Risk and reward – a note on an Improv scene not forgotten

Improv is a disposable art form. Scenes and stories are created on the spot, never seen before and never to be seen again!

Well, at least it’s supposed to be disposable. Two weeks ago I witnessed a particular improv scene that is still lingering in my mind, one ripe with lessons and learning I’m still trying to piece together.

The suggestion the improvisers received was “Helicopter”.

My expectations were instantly raised. Helicopter, how exciting! What will they do with that, I thought?

I wanted them to get into trouble, take big risks, and really use the suggestion. 

What transpired on stage was a perfectly fine scene, but one that was more a slice of life than an adventure.

I’ll never know why they didn’t get into trouble, take a bigger risk, and “yes, and” the suggestion.

Sometimes as Improvisers, and as people (lest we forget), fear sets in and we go back to that comfortable place where we feel more in control.  Fear manifests itself in different ways on stage, but I won’t go so far as to suggest this was the diagnosis here.

Improvisers are rewarded for the risks they take and the adventures they seek. Raising expectations makes us feel even more vulnerable and exposed. It has the opposite effect as well — it brings reward, for when we do the truly unexpected, it can lead to a delighted and surprised audience.




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