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by Darren Held

I have been in improv classes where students have argued with the teacher about their critique and even, occasionally, blamed their scene partner for whatever went wrong in their scene.

Just to clarify, that’s so not cool.

One time in class, I was totally off. (Right. It only happened once.) I couldn’t think clearly in my scenes and my initiations, which are usually strong and have an obvious point, were muddled. Eh, it is what it is. We all have nights like that.

Part of me is still annoyed with a scene partner who was in total denial mode all night. Denials are difficult enough to deal with when you are at the top of your game. When you’re having an off night, they’re impossible to overcome.

But the advantage of taking critiques without argument and without blaming or pointing out the shortcomings of others, is it forces you to take complete responsibility for the scene. Um, what? Why should I have to be responsible when the other person effed it up just as much?

Well, because. It’s improv. You’re a team. Pointing fingers at your teammates does nothing to build the strength of the team. Sucking it up and taking responsibility means you’ll work even harder in the future, and you’ll get the reward by becoming that much stronger of an improvisor. Sure, I know that a lot of the things that I got called out on after that scene wouldn’t have happened if my scene partner hadn’t denied every bit of information. But denials are going to happen sometimes – sometimes even in shows – and learning to deal with them in class will help me handle them gracefully when it matters.

I guess my point is, the critique is to help you become a better improvisor. Deflecting the critique is a denial of its own. It’s basically saying either, “You’re wrong,” or, “It’s okay. I’m cool. I don’t need your help because I’m as good as I want to be.” It’s not always fun or comfortable – nobody likes being told they aren’t quite perfect – but the only way to learn and improve is to listen to feedback and do your best to implement it.

If you have comments or feedback about this blog, I’d be happy to hear them. You know, over martinis. And a steak wouldn’t hurt. Thanks.

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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