During the 2020-2021 school year, Urban Improv partnered with Dr. Joseph Spinazzola and the Foundation Trust to innovate a new curriculum exploring loss and grief. The result has been three new filmed scenes called “After Koda,” in which a group of young people grapple with the recent sudden death of a young friend. Our collaborative, mutually-beneficial, long-term partnership with Dr. Spinazzola capitalizes on his expertise as a therapist and playwright and our ensemble’s experience in our program delivery and evaluation.

Rehearsal for Life’s Urban Improv model, whether virtual or in person, depicts realistic scenes in order to spark conversation on difficult topics — in this case, loss and grief are emotions our students are experiencing perhaps more than ever before during the pandemic. Even outside of the pandemic, these emotions are often shied away from in public discourse, including as to how they impact young people.

As a result of our programming, grieving students, and those who have been witnesses to grief, can better recognize what loss can look and feel like in themselves and others, and they can come to understand that responses alternative to their own are just as valid. The first two installments of “After Koda” were piloted to middle grades (6-8) this school year, and we anticipate rolling out the third  installment this fall.

One clear advantage to our growing library of filmed scenes and wider-spread digital accessibility is the possibility of expanding our model’s reach. Spending, out of necessity, a year devoted to research, development and experimentation has fostered learning, growth, connection and innovation — including through this new curriculum. Rehearsal for Life remains in lockstep with all young people, to assure that all their voices are heard and their difficult feelings validated.

Watch “After Koda: Day One” here.

Urban Improv teaching artists Holly Tarnower (left) and Kevin Madison portray students grieving the recent sudden death of a young friend.