My table is a mess: scripts for two different theatre projects, books waiting to make their way to Rocky Street Press reviewers, test runs for activities for Playschool Up Late, and a couple of empty cups with teabags lurking in the bottoms...
But in between all the chaos that comes with doing creative things, I keep dipping in and out of a book: The Improv Handbook: the ultimate guide to improvising in comedy, theatre and beyond. Whether or not you have the faintest interest in improv comedy, I reckon there's something important in this book for you:
What can a book about improv
teach us about life, work, and getting stuff done?
The two most important words to take from this book are “yes, and…”
“yes, and…” means taking whatever your colleagues pitch at you, no matter how unexpected or uncomfortable, and running with it.
“yes, and…” means embracing and building on their idea, not just acknowledging it long enough to steer the conversation back to your own pitch.
“yes, and…” means you and your crew are in this together, and the only way out is through.
“yes, and…” means making the other people on your team look good and throwing them lifelines when they’re in a corner, and trusting them to do the same for you. It's not about me, and it's not about you - it's about us.
In improv circles this is called accepting an offer. Once the scene starts, anything a player says – “Boy, the maternity ward’s busy today!” for instance – is an offer. The other players, if they’re on their game, will accept the offer and add to it: “Well, we are nine months on from that big storm that cut the power on the night of Valentine’s Day…” And thus a story begins, and both players and audience are off on an adventure.
But if a player rejects the offer – “What maternity ward? This is a car yard!” – or does the absolute bare minimum to accept it – “yeah, I guess we’re busy” – the scene stalls. The first player is let floundering, the story hasn’t progressed, and the audience is wondering if it’s too late to catch the Cold Chisel cover band at the pub next door.
Moving in arts circles means we see a lot of new ideas, projects we’d never considered, and different points of view. Some we’ll click with straight away. Some, we might not. But even if we don’t, let’s see if we can take a big breath, say to ourselves “yes, and…” and dive right in.