Improv101

I attended my second of six sessions for the Improv 101 course tonight. I’ve learned a lot about Improv already, and seen just how hard it really is. Also, I’ve made a connection; performing in the moment” with a small set of rules and constraints is a lot like mindfulness.

Yes, and.

The major rule of Improv is Yes, and”. This is a technique used to keep the scene alive. When a partner says something, no matter what it is, it is true. By you responding Yes, and” you confirm that reality and you add something to it. It’s world building.

If you say No” at any point, you break that reality. This is one of the hard things to acheive in practice. Myself and the other classmates are all having troubles with this.

Our teacher instructed us to go back to the basics and actually say Yes and” every time it was our turn in the game. We moved passed the literally saying of the term (there are ways to show acknowledgment and add to the reality without the exact term). This reinforced the concept to us, and make the games a lot better, over time.

Make your partner look good

The second rule of Improv is to always make your partner look good. If you make them look bad, it takes the reality out of the scene. I’m still thinking on what this really is and how this works.

I think it’s tied in with the saying No” from above, but I need some more practice and thinking about it.

No questions

Another rule is to not ask questions. By asking a partner a question in a game, you’re putting all the onus on them to carry the world building out. It also sort of derails the flow. This is a tough one, that the entire class is struggling with. We’re making progress though.

Mindfullness

The in the moment” nature of Improv is revealing itself to me in unexpected ways. I’ve been reading Why Buddhism is True which relates the centuries old aspects of Buddhist meditation with modern Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. It’s really fascinating and I’m re-reading parts over and over to let them all sink in. We have a behavior change design team at work and I can see some of their thinking in this book. But that might be another post altogether.

Clearing distractions, working with a small set of rules, and staying in the moment are the connections I didn’t realize Improv had with mindfulness. Looks like some of my growth areas and interests are aligned.

Personal note

I struggled a lot in one of the games we were playing today. It was difficult. I couldn’t stop asking my partners questions. I felt bad; like I was breaking the scene (I was) and making us start over again, multiple times. The other students are struggling with this as I mentioned above, but I kind of got into a rut, and couldn’t make my way out.

Our teacher asked if she could give me a personal note in the class. I replied yes please. She mentioned that I am trying to do too much. I make a statement in response, and then ask a question. She advised to just make the statement. And that I (and the class overall) don’t have to make the entire world in one sentence. Be brief. Make your partner look good, keep the scene alive.

Yes, and I am working on not doing too much in several aspects of my life. Improv is helping.


Where the Light Gathers is a blog by Chad Moore.

I write about doing less with technology, parenthood, working with creative and technical people, improv comedy, writing fiction, and woodworking.

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