Performing Under Pressure

Performing Under Pressure

Co-created and co-facilitated by Mona Thompson, David Havens, and Erik Olesund from Collective Capital, this weekend intensive for undergraduate and graduate students at the Stanford used improv exercises to train students in resilience, spontaneity, shared control, physical presence, storytelling, and stage skills. Students who felt nervous about performing and never imagined that they would take an improv class were encouraged to sign up. The weekend culminated in an improv show where students performed in front of friends and family in a theater in San Francisco.

Learn more about how the class connected to the’s intangible design abilities.


“This course provided one of the safest, most comfortable, energizing, motivating, and exciting learning environments I've ever experienced at Stanford and beyond. The facilitators Mona, Erik and David all did really good jobs setting up the space as a place to let go of preconceived notions of the world especially at the beginning of the class. Asking us to express what would make this place a safe place for learning for each of us to a partner, who would later repeat that to the larger class. This was the best way of setting up a safe learning environment that I've experienced through all the attempts I've seen at Stanford. They also provided a good balance between teaching and making room for every participant to express themselves. I felt heard, and I felt motivated to listen carefully to everyone else and treat everyone as a teammate. The facilitators and the participants were all very excited and dedicated to the course and each other, so I think that really made this a very unique class experience I'm already nostalgic about. This was a rare opportunity to lift people up and I'm so glad I got to experience this environment. Everyone was very open and friendly, all curious and a little scared, which Mona mentioned in the beginning and I think that also helped me know I wasn't alone in feeling that. There was a feeling of solidarity and support and trust throughout this entire experience.”

- Student, Performing Under Pressure

“That I can gradually become more comfortable being on the spot, being in front of people. That the brain (and sometimes even my own) can spit out quite fun things WITHOUT thinking/planning before; I actually like improv (which is really really unexpected!)”

- Student, Performing Under Pressure, in response to the question “What did you learn?”