Growing up I knew from an early age that I wanted to be on stage. I wasn't really sure what that meant, I just knew that when I watched the stage shows that my mother took me to and that my elementary school brought in, I wanted to be up there shining. Live theater felt real and visceral in a way that even TV and movies couldn't reflect. It was palpable - all eyes on the performers while they confidently played their parts. They seemed to be having so much fun, too! Could that be me? My parents couldn't afford expensive acting classes that stretched on all semester, so when improv showed up in my middle school theater class, I was instantly hooked. Improv is not only a very fun, expressive, and accessible performance art form, but it also teaches crucial social skills for any age.
Right now, I'm going to share with you the key fundamental principle of improvisation and creative collaboration.
When I first started improvising, I loved the freedom in it. There weren't lines to memorize and we could say whatever we wanted (within reason). This led to many delightful moments but also, maybe unsurprisingly, moments where things just didn't work (not so different from real life)! Two actors would be on stage and they couldn't agree on the location they were in. One thought they were in a baseball field and the other thought it was a kitchen. Watching two young actors argue about where they were definitely wasn't fun for the other kids watching or the two kids in the scene. Why? This is where the concept of "Yes, And" comes in to play.
In creative work and partnerships of any kind, we have to say "Yes!" in order to move forward together in agreement. Yes, this is a baseball field and yes, there is a little kitchen off the home team's dugout (I mean, why not??). But "Yes" by itself is not enough to build something together. We've got to add the "and" on to it to gain momentum and contribute together.
YES, it's a baseball field AND I would love to cook you some hotdogs before the game. YES! I would love a hot dog AND you're my favorite dugout chef.
In life, we spend a lot of time building up our conflict muscles to keep up the pretense of being "safe". For kids, this expresses itself in many ways. Kids and teens want to look cool in front of their peers. Kids don't want to get things "wrong". Many kids want their ideas to be number one OR they are too shy to add to someone else's idea. In improv games and practice, we break down these natural instincts that actually stop us from being happy co-creatives together. We work the weaker muscles of positivity, support, confidence, trust, and true collaboration through fun improv games.