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Just because you’re going forwards doesn’t mean I’m going backwards

More questions and feedback sent to The Board!

Q:  I love HUGE! So many great shows. Huge talent in such a tiny space.

A question I’ve wondered about improv in general and Huge specifically: Does improv always HAVE to be comedic? Why is straight-up drama so rare in an improv setting? Is it because it doesn’t appeal to performers? To audiences? Or is it something that the form of improv isn’t set up to do?

 

A:  Jill Bernard writes

Improv does not always have to be comedic, Spectrum is a recent example of a HUGE Wednesday group that presented more dramatic work. There are several challenges to doing dramatic improv. The first is that the audience laughs when they’re surprised, and improv is always surprising by its nature. Thus, as a result, there are some scenes where if you looked at a written transcript, you would say, “what were those people laughing at?” Another challenge is that improv is associated with comedy in people’s minds. If they saw dramatic improv they might consider it a failure — the marketing for a dramatic improv show is a particular challenge.

Many improv shows walk a delicate line where there are serious moments woven into the fabric but the overall effect is comedic. Family Funeral is an example, where a very serious well-acted moment can be surrounded by humor, so the audience leaves with the general impression that is was a comedy show.

 

Q:

Around two years ago I attend Huge’s State of Huge. At that State of Huge the mission statement was brought up. To serve the improv community. A suggestion was made to change the mission statement to serve the community through improv. The board rejected that premise. It made me fall in love with Huge all over again. It made me believe this was a place to try new things. To be daring. To fail.

Recently, it came to my attention that a show, a show I very much enjoyed watching multiple times, was essentially told they wouldn’t get additional stage time at Huge because of their style. They were informed it was too cocky, too condescending, too outside of what Huge wanted to present to an audience. This was after I watched their Improv-a-Go-Go sets and felt it was a breath of fresh air in the improv community. Something that was personal, immediate, and played perfectly to subvert an audience’s expectations of what they might see at Huge. It broke rules, but it broke them in a knowing way. They understood the rules and chose to break them to heighten audience participation. To heighten the immediacy of what they presented. To truly react in real time to how the audience responded to them. They presented something that could have failed horribly and it didn’t. Huge told them they weren’t welcome because it was too far outside the realm of what Huge wanted to present on stage. That is my understanding anyway.

If Huge is still committed to that mission statement, to serve the improv community, then how can it deny these people? How can it both serve its mission and tell improvisers that their show, a show they’ve put time and effort into, a show where they were coached, where they went through the struggle of finding their identity, where they did nothing but find a way to bring a unique presentation of improv, something that hasn’t been seen in our community before, that it wasn’t what Huge wanted improvisers to try?

Huge was founded on serving the improv community, not to serve the community through improv. What changed?

A:  Molly Chase writes

Just in case you don’t know me, my name is Molly Chase, I’m the managing director at HUGE, and I am excited to answer your question.

A lot of mission statements are pretty forgettable, so it means a lot that HUGE’s mission made an impression, and that the distinction of supporting the Twin Cities improv community resonated.

I’m going to take this chance to underscore the mission and vision are both about Twin Cities — not just HUGE. Our vision is to: Raise the visibility of unscripted theater as a legitimate, viable and thriving segment of the Twin Cities’ rich, nationally recognized theater scene.

Put another way, we work to advance the Twin Cities’ as an exceptional home for developing improv as an artform, and encouraging artists in that pursuit. That’s why we’re so openly and enthusiastically supportive of improv in all its forms, and at all venues. For example, we actively encourage independent producers. Even at times that directly compete with HUGE show times, we enthusiastically support those efforts as a theater and as individuals through our attendance, participation and promotion.

The groups I admire most work very hard whether that’s inside or outside the confines of HUGE. I am most impressed by people who handle rejection with grace and determination, especially actors, who face it all the time by the very nature of what they/we do.

I noticed that you saw this group at multiple venues, including HUGE during Improv A Go Go. That is a sign of a healthy Twin Cities improv scene.

