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by Darren Held

Improv is an excellent example of the adage the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. Hang on a sec, I’ma tell you why.

But first, I’ma analyze that saying. Cuz, you know, analyzing the crap out of everything is just how I roll. It seems like a “whole” is pretty much synonymous with the “sum of the parts.” I mean, you have a bunch of individual parts, you add them together, and you get a whole. Right?

I guess it’s sorta right. You get a total, at least. But if you get really existential about it, you could say there’s another component that’s required in order to make a total a whole. That component is synergy.

According to Wikipedia, synergy is 2 or more things functioning together to produce a result not individually attainable. So let’s say we have a bunch of individual ideas. We add them together, and we now have a collection of individual ideas. But unless those ideas function together, they are still just a collection of parts. It’s the functioning together notion that elevates a collection of individuals into a cohesive unit, able to achieve something none of the parts could.

What? I’ve been gone for the better part of 2 weeks. I’ve had time to think about shit.

In improv, every player in the scene has their own ideas. You “yes, and” each other’s ideas and add information, which is basically adding parts together. However, unless/until you get on the same page and start functioning together, you will never become a whole, cohesive unit. That means you have to let go of the concepts of my idea and your idea and think only in terms of our idea.

Taking time to connect (eye contact, peeps!!) at the top of the scene and consciously letting go of any agendas is the best way to jumpstart that synergy. You still have ideas, and so do I. But since we are operating in terms of “we,” a synergy develops between us and those individual ideas evolve into something bigger, better and funnier than either of our ideas could have resulted in otherwise.

We could come up with a laundry list of reasons why people don’t connect and/or let go of their agenda, but the entire list really boils down to lack of trust. If you truly trust yourself, your scene partner and the magical process of improv, you will be able to connect and be in the moment and let go of the need to force an agenda. I don’t know anybody who has developed to the point where they can trust 100% of the time. I know I can’t. But it’s a goal, and the more you work at it, the more open and in the moment you will be – and it’s in that free, open space that synergy can begin to operate.

At least I think so. Your idea may differ.

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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