The C.A.R.E. Model: Accept (Saying Yes!)
It is a basic tenet of Improvisation, since Viola Spolin’s early Los Angeles classes to today’s widely-watched T.V. show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?”, that accepting an idea given by a playing partner (Yes) and adding something on to that idea (And) will naturally lead to an interesting scene. And, in theory, this is the case. However there are many ways we can say “yes” to an idea but still not really commit.
When is “yes” not really “yes”? When it comes with conditions “Yes…But”. When it is not heartfelt “Yes…I guess.” When it is not a yes at all…. “Yes… NO”. And when this happens, the scene begins to falter as players sense not everyone is on board. The conditions of the scene become too many to remember when, instead of accepting an initial idea, we just throw our idea in on top of everyone else’s.
(And…And…And) How many elements can we stuff into a scene before we lose track of them and the thing devolves into an exercise in justifying a series of incongruities?: “Of course I can bowl during Mom’s funeral with a mousetrap full of tubesocks!” might make for a funny line but completely bury the scene. Or the whole thing may never get that far because the tepid improviser will be quickly backing out of the picture and those remaining have no choice but to start preparing the inevitable speech/apology to the audience.
So why can’t we just say “YES”!? Here are some reasons:
- We don’t trust our partner
- We don’t trust ourselves
- We have an idea we HAVE to do– it’s just better than everyone else’s
- We’re thinking ahead to try to control the scene
Any of these will mean we aren’t right there with our playing partner. How much trust can two (or more) people give to one another? Lots, but it always feels risky. Add the elevated stakes of a performance, in FRONT of a bunch of people, who may or may not be your immediate family plus the person who lives down the hall from you who said they would like to come to one of your shows and it gets really hard not to worry about looking like a complete idiot.
A TIP: If you are big on having dignity, do not become an improviser. We have very little. The sooner you make your peace with that, the better.
Commenting on the scene from inside it or making fun of your playing partner are NOT options here. They just are not. Even if you don’t do those things and you still sneak out of the scene, you’re essentially saying, “I didn’t sign up for this”. Even though about 2 minutes and 17 seconds ago, you did just that. By stepping into the scene.
In improvising, always take the chance – Say “Yes… And”. Trust your partner to do the same. Then see what happens.
At best, you’ll create something together neither of you could have imagined alone.
And you could have fun. At worst…well, you never have to do that scene again…
And you might have fun!