Women We Love: Eileen Kahana, Founder Room2Improv

When Eileen Kahana took her first improv class at The Second City, she never imagined it would change her life. A retired teacher from Chicago Public Schools, Kahana challenged herself to take the class to stretch herself creatively. Once she was in the class, however, she realized she was getting way more than a few laughs. “I wanted to punch my instructor in the nose,” she stated. Her teacher, Today Improv’s Jay Sukow, was forcing her to say “Yes, and…” even if she was thinking “No way!”. This caused Eileen to reframe her way of thinking, seeing a world of possibility for improv to improve lives beyond theaters in Chicago.

Eileen’s experience in class inspired her to start Room2Improv, a non-profit organization bringing improv to students. “I knew improv belonged in the classroom,” she said, as it encouraged her to work with her classmates as an ensemble, where there were no mistakes and everyone was accepted. Eileen’s not the only one who sees the benefits of improv in education. Second City posted an article “10 Reasons for Teachers to Use Improv in the Classroom” claiming improv fosters collaboration and is more inclusive of different learning styles.

In an interview with CBS Chicago, Eileen explained the benefits she saw using improv in the classroom. “I saw the kids energized…listening to one another…supporting [each other] in a positive way simply by saying ‘Yes, and’ instead of ‘No, but’.”

Eileen believed everyone could benefit from taking an improv class, but not everyone had the luxury to afford a class at Second City which can cost around $300 for one 8-week term. As she would say, she really wanted to bring the joy of improv to “those who can’t afford it or wouldn’t think to take it.” She soon found that there were several populations that could benefit from improv, so she expanded her services to veterans, seniors, and corporations. Her team includes the former teacher she wanted to punch, with several other alumni from The Second City, The Annoyance, and iO Theater in Chicago. While they all attended Chicago’s finest comedy schools, they believe in expanding improv’s influence beyond the comedy community.

Room2Improv continues to grow, establishing relationships with organizations throughout the Chicagoland area. Clients include Rauner College Prep, University of Illinois Chicago, Noble Street College Prep, and KidsRank.

As the organization grows, Eileen is always looking for more volunteers. If you are interested, email

First Bank of Highland Park

We are excited to inform you that First Bank of Highland Park (1835 First Street) has announced that Room2Improv is the featured exhibitor throughout October, 2016 on their Ruth Fell Community Art Wall! Established in 2002.
The art wall helps give visibility to the resources and services offered by local non-profit organizations.

In conjunction with our exhibition, First Bank of Highland Park will donate $2 to our organization (up to $250) for every “Like” received of their Facebook page during the month of October. It’s quick and easy. Please visit First Bank of Highland Park’s Facebook page, hit “Like”, and help us raise much-needed funds!

We thank you for your continuous support.

Chicago Tribune

Local Non-Profits and Residents-in-Need Line Up for Free Fundraising Opportunity at Beelow’s NorthShore
Click Here to Read More:

Daily North Shore

Beelow’s Helps support Room2Improv

Read the full article here.

Chicago Tribune – Highland Park woman teaches self-esteem through improv

Read the article here.

Published April 2, 2015.

YEA! Highland Park Awards Room2Improv with a Grant

Room2Improv was a proud recipient of a YEA! Highland Park Grant, at the 10th Annual Awards Dinner on December 2!
YEA! Highland Park has raised money for youth, education, arts, and social service programs in Highland Park, IL, since 1997. YEA! stands for Youth, Education, and Arts. This year YEA! Highland Park distributed $264,000 to 25 organizations serving Highland Park and Highwood communities.

Jimmy Carrane Podcast

Jimmy interviews Room2Improv’s Jay Sukow for the Jimmy Carrane Podcast.

Listen to the entire interview here.
Room2Improv mentioned at 28:40

Highland Park News

Newspaper clipping

Score: Featured Business Owner

Meet Eileen Kahana of Room2Improv and Featured Business Owner
by Peg Corwin

Meet Eileen Kahana, owner of Room2Improv and Featured Business Owner at SCORE Chicago this week. Learn how she started and what tips she has for your success.

What is your company’s elevator pitch?
Room2Improv is dedicated to raising the self-esteem of students and veterans and ultimately empower them to live enriching lives.

What inspired you to start your business?
After a 35 year successful career with Chicago Public Schools, I pursued a new challenge of taking an Improv class at The Second City. That one class turned into a life changing two-year experience. While taking Improv classes at night, I also was a substitute teacher during the day. I recognized the value of the skills learned in Improv and began to use them with my students. Immediately, I witnessed students become more engaged, happier, able to make better decisions and capable of recognizing the metamorphosis in themselves. I am building a business to help others build self-esteem.

Who are your clients, and give an example of how you served that person or business?
At Circle Urban Ministries of Chicago (“Transforming Chicago’s Westside through faith in action”) we provided 16 weeks of improv. We worked with 7th and 8th graders. The classes fostered collaboration, promoted creative problem solving, developed leadership skills and provided mechanisms for coping with bullying. We created an environment where ideas are valued, judgment is removed and mistakes are gifts.

We also worked with Hope Manor, helping veterans change and improve their lives over the long-term and integrating veterans more positively into community life. Also YPO, the Young President’s Organization, which unites 20,000 business leaders in more than 120 countries around a shared mission, we conducted workshops.

What is your biggest business challenge?
The biggest challenge is accomplishing goals with limited resources. These challenges transform into opportunities that ultimately transform lives.

Mentor name, and how they have helped you in your business?
Both David Kirshner and Mark O’Brien have given me guidance, support, contacts, ideas and equally important, provided patience and direction to help me succeed. They both have shown a genuine concern. Their talents have been priceless, valuable and valued.

What advice would you give other entrepreneurs?
Listen to others, respect knowledge, ask questions, keep going, make it happen.

Click here to view the Original Article

CBS: Someone You Should Know


CBS Chicago's Harry Porterfield interviewing Room2Improv's founder, Eileen Kahana

CBS Chicago’s Harry Porterfield interviewing Room2Improv’s founder, Eileen Kahana.

Improv mentor, Jeff Poole, explains to CBS Chicago's  Harry Porterfield the benefits of Room2Improv.

Improv mentor, Jeff Poole, explains to CBS Chicago’s Harry Porterfield the benefits of Room2Improv.