engaging and has turned back into a human,’ ” Pierce said.

He said it was the training they received at the Academy. The basic thing is that they are not the center of the universe and that they need to work with other people.

And they learn life skills from theater skills.

The parents asked why the Springer couldn’t come up with a similar program for adults.

After talking things over with Academy director Ron Anderson, the Springer Institute was formed.

It teaches business skills through stage skills.

Jef Holbrook, who was in the first Theater Academy class when it was founded in 1996, is the director.

That’s kind of funny because I’ve known Jef before he started spelling it with one F, and he was maybe 14. He was always a goofy child.

Now, he’s a goofy, but very responsible adult. I think you can credit the Academy on that.

Through Springer Institute, companies can take ComedyU classes.

It’s leadership training with a twist. Through these classes or workshops or whatever you want to call it, you can learn ensemble leadership, which “focuses on improving communication within a group, problem solving, conflict prevention and creative thinking skills.”

So there are workshops to teach this, you say. But how many workshops use zombies with fake mustaches? ComedyU does.

Before it goes nation-wide, Holbrook wanted to make sure some local companies can use these skills. So groups from the Community Foundation of the Chattahoochee Valley, Aflac and local Toastmasters clubs have taken the workshops.

How good is the workshop?

Susan Goodsell of NorthWords Toastmasters told me that it was a great experience. She said Jef came to a meeting and observed and tried to get a feeling for the weaknesses the speakers had.

Then he went back to his office and came up with a game plan.

The Toastmasters went to the Springer for the workshop.

“He saw that we need to add drama (to the speeches),” Susan said. “I can teach people how to use their hands to make a point. But he taught drama and using body language and using the whole stage.”

She said he also taught the speakers how to go “over the top.”

And that’s what will count when they go to state competitions. Well, actually, the 12 Toastmasters clubs in Columbus will compete at the club level, then the area level, district level (Columbus, Macon and Warner Robins). The district level winners go to the state level. The process starts in May.

I wanted to know why people in Toastmasters need help.

“Obviously for our group, we are more accustomed to being in front of people,” Susan said. “I felt the Springer helped us to break down barriers like ‘all those people looking at me.’ Jef also helped us to start thinking outside of the box.”

She said since the workshop, the NorthWords members have bonded. “We are more supportive of each other because we shared that experience. That was a really big win. We were part of something special. It was a great experience.”

If you want more information about Springer Institute, call Jef at 706-256-3494.

Sandra Okamoto, sokamoto@ledger-enquirer.com, or 706-571-8580.

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