As with any type of game, there are rules for improvisation. In his TED Talk The Way Of Improvisation, improviser and professional storyteller Dave Morris explains the seven rules that open up our minds for improvisation.
Where's the art? Of all art forms, acting is the one that we witness the most in our lives through television and internet. Improvisation is a sub-genre of acting that has become an art form on its own. It is an essential way of playing.
1. Just do it. Play.
Improvisation only works if you commit to it. Leave behind all your worries and live in the moment. Engage in the play and become someone else. When you leave yourself behind, you are literally liberated and you can do anything you can imagine.
2. Allow yourself to fail
Failing is easy. The hard part is accepting failure. Improvisational theater is a playground. Whatever happens is restricted to the time and place of your improv session. There are no repercussions to your actions. When you fail, you have nothing to worry about. Just start over and carry on.
Many people only listen in order to respond. Not nearly enough to really understand what someone is talking about. In improvisational play, it is essential that you listen to understand. This means you take in the words, consider them and allow change. This allows you to put prejudices and preconceived mindsets aside and open up to different views.
4. Say “yes”
The number one rule in improvisation: simply say “yes”. Say “yes” to whatever happens and your real-time story will go places. A series of yesses takes you somewhere, a series of no’s will block progress. Unfortunately, a simple "no" can disrupt a whole series of yesses.
5. Say “and”
Saying “yes” is a good way to keep a story going. Saying “yes, and” is an even better one. "Yes, and" keeps the story going and adds a new twist to it. You offer another brick that builds on the ones that have already been placed. This way, you create a narrative that isn’t merely the product of one person's imagination, but the unique result of collaboration.
6. Play the game
In life, everything can be a game. This means that there are situations in which rules exist. These rules are the guidelines that lay out the boundaries in which you can improvise. Without rules, just about anything can happen. Rules give you a direction to follow. Making the best of it without stepping out of line, that's the real challenge.
7. Relax and have fun
In the end, there's no right way to improvise, just as there's no right way to live. Both are a series of situations to which you respond in your own manner. For once, following the rules means: relax and be open to everything. Have fun and do things the way you like. When you’re relaxed, you listen better, you feel free to say “yes” and you will add that valuable “and” to every situation.
Find out more about the seven rules of improvisation by watching Dave Morris’ TED Talk The Way of Improvisation.