Storytime Live!

Improv techniques that work, or, just get a hand puppet

June 26, 2016

Amy Steinbauer and Bobby.
Amy Steinbauer and Bobby.

“This is Bobby.”

The woman at the podium had just pulled out a hand puppet.

Had she not been a children’s librarian, I might have been concerned.  But everyone knows children’s librarians are a little silly. And right now, Amy Steinbauer, Children’s Librarian at the District of Columbia Public Library, was taking it to the next level with her tiny friend.

Steinbauer, who trained with the improv comedy troupe The Upright Citizens Brigade in Los Angeles, has incorporated those acting techniques into her library storytimes and sharing them at her Storytime Live! Improv Techniques That Work! session. But instead of using the ‘Yes and…’ rule of improv, she changed it to ‘Silly and…’ for her storytime stage.

“I find ‘Silly and…’ really opens the door to having fun,” she explained, after a round of the improv game Zip Zap Zop with volunteers from the audience. “Plus, I really want the kids and parents to know that we are in this together. We are doing storytime, not me.”

It is this ‘Group Think’ idea that Steinbauer believes empowers people to feel more connected. It also takes the pressure off her. She admits to still getting slightly nervous even before her storytimes, hence the value of her friend Bobby.

“Don’t forget that you always have partners to work with should you get nervous or forget the words to a song. First, you have the book itself, and then there is Bobby,” she exclaimed, as she kissed Bobby and began a conversation with him to the astonishment of everyone in the room.  “Partners like Bobby buy me time and keeps people engaged.”

Then Bobby’s tiny hand did a little wave goodbye and we all waved back, suddenly sad to see him go.

And just like that, a 99-cent hand puppet had the most power in the room. Steinbauer had proved her point: Being silly is fun.