Janna Sobel

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About Janna

My professional background is in theater and progressive education. Teaching performance for 17 years to adults and young people, I have always felt that the tools performers use to become free, confident communicators and collaborators should belong to everyone. Six years ago, I began tailoring this work to empower teams and organizations. 

I continue to work as a teacher for institutions like The Second City,The Innovation Academy at the University of Notre Dame, and The Leadership Studio at The University of Chicago's Booth School, while bringing these tools to private companies, public and non-profit organizations, as well.  

I grew up in the desert, where I learned things about listening. I live in Chicago now, where I teach things about it. I am most interested in helping people restore a deeper joy in their working lives, by helping them remember they can trust themselves, and each other. 


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 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 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.


I am 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 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 individual clients and 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 critical relational skills needed for truly inspired 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 defunct business models based in hierarchy and exploitation, to models more agile, humane, contributive, and genuinely life-nourishing to all stakeholders.


When not teaching and facilitating, I run a couple of unique community-building creative projects. See here for my own public speaking and performance work, and here for writing projects. 

I teach ongoingly with:

Clients include:


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