Not every show will be on the HUGE stage. I think Butch did a pretty comprehensive job http://www.hugetheater.com/2014/ive-lost-more-sleep-than-i-can-say/ describing how HUGE takes on selecting and scheduling shows.

Beyond that, I defend that HUGE has a role in the artistic direction and life of the theater. It’s the right and responsibility of the theater to develop and showcase high-quality artistic work. HUGE most certainly does take risks on artists, shows, and new directors.

Clearly you loved the group you saw, and you disagree with HUGE’s choice. We would never expect everyone to agree with all our choices. But having some artistic point of view is part of the creative life of our theater — any theater — and I hope you’ll agree that is not the same as going back on our mission.

Please know we want not just HUGE to succeed, but for the Twin Cities to be fertile ground for the advancement of improv. I hope in this context you’ll see our mission in a different light. I can say with certainty that HUGE is not run like a regular business. It is a nonprofit where the mission dictates all — what we do, and how we do it. That has not changed.

HUGE’s mission means:

- Classes, workshops, shows, and rehearsal space are affordable via low starting prices, payment plans, scholarships and work trades. (Not only do these practices reduce income, they increases administrative costs for an already lean organization. For example, to make work trades possible, we train many people on a rotating basis, rather than training just a few people who work for the long term. Same for tracking small payments over time, offering full and partial scholarships for workshops, and so on.)

- Hosting a number of events for free including shows and showcases from teen groups who learn throughout the community, not just at HUGE.

- Consistently providing open stage time for free through Space Jam, and offering an unjuried chance at stage time for every conceivable improv form via Improv A Go Go.

- Creating opportunities for people to learn new skills related to improv, from learning to be a technical improviser to teaching Drop In classes.

- Holding open auditions at least once a year and encourages the audition process for independently produced shows, as applicable.

- Taking chances on new directors and show producers, as well as offers mentorship.

- Prioritizing payment of performers for their work on stage and for technical improvisers who work behind the scenes. Prioritized payment of performers and staff over payment of employees.

- Evaluating corporate workshop and other employment offers through the lens of connecting artists with paid opportunities.

- Providing all practical supports that the physical theater and our expertise can offer: rehearsal and casting call space, connection to professionals (casting agents, headshot photographers, advanced coaches), mentorship, assistance with festival videotaping and submissions, workshop curriculum and performance resume advice.

If you have more questions, I encourage you to please feel free to follow up via this form, by contacting me at molly@hugetheater.com, and/or by coming to the Open House / Meeting on Thursday, August 14, from 5:00-7:00pm.

I’ve lost more sleep than I can say

In the recent State of HUGE Blog I announced the addition of an anonymous portal for people to ask questions of the Board of Directors – I’m happy that it’s already being used and I have answers to post, hopefully this is the first of many!

STAGE TIME

There were two very similar questions submitted – one asked “How do shows get picked for stage time?” and the other asked roughly the same question with far more detail, so I wanted to answer them together.

Q:

Who decides how stage time will be allocated and what criteria do they use?

Is it merit based? Based on who the board thinks will put on the best show? Or sell the most tickets?

Or is it given based on effort? Who volunteers the most? Who donates the most? Who are active members in other capacities?

Or is it given out based on who needs the stage time in order to grow as improvisors and broaden the community’s experience? Or some combination?

I’ve talked to several community members who are not clear about how stage time is allocated and feel like the don’t know what they should be working on if more stage time is their goal. Inevitably there will be people who think the allocation is not “fair” but we could at least be more clear about why the decisions are made the way they are.

A:

First of all, welcome to the worst part of my job – this is the one part of running the theater that will hurt the feelings of the people that are some of the most giving and supportive of HUGE theater.  But this is the job, really.  Anyone can say yes to their friends and have fun doing it. It’s saying no to shows or performers that is the difficult job, make no mistake. It’s the job I like the least of anything I have to do — for HUGE or the improv festival — but I know that doing it well is extremely important.

I also know that there are more amazing shows and performers than we could possibly fit on the schedule of our one weird little theater – none of this is to say that the shows at HUGE are the great ones and the rest are not. There are many great shows and groups not performing at HUGE due simply to the laws of physics – time and space will always be the biggest limitations we have.

