Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Power of Yes, And

One of the most basic and important concepts of improv is the concept of Yes, And.

Because improv involves collaboration with other people, shutting other people down is a sure way to make sure that your team never advances apart from monumental single-handed efforts.

"Yes, And"

"Yes, And" means doing two things:

1. Accepting
2. Adding

Both these concepts are important. Saying yes to a teammate means you accept the small portion of reality that they are creating. Here's an example of what not to do:

Person 1: Look at that spaceship, it's heading for earth!
Person 2: That's not a spaceship, you must be high.

Although, Person 2 might get a quick laugh from an audience because he said something unexpected and mentioned drug use, chances are--he took the scene off course from where person 1 intended it to go, and now Person 2 is controlling the scene, not collaborating. Perhaps a better example might have been:

Person 1: Look at that spaceship, it's heading for earth!
Person 2: Oh God, I hope they don't probe me again like they did the last time. We're going to need help.

In this example, Person 2 accepted Person 1's reality. But, he also did something else. He added to Person 1's suggestion and set a direction for the scene--to find help for the probing aliens.

Here's what happens in some of the possible scenarios, and why "Yes, And" is superior to anything else...

No, but -- an improviser rejects the given reality and talks about reasons why another improviser is wrong. Now, the scene is necessarily some sort of argument, unless the less blocking improviser over-adapts to the "No-butter."

Yes, but-- an improviser accepts the given reality, but passively tries to steer the scene in his direction. This is the same thing as no-but, only it's more passive aggressive.

No, And--an improviser rejects the reality, but tries to add to a scene. This is kind of rare, and extremely confusing. Kid of a mixed signal that makes absolutley no sense. I've only known one improviser who regularly did this, and she was really weird. She eventually quit.

Yes, And--an improviser accepts the given reality, and collaboratively builds a scene with other members. What an amazing idea?!!!
If you're troupe's new and not used to scene work, you can use a game called, ironically enough, "Yes, And" to learn this concept. Every time somebody talks he/she must start with the words "Yes, And."

This can be done as a scene, or as a group exercise where people stand in a circle and try to develop an idea--answering some question like, where should we go on vacation, or what product should we make, or what should I look for in a good husband, etc.

You'll be amazed at how easy it is especially say "yes, but" instead of "yes, and." That's because you, like me, are probably a selfish bastard. But, don't worry, it'll get better.

No comments: