Passing the Bechdel Test

Participants: Level 3
Lisa Rowland and Dave Dennison from San Francisco, USA
The workshop will be taught in English
Duration: 16 hours

The American cartoonist Allison Bechdel once pointed out how rare it is to find films with at least one scene where two women talk to each other about something other than a man. This became popularised as the Bechdel Test, and sparked a wider conversation about gender representation in our stories. In this class, we will explore techniques developed for the impro format the Bechdel Test, aimed to highlight the multi-faceted nature of women by putting them at the centres of stories.

This workshop will be highly active with lots of playtime. We will learn techniques to explore a character, noticing the seemingly incongruous parts of her, picking up on the ways she may even contradict herself. Instead of seeing women as unidimensional accessories in the stories of men, we will spend time to explore them from every angle. As we will see, these are skills that can apply to bring depth to any type of character who is often underrepresented onstage. In addition, the workshop will provide a non-linear approach to storytelling with an emphasis on realistic acting and character-driven action.

NOTE: We will be creating a workshop group composed mainly of women to allow us to honour the workshop theme. However, men who are interested in the theme are also welcome to apply, and we will allocate up to a quarter of the places to interested men. If a man chooses this workshop as his first choice but cannot be accepted due to the numbers, we will automatically put him in the workshop of his second choice.

Workshop factors: Emotional, high tempo, personal sharing, some grounding in narrative improvisation useful


Lisa Rowland performs at BATS Improv - a true institution in US west coast improvisation - and has pioneered amazing formats such as the Bechdel Test there, at the Improv Playhouse, and beyond. She teaches prolifically and lectures at Stanford University on improvisation and innovation and design thinking. She is the co-host of a podcast called Monster Baby, which explores the intersection of wisdom between mindfulness and improvisation.

Dave Dennison was BATS’s Artistic Director from 2005-2008 and has been a member since 1998. He developed the improvised stage play format “Family Drama” which has been annually performed for nearly 15 years. Dave has led improv trainings at Stanford, UC Berkeley and for corporate clients including Apple and Google.  His private class The Method of the Moment has been exploring the essence of improvisational theatre since 2014.

Dave and Lisa frequently collaborate together inside and outside of BATS, including in the improv show Awkward Dinner Party.

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