You’re totally right that we have been very unclear in this area – some of it intentionally, some of it unintentionally. The programming process is really the one thing we aren’t completely transparent about and there will always be part of that process that is not transparent and we make no promises that it will be – In fact I can tell you that it will not ever be completely transparent because that is how it needs to be to function, but I can clarify some of the things you asked as well as some of how it functions and why.

Criteria

There are things that will not ever get your show on our stage and I’ve always hoped that we’re very clear on these points since we will never lead people on with the carrot of “help us out now and we’ll help you later.”

I want people to support us because they want to support us – you cannot buy your way onto our stage with volunteer hours or monetary donations and that will always be the case.

If you could pay to be added to our regular programming, then it wouldn’t mean anything. We opened this place to showcase the amazing talent in the Twin Cities improv community and that is always the goal, even if you don’t have money to give or extra time to volunteer. And the shows on our stage know that we think they have amazing talent and amazing potential, there should never be a question how they got there.

The ultimate answer is that quality wins out.

Selections are ultimately based on the merits of the shows, even if those shows may not sell the most tickets. Ticket sales are not a measure of excellence. And we also try to promote the growth of excellence as well, so it’s not just who is doing really well right now but also who is really working hard to develop something new and cool and high quality and will keep working and growing on our stage.

The potential for excellence as a “professional” improviser is also important to us, since our long term goal is to make become a professional improviser a viable option in the future. That means there may be times when we have to choose between two equally great shows – one of which is driven to do things like teach workshops, travel to festivals and really achieve excellence as performers, and the other wants nothing more than to do their show.

There’s nothing wrong with just wanting to perform but we have to also support growth beyond just getting a show on stage and getting laughs.

When we’re booking, how far out we’re booking, what we’re looking for

One of the reasons we are not transparent about our programming process is that it’s so incredibly fluid and we’re basically always working on it.

We’ve developed a system to take proposals, but matching those proposals that would be a great fit for our stage with a couple other shows that would also be a great fit to create a really cohesive night of theater together is no small thing given all the schedules involved. A lot of our delays come from just waiting to hear back from everyone involved in the schedule we’re programming, which can take long enough that peoples’ availability changes while we’re still working on it –  it can be very slippery to nail down.

Combined with plotting shows that have a regular place in the calendar – like Throwback Night, Creature Feature and Family Dinner – as well as shows that are a more seasonal fit, trying to make sure we don’t have too much genre improv at once /for too long and many other factors.

We have tried hard to balance programming our vision for an overall calendar well in advance to allow directors and casts time to prepare and produce, but not to program too far out so we have some flexibility to say yes to great new ideas as they come up, rather than having to tell everyone it will be six months to a year before we have an opening.

And for that to happen we need people to develop their great ideas and bring us the ones they want to put on our stage – It would be much easier if we were creating all the shows at HUGE, then we could just tell people what we were looking for and there are several talented groups that could deliver – but that would only represent our ideas.

We don’t want people bending to what they think we are looking for – we want them to pursue what they are really passionate about and inspired by – which means we don’t often tell people when the next openings in the calendar would be or what shows have been booked for when, to avoid people trying to make something into an appealing fit or chasing stage time instead of great ideas.

The lack of a roadmap

We have tried to develop a more concise answer to what I hope is obviously a very complex issue that we take very seriously – and I know it can be baffling when there is no one good answer to “how can I get my show on HUGE’s stage?” because there are so many factors that we look at when making these decisions – and I never, never wanted to lead people on with the idea of “Just do steps A, B and C and that’s it” only to find out their show isn’t being put up and feel like we promised them something.

While A, B and C may all be good steps that we feel strongly that every group should take – like getting an outside coach or director – it’s still true that you can do all the steps and still have a show that won’t be selected for a variety of reasons.

Nels and I work hard to make sure we’re looking at a number of factors and possibilities as well as evaluating results once shows are on HUGE’s stage – but we also bring in outside eyes when there are proposals that may not be the style of show we personally enjoy to make sure that we’re not just representing our own ideas of what would be a good show to put up.

