Improvisational Leadership - Dave Morris
Updated: Mar 8, 2022
Dave Morris knows that sometimes things don't work out - but it is the fear of failure that is usually more destructive than the failure itself.
Dave Morris is a speaker, teacher, and storyteller, but mostly he's an improviser. He's been teaching, producing and performing improvisation around Canada and the world for over 20 years.
Improv is about observing, interpreting and then adding to that situation. – just like life! For Dave, this is a very important skill for leaders to have – to not just come up with ideas but also understand what ideas are already there and then, from there, take action!
To Dave, teaching and performing are inseparable. Though improv is primarily a comedic form, you can see the performer and their vulnerabilities on stage which creates the connection with the audience.
Understanding this connection has made him realize that sometimes regardless of his best efforts, somethings are just not going to work! He believes that you have to be okay with failing sometimes so that the fear of failure goes away and doesn’t stop you from doing the things you want to do - the failures are never as bad as you think they are, you need to pay attention and take action that will make the change.
Shy as a kid, Dave found his place in the world of not fitting in in the drama class where he was introduced to improv. Thus, began a lifelong love story. Improv brought him to Victoria about ten years ago when started dating his now-wife and started teaching improv from a dilapidated studio on Yates. He has since been teaching full time and started the Paper Street theatre.
Improv gave him his first taste of leadership in high school when two of his drama teachers pushed him into leadership roles by asking him to help teach and get things organized. His first high school drama teacher was a big personality who taught Dave performance skills to hold people’s attention for a long time. His next drama teacher was very strict disciplinarian who taught him the value of doing things a certain way and those lessons have stayed with him to this day.
Currently, Dave is the artistic director of the award-winning Paper Street Theatre co. in Victoria B.C. Dave has also been a long-time volunteer and regional director for the Canadian Improv Games, and performs his one-man improvised storytelling shows to high acclaim. He has performed and taught at festivals around the world, including Seattle, Chicago, London, Berlin, Romania, Amsterdam, and many more across Canada.
When Dave’s not on stage, he can be found teaching the skills of improvisation to university professors, radio hosts, business owners, or even students at the prestigious MIT. His TEDx talk The Way of Improvisation has more than 300,000 views on YouTube and is used in schools around the world to introduce students to the value of improvisation.
His life’s work is teaching people how to play and the only thing he likes more than teaching, is learning.
Despite the times that we see ourselves now in, Dave finds hope in his belief and experience that no matter how bad things get in the present, in the end people like laughing together, sharing and connecting. He used the lockdown period to spend more time with his son, to play the piano, to create apps, draw, record a podcast and practice magic tricks! Instead of denying a bad situation, you just accept that and take action on it from that place – whether in improv, theatre, storytelling or in life. His advice to future leaders is that “no matter how prepared you think you are, you will need to improvise, to be flexible and adapt to the situation” – just like improv!
Though the Paper Street Theater has cancelled its 2020-21 season, they are still conducting some classes. You can find more about Dave, his work, and what else he’s up to in the links below:
By Chandrima Mazumdar, I write on topics related to leadership, diversity, media and gender equality.