Janna Sobel

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About Janna

My professional background is in theater and progressive education. A 17-year teacher of performance to adults and young people, I've always felt that the tools artists & entertainers use to become free, dynamic, joyful communicators and collaborators should belong to everyone. Six years ago, I began tailoring this work to empower people inside of 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 orgs. (A client list is below.)  

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a deeper joy in themselves, and revitalize connections with each other, so that beautiful new things can be made, and outdated systems can be improved. 


The Applied Improvisation tools I use are best known through American comedy. Shows like Saturday Night Live, Whose Line is it Anyway, The Office, The Daily Show and many others were built using improvisation tools that were created by a social scientist nearly 100 years ago. These tools were made to unite and heal a fractured citizenry at the end of the Great Depression, so that people could rebuild the City of Chicago. After many years of performing and teaching improvisation to performers and other professionals, in 2016 I began adapting these tools to serve individuals who already work together.


I'm a professional storyteller, and I produce a large, beloved Storytelling show called Here, Chicago. I've curated and hosted nearly 100 sold-out live shows, featuring nearly 1,000 Chicagoans who share true stories from their lives. I co-founded the Live Storytelling programs at The Second City and Chicago Dramatists, and because I see that this training helps people to unite across dividing lines, and to speak joyfully from the heart, I 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 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 outdated business models based in hierarchy and exploitation, to models more agile, humane, and genuinely life-nourishing for every stakeholder.


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

I teach ongoingly with:

Clients include:


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