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by Darren Held

by Sonnjea Blackwell

The other night was the last session of the Level 1 Improv Class for the year, and we did a little Q & A at the end, like we usually do on the last night. One question in particular wanted to be a blog topic. And, you know, who am I to stand in the way of questions’ desires?

A lady asked, “So, when a scene isn’t going the way you want it to, you still have to agree with it and let it go that way?”

This is an excellent question, and there are two answers. The first one is the short answer, and it goes like this:


The long answer goes like this:

Of course, you must always “yes, and” whatever information has come out in your scene and not do anything to derail it. You can’t deny, or say “yes, but” to change the direction. First information out, wins. That’s what you go with.

be in the momentBut more importantly, you should not have any notion of what way you want the scene to go. None. The extent of what you want to have in your head at the start of your scene is what character you are. THAT. IS. ALL. Everything else should develop in the moment and in response to what your scene partner says and does. You are creating something TOGETHER out of thin air, and neither of you is in charge, so you really want to try to let go of any agenda or idea of what you think should happen.

This means being in the moment and listening. You can’t be in the moment or listen if you are thinking ahead. Also, to be clear, listening means paying attention and actually taking in ALL of what your scene partner is saying, not just the parts that dovetail with what you want to have happen. We’re all good at hearing what we want to hear; improv depends on you hearing everything.

And yes, before you start yelling at me, I know it’s hard to listen, and not plan ahead and all that. It’s scary to intentionally free your mind from plans and goals and just go with the flow. But I never said improv was easy, now, did I? Nope. I said it’s simple. But it’s most definitely not easy. That’s what makes it fun.

And yeah, all that same stuff would make getting through the day in your real life that much better also. I’m just sayin’.

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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