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by Darren Held

Last night was the first night of the Level 1 improv class, and I briefly mentioned the three main rules of improv: agreement, adding information and commitment. A little while later, a new student asked me if he could ask a quick question. I said sure. That’s how I roll.

He repeated the 3 rules and then said, “But wouldn’t trust be one of the rules of improv?”

Smart cookie! Of course there are more than just three rules of improv – there are also rules like don’t be sarcastic and don’t go for the joke and don’t ask questions and always have an emotion, yada yada yada. But is trust a rule of improv?

The thing is, I think the more you trust yourself and your scene partners, the better your improv will be. But unlike agreeing and adding information and committing, I cannot teach people to trust. I can make the environment as supportive and encouraging as possible; I can help people make friends quickly with their classmates; I can be super kind while at the same time giving honest feedback in critiques… and none of those things will make anybody trust anybody else if they’re not ready to.

I can tell when students have difficulty trusting, believe it or not. They’re the ones who won’t let go of their agenda. They’re defensive in critiques, no matter how positively I couch my feedback. They talk too much in their scenes, not letting their scene partners get a word in. I don’t know for sure if they don’t trust themselves or if they don’t trust their partners or if they had a bad childhood. I do know that they don’t trust in the moment.

The more you do improv, the more open you will become to being in the moment. I think that in itself is a kind of trust. If you’re not dwelling on the past or worried about the future, it implies a sense of trust that in this moment, you have everything you need. When you trust the moment, it will become easier to trust yourself and others. The more you trust yourself and others, the easier it is to be in the moment. Trust is a skill, for lack of a better word, that feeds on itself.

So to answer Arnold’s question: in improv, as in life, trust is invaluable. Can you get by without it? Yes. But why would you want to?

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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