Lisa Safran

Lisa Safran, Founder & Training Strategist

Improv Consultants Lisa Safran photo

Lisa Safran has over 15 years experience in training and development. As the founder & training strategist of Improv Consultants, Lisa believes that when it comes to training, ONE SIZE DOES NOT FIT ALL. She works collaboratively with her clients to support customizing business training and coaching programs.

Lisa has a background in theater and improvisation making “fun” an operative word when it comes to the programs she facilitates. Lisa facilitates experiential professional development programs with individuals, businesses, and teams. As a training strategist, Lisa helps her clients strengthen communication & leadership skills, and develop healthier teams through training and team building programs.

Lisa has had the pleasure of working with many cultures around the world and living overseas twice in her lifetime; so far.

Lisa is the author of two books – Reading and Writing Come Alive and Executive Presence Improv Style. When Lisa is not working, she is working. But work for her is also play as she loves what she does – and there is also Nellie her adorable Maltipoo puppy who plays along side her.

 

Here is Lisa’s story in her own words:

“RUUUUUN!” The word echoed against the empty sea, as boats smashed into a million pieces. Silence replaced by a cacophony of terror. I took off chased by an unseen monster. As I ran inland from the beach, people ran toward me, some covered with blood, but all covered with fear. I took shelter in a gazebo wondering which way to go. A terrible cracking sound erupted and a chef bedecked by a tall white hat, came kicking through a bamboo fence followed by frightened Thai women wearing long silk dresses and flip flops, and a tourist dressed in white carrying a wicker basket. The chef ran by me and began scrambling up the hill and like the white rabbit in Alice in Wonderland, we all followed. I watched the tall white hat bob between the dark green vines and trees and desperately tried to keep it in sight. This hat felt like my salvation.

Several hours later at an evacuation area I reunited with my traveling companion. Together with newfound friends, we got through the night. Thai women collected fish from the beach and made curry that kicked my heart and soul into life. We watched the news and slept little that night. In the morning, along with hundreds of tourists and locals, we boarded boats piled high with belongings to make our way to Krabi, 45 minutes away. I stood on the deck looking out at the debris of homes, luggage, and trees floating by on the water. Except for a young Thai girl whispering unknown words to her pet bunny that she clutched to her chest, the rest of us were silent.

Here’s what I know. On the morning of December 26th, 2004 I was an elementary school teacher on vacation in Thailand. I was a former actress, stand up comic, and musician — all of which I missed terribly (except being a stand up comic…I just wasn’t that funny). I had thrown it all out to lead a “responsible life” that was secure. By afternoon, I had survived one of the deadliest natural disasters in our century and was consumed with survivor’s guilt and was anything but secure.

From this place of despair and regret I looked at my life and from the silence came sound— The sound of creativity, the sound of passion, the sound of strength. There is an improvisation game called “New Choice” where a director will either call out “new choice” or dings a bell, letting the improviser know that they need to change what they last said. Sometimes the bell will keep ringing until the director feels satisfied.  The bell had rung, and it was loud.

There were three items on my list of things I must do to live a fuller life.

  1. Create a business that truly blended my creativity with my education
  2. Produce an album of my original music
  3. Live overseas

The first two seemed impossible, but living overseas as a teacher was completely doable. In August of 2005, I boarded a plane to Bangkok.

I taught a 3rd grade class with students mainly from the Mekong region and several from other parts of the world. I used improvisational theatre games to support teaching language arts and quickly noticed that students not only enjoyed the games, but developed increased confidence in speaking and presenting. Picking up a cheap guitar I began to compose music- feeling my way around the strings and listening for sounds that would break the silence.

Two years came and went and a cold foggy San Francisco summer day welcomed me home in 2007.

Then there were two things on my list.

  1. Create a business that truly blended my creativity with my education
  2. Produce an album of my original music

Upon returning home I developed a program on using improvisation to build literacy and began writing a book. In 2010 Reading and Writing Come Alive: Using Improvisation to Build Literacy was published and I presented workshops on the topic at various conferences around the country. That same year I produced Dreams that Matter, a CD of original music, some of which were songs composed on my cheap guitar sitting on the balcony overlooking the Gulf of Thailand.

And then there was one thing left on my list.

  1. Create a business that truly blended my creativity with my education

There is something about starting a business that feels a bit like standing on the edge of a cliff and knowing that the only way off of it is to jump but all you see is a raging river below with sharp protruding rocks. I jumped anyway.

It’s been years now since filing my DBA as Improv Consultants. I still sometimes feel like I am on the edge of a cliff but the passion and joy this work brings to me and others provides a soft landing each time I am willing to take the risk. Improvisation is all about saying yes to the offer and moving the story forward. I thought the story of my new business was that I would provide staff development to teachers around the area of literacy. Then a tech firm in San Francisco asked me to facilitate an improvisational business training to support team building. I said, Yes…and then an individual asked me to help them develop confidence to lead more effective presentations and I said, YES again. Individuals wanting to free themselves from the perceived constraints of standing on various cliffs looking down only able to see raging water and rugged rocks also sought me out- and I helped them see the brilliance of the sky, the joy of the water splashing, and that anything is possible when you move the story forward.

There was a new thing on my list.

Create a new list and continue the story!

San Rafael Chamber of Commerce Applied Improvisation Network Practitioner
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