When we ask for outside input, or even when we’re evaluating proposed shows ourselves, we don’t announce that we’re doing so or who is involved to keep the process as unbiased as possible but also as comfortable for everyone at HUGE – including students Nels and I (and others) are teaching, or groups we work with, that have a show proposal submitted – knowing that they’re being evaluated at that time may stifle their work in class or affect their choices on stage, which is the opposite of what we want.

I know it is unclear when we’re making the decisions and we’ve been asked how long it might take to get an answer but (as always) the answers are unclear since we might love a show but have no place for it in the schedule of shows we’ve already booked or have a night of shows that isn’t confirmed yet that might work so we put off saying no or looking further out in the calendar which results in a long silence from us.

We’ve tried to get better at responding to proposals to let them know when that is the case but admittedly that has been a problem in the past and for that we’re sorry and thankful for the patience everyone has shown.

I hope that I’ve at least made it clear that this is not a simple question and that we understand that some of it is going to remain unclear. While that may not be the easiest thing, I hope that this helps – I really do.

 

One other note we got this week was simply this:

You at Huge have done more to help me with my development as a person than I can express. I don’t really know you guys personally but I love you all so much for the great work you do.

A:  Thank you so much, this touched everyone when we read it at the meeting,  we’re all so happy to hear it and it brightened a very stressful week.

If you have questions, concerns, complaints or feedback of any kind for the Board of HUGE – please know that you can always talk to us or contact us directly, but if you prefer you can always use the form

Click HERE to Go THERE

Only thinking in dreams, only work for impossible things

State of HUGE – Spring 2014

I am going to be posting these more often in hopes that will make it easier to write them – the trick is that there’s always something else coming or “If I just wait a few more days, I can include ____” and hopefully more frequent posts can help with that and I can keep everyone more up to date.

The question I am most frequently asked is “How is HUGE doing?” and the answer is “Cautiously Great”

or   “We’ve still got a long way to go – but we’ll get there”

If you read no further just know that HUGE is doing OK (which means we are usually out of danger and trying to build reserves at all times) because of the tremendous support and hustle of our performers, teachers, staff, volunteers, Members, donors and audiences – and we thank you every day.

[ That's why I keep my nose to the stone - sharp 'til the hairs split ]

One of the biggest things this spring has been our run of Sold Out Saturdays – which actually began in November of 2013 with Family Dinner and just hit 32 weeks in a row.  That. Is. Unreal.  When we hit the 3 Year Anniversary show that was 12 weeks and we were all still astounded and now two more entire Saturday shows – Off Book and Darjeeling Unscripted – have opened and closed and sold out every ticket in between.

The funny thing is that somewhere along the way it tipped over from being this amazing thing that we were celebrating every week to a nerve-wracking thing the casts and directors are stressing about every week, because nobody wants to “break the streak” now – which is perfectly typical of the people on our stage, they don’t stop and take credit for selling out months of shows through what is ALWAYS our slowest time of the year, they are worried about owning the failure and haven’t bothered to own the success.

April and May have always been the worst months for ticket sales and eventually this streak will end because of one thing and one thing alone – SPRINGTIME.  Until it does we have to keep telling everyone to please PLEASE do yourselves a favor and buy your tickets in advance if you want to get in.

The most exciting thing about the run of Sold Out Saturdays (and Fridays have been amazing as well) is that our weekend shows pay the performing artists based on attendance – that means 32 weeks in a row that we get to write checks to artists for doing what they do best.

This is always the critical point between trumpeting our success saying “We are selling out shows in the springtime!” and trying to make sure people still hear the message that we still need your hustle, your help and your support – Why I am always cautious about saying things are great, because the truth is we’re still running very lean, being clever where we can and going without when we have to. But we do it for good reason.

