Improspectives

Improv skills lead to success

Improv and Limitations

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This post continues my brief series on how you can learn about improv and business from non-improvisers. I’m drawing this set of examples from 101 Things I Learned in Architecture School, by Matthew Frederick.

Frederick points out that limitations encourage creativity. Some improvisers, particularly younger ones, want to perform with either no or minimal constraints on their creation. For them, true improvisation isn’t constrained by suggestions or game rules. Instead, they might not even get a suggestion before starting…something… based on whatever comes to mind. This type of production can work, but the process relegates the audience to the role of passive observers. As I’ve said several times before: if audience members expect to see improvised theatre but have no chance to affect the performance, how do they know what they’re seeing is truly improvised?

Like architects who work within the constraints of space, physics, budget, and client desires, improvisers should strongly consider ceding more control to their audience. Stepping out of the constraints imposed by high school and college instructors and spreading one’s wings feels wonderful to the performer, but it’s not as satisfying for audience members who expect to participate in the process. Rehearsals, workshops, and performances for other improvisers present wonderful opportunities to work from scratch and indulge. Paying audiences deserve the chance to play their role, too.

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