“Yes and” is an improvisation technique used to build on what your fellow actors or players, as they are called in improv, have created. In improvisation the one rule that isn’t supposed to be broken is agreement. “Yes and” is used in exercises and games to help practice the concept of agreement and create a story.
Yes in improvisation keeps the story moving forward while no shuts it down. If you have been through any improvisation workshops or classes, the effect of each is one of the first things demonstrated to the beginning player. It isn’t easy at first because it seems our natural inclination is to expect, look for, and create conflict. It was very interesting to watch my beginning students try to employ the yes and initially and watch their progression over several classes as they begin to understand this concept.
“Yes and” requires that I listen to what my partner says and that I respond to it. In improv, the aim is to treat fellow players like geniuses and to accept and justify everything the other says to create something together. It’s a group game, so you have to work together. If you think ahead or decide to grandstand to make yourself look good, you only end up tearing the whole thing apart and making everyone look bad, including yourself. You have to be engaged with what is going on in the moment in order to respond. So “yes and” only works if you are listening and interacting in relationship to others.
Oh that we all had more “Yes and” in our day to day life. How about if we listened more deeply to one another so we could respond in the moment rather than running on to our next thought? What if we worked at making each other look good, rather than looking out for number one? What if we were more concerned with building something together than collecting up enough stuff for ourselves?
Isn’t it amazing how much application to life Improvisation Workshops for kids offer? “Yes and....”
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