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by Darren Held

Letting go of your agenda is perhaps the hardest thing to do in improv. I suppose that argument could be made for listening, as well. Or making eye contact. Or whatever it is that you find the hardest thing to do on any given day. But today, I’m going with the agenda thing. It has nothing to do with the fact that some ladies out-agenda’d me this weekend and made me cranky.

Okay, it might have a little to do with that. Fortunately, I didn’t challenge anyone to a duel. I mean fortunately for them. I would so win that battle.

Um. Anyway. In real life, we all have agendas. We make a plan for the day. We have to-do lists. We have goals and dreams and missions to accomplish. And we can’t get all that shit done if we just leave everything up to chance. So having an agenda can be a good thing.

Even in improv, having a certain type of agenda is great. Planning to have a big character, respond to the last thing your scene partner said, listen and have big emotional reactions are great things to have on your improvy agenda.

Having a specific idea like, “I’ma be the boss, and I’ll say ‘From now on, all employees have to wear Bionic Woman costumes to work,’ that’ll be hilarious” is a bad thing to have on your improvy agenda. Just sayin’.

We all have ideas. They’re not always good. Duh. But even the good ones can get you in trouble if you’re trying to shoe-horn them into a scene where they don’t belong. The fun (and brilliance) of improv comes from letting your ideas go and seeing where the group synergy takes you. Of course it’s scary – I never said improv wasn’t scary, peeps – but it’s scary in an exhilarating, liberating, mind-expanding kind of way.

In real life, it’s good to be willing to let go of your agenda as well. Of course you have a goal. But you don’t want to be so married to that goal that you miss the million-times-better opportunity that comes up along the way. So have your plan. Make your agenda. List your to-dos. But remember, much like the Pirate’s Code, they’re really more what you’d call guidelines than actual rules.

By Sonnjea Blackwell

Darren Held
About Darren Held
Darren is the CEO and Creative Director of Held2gether, Improv for LIfe. He has been teaching and performing improv for 15 years, and has performed with H2g, the Groundlings, UCB and Second City. He loves Moto, red wine, and Madonna.

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