We made the decision more than a year ago not to wait on paying artists until things were comfortable and the theater was sitting on a big cash reserve and that’s something I’m very proud of and stand by – even though it means it may take us longer to get to a place where we can relax and maybe pay our staff something closer to what they deserve.  The reality of running any theater is that we may never have “extra” funds and the reality of running our theater is that supporting improvisers isn’t an “extra” goal for when we have nothing else to worry about - it is why we exist and we’re working hard to move things in the right direction and the artists on our stage are why we do it.

[ Bet it all and win - Set it off and run ]

Speaking of things you will need to get tickets for – the eighth annual Twin Cities Improv Festival is just two weeks away!  Wednesday, June 25th – Sunday, June 29th is our biggest weekend of our year.

It’s improv Xmas and tickets are going fast (there are only 5 Ultra Passes left!) and I don’t say this to sell tickets – I say this because if you miss this, you miss out and you miss out big.  It’s going to be amazing.

So many special things happening this year – the 5 founding members of HUGE will be performing together Thursday night.  FrankenMatt, NBA Hall of Famer and Droppin Science are all returning and a handful of new groups will get to see what I mean when I tell everyone Minneapolis is the best.

Tickets and Multi-Passes available HERE

HUGE will once again be a venue for the MN Fringe Festival in August – we love working with the Fringe and they are always amazing partners to have – plus the Fringe gives us a couple weeks off to rest, regroup, re-introduce ourselves to our families and also roll out some changes, which can be tricky when you have a continuous schedule that never stops or even pauses.

Beginning this September we are making a change to our weekend tickets for the first time in a couple years – as of this fall you will be able to purchase tickets to the late shows at HUGE in advance, which means the early shows will be paired up so you can see the 8pm and 9:30 show for one $10 ticket and/or the expanded late shows for a $5 ticket.

More info on that as we roll it out with out ticketing system late this summer.

[ Got cracks in the armor, cracks in the ceiling ]

Our theater turned 3 this year and signed a 10 year lease on 3037 Lyndale to keep our home going through the next decade – we also learned a lot along the way about all the little things that go into longevity.

You learn the lifespan of things like toilet parts, vacuum cleaners, HVAC parts – all of which will break down and it’s not a matter of “when” but more like “how often” and we had a little bit of good news this year when our property taxes went down a little bit for the first time ever and even more good news is that we still keep that Depression-Era Mentality so we’re always saving for the bad days while investing to make both the good and bad days a little better all around with things like ceiling fans, LED lights and a new Annex space.

The Annex came to us as an offer from our landlord to lease space outside of the theater building – a space that allows us to hold classes and rehearsals and more even during show times – because time and space are still the biggest limitations this little theater runs into every week.

It isn’t free – it isn’t cheap – but it is an investment we think is needed and worthwhile to support all the amazing artists and allows us to offer more classes, workshops or just the space itself as a resource to them.  Groups that are interested in using the Annex and helping make it more affordable for us to maintain

CLICK HERE 

[ I give it up for those that are seeking the solutions ]

That concludes the part of the State of HUGE where I tell you how we’re doing – and now we’re adding something new where we ask you how we’re doing.

We have worked really hard as the Board of Directors to stay very accessible and approachable, to make sure people know they can come to us with concerns or questions or ideas – and that they can ALWAYS challenge us on things they think we’re doing wrong or complain about things we did poorly.  That’s great, in theory, but if we never actually hear from people then it doesn’t actually work.

I’ve heard from some people over the years around specific issues and I always appreciate it – but we’ve always also heard there are problems that we are not hearing about and we want to make sure we’re addressing that, so we have added an anonymous Complaint, Concerns, and Question form to the contact page on our site that the Board will address.

CLICK HERE to GO THERE

We will go through the input each Monday at our Board meetings and do our best to answer anything sent through the form in blog form when appropriate.  I still hope that everyone knows that we welcome ideas, challenges and questions the same way we hope people understand everything we do, even when we could do things better or we do things totally wrong – that it is all done with the best intentions to help us achieve our mission of supporting improv in the Twin Cities.

 

 

As always, thank you.

Butch

- Executive Director and humble servant

 

The HUGE Annex

We took a big risk and rented a space two doors down from HUGE.   We know that there are performers looking for regular