Janna Sobel

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About Janna

I have a background in theater and education. For over 17 years, I've been making and producing theater, while teaching performance and creative collaboration to adults and young people, at places like The Second City, Chicago Dramatists, The Innovation Academy at The University of Notre Dame, and The Leadership Studio at The University of Chicago's Booth School. I use training methods that help people to become free, confident, and happier to be themselves and be with each other, and I believe that these tools should belong to everyone, and not just to performing artists. 

I grew up in the desert, where I learned things about listening. I live in Chicago now, where I teach things about it. I use the tools of Applied Improvisation, Applied Storytelling, and theatrical training exercises to help people to become more confident, authentic communicators, and more inspired, innovative collaborators. Online or in person, this work is playful, dynamic, and full of laughter. Time flies in a workshop or coaching session, and our goals for growth are met. 

The Applied Improvisation tools I use are best known through American comedy. Shows like Saturday Night Live, Whose Line is it Anyway, Key & Peele, Portlandia, Parks & Rec, The Daily Show and many others were built using collaborative improvisation tools that were created nearly 100 years ago. These tools were designed to unite and heal a fractured citizenry, so that people could rebuild the City of Chicago at the end of the Great Depression. After many years of enjoying teaching improvisation (and Improv for Anxiety and Improv for Wellness) to professional performers, business leaders, attorneys, artists and educators, in 2016 I began adapting these tools to serve teams and groups who already work together, and brought this work to companies. This has been an incredible joy.

I am also a professional storyteller, and I produce a large, well-known Live Storytelling show called Here, Chicago. This show is a creative community-building event designed to bring together great people with a wide range of backgrounds and experiences. I've curated and hosted nearly 100 sold-out live shows, featuring nearly 1,000 Chicagoans who share true stories with each other. I co-founded and teach in the Live Storytelling programs at The Second City and Chicago Dramatists, and because I see the way that this training helps people to speak authentically and powerfully, I also bring the tools of Live Storytelling to my work with organizations. 

My interest in sharing these tools with people in business has led me to work frequently with innovation leaders. In these partnerships, I provide experiences that help teams build the crucial relational skills needed for psych-safety and effective innovation. These are the skills of Listening, Empathy, Give & Take, Right Brain Thinking, Yes-And, Ensemble Work, and Storytelling. These skills also help people in organizations who want to change older business models based in hierarchy and exploitation, to models more agile, humane, contributive, and genuinely life-nourishing to all stakeholders: employees, partners, investors, clients, and surrounding communities.

When not teaching and facilitating, I run a couple of unique creative projects. See here to learn more about them! To learn about my performance and public speaking, see here, and here for a bit about my writing. 

I teach ongoingly with:

and I've provided coaching and workshops for individuals and teams within:


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