Theresa Robbins Dudeck, PhD, is currently teaching and researching IMPRO in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, at UFMG on a U.S. Scholar Fulbright. She is an improvisation and applied improvisation scholar-artist working in both academic and professional settings, and she is considered one of the foremost teachers of Keith Johnstone's Impro System. She is also the Literary Executor for Keith Johnstone and Co-Director of the Global Improvisation Initiative (GII). Theresa received her PhD in Theatre from the University of Oregon, her M.A. from California State University at Northridge, and her B.A. from University of Alabama at Birmingham.
A Brief Personal History
Theresa's passion is improvisation. She's been studying and teaching improvisation (impro) for over twenty years. But she's been a theatre geek all of her life, performing in her first Equity production at the ripe age of eleven playing Brigitta in The Sound of Music. Theresa was born in San Diego into a family of professional musicians and artists, so the gravitational push towards a life in the performing arts was too strong to resist. At the age of thirteen, her family moved to Alabama. A big cultural adjustment, but after a few awkward, trying-to-fit-in years, Theresa reclaimed her theatre geek side, and until she finished college and moved away, she regularly performed in shows, commercials, and radio spots in the Birmingham-Nashville-Atlanta markets.
Theresa's first in-depth exploration of improvisation was in a Spolin-based course she took as an undergrad theatre major/dance minor at UAB. Viola Spolin's theatre games are foundational to improvisational theatre practice worldwide. Theresa didn't fall in love with improvisation, however, until she moved to Los Angeles in 1995 and began studying with the late, great Avery Schreiber - an original Second City member who taught in the Spolin tradition with mastery and benevolence. Spolin's son, Paul Sills, co-founded Second City in Chicago and based much of the company's early, purely improvisational work on his mother's teachings. Theresa had the rare opportunity to study with Paul in an intensive in Door County in 2006.
Also in 2006, as part of her graduate research, Theresa began studying with/documenting Keith Johnstone, pioneer of impro. She has since been a participant-observer in Keith's classrooms around the world. She has visited multiple archives, conducted numerous interviews, and facilitated practice-based research. Through it all, Theresa continued to test his methods and theories in her own classrooms and rehearsal spaces. In 2013, her book - Keith Johnstone: A Critical Biography - was published (Bloomsbury) and has been critically well-received. In 2012, Theresa began serving as Keith's Literary Executor, actively organizing, documenting, and preserving his archive for future scholarship. In the summer of 2014, the archive was shipped to Stanford University Libraries where the "Keith Johnstone Papers" are now permanently housed in Special Collections and University Archives.
Before returning to graduate school in 2005, Theresa performed professionally as a singer, dancer, and actor (on stage, at sea, with a vaudeville troupe, etc.). She served as artistic director/founder of Beach Kids on Broadway (BKOB), a unique youth theatre company based in Manhattan Beach. Launched in 2001 with choreographer Amy Langer Schwartz, over BKOB's four-year existence, Theresa hired some of the best theatre practitioners and musicians in L.A. to work alongside her and a core group of thirty exceptional young performers as they collectively devised fourteen musical theatre revues. BKOB was featured in a Back Stage West issue spotlighting the best youth theatre training in Los Angeles.
In May 2017, Theresa co-founded/co-directed the first Global Improvisation Initiative (GII) Symposium launched from both UC Irvine and Chapman University. The GII Symposium 2019 took place in London at Middlesex University in collaboration with Improbable theatre company. Also, after 4 productive years (2013-2017) serving as an Assistant Professor, Artistic Faculty, at Chapman University, Theresa decided it was time to more aggressively pursue work outside of academia in applied improvisation. Since taking that leap, Theresa has traveled to China twice (2017 & 2019) to teach applied impro, she began co-directing "The Keith Johnstone Documentary," had her Applied Improvisation book published, was a Visiting Artist at Ohio University for a term, moved to Portland, began teaching impro at PSU, and has facilitated applied impro workshops for over a dozen new organizations in the Pacific Northwest and elsewhere.
Next up...a little 4-month side trip to Belo Horizonte, Brazil! Why? Because Theresa was awarded a 2019-2020 U.S. Scholar Fulbright to teach/research IMPRO in UFMG’s School of Fine Arts graduate program!