It’s always nice to be on the same page as Polly Carl.

If you haven’t read her latest HowlRound post, A Theater of YES!, go check it out.

One reason I appreciate her train of thought is because it dovetails with my TEDxMichiganAve talk from this past May:

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If you don’t want to spend fifteen minutes hearing about the birth of 2amt and what I was reading this spring, here’s the short version. In improvisation, working with partners, the important thing is not to say “yes” but to say “yes, and…” Thing is, this has little to do with saying yes or no to anything in the real world.

In improvisation, it means respecting your scene partner and being open to more possibilities than you were aware of. It means being willing to move instead of shutting down and standing still. If your scene partner takes you in a different direction, move with that direction and–if need be–bring it back around to your idea. Of course, even if you do that, now you have multiple ideas and variations to play with that weren’t in your original plan. Saying “yes, and” is all about knowing when to say yes and when to say no.

The other rule of improv is to make statements, not questions. That doesn’t mean you can’t ask questions, but you have to be able to do more than that. Asking questions alone puts the burden of creativity on your scene partner(s). Making statements means making choices and building the scene together.

Of course, there’s more to the talk than that–it’s also about building community through communication, cooperation and collaboration. All of that is built on the foundation of “yes, and…”

Saying “yes” is surprisingly easy. It’s following through on the “and” that’s hard.

(Which reminds me, I need to email Polly with some questions…)

  • October 4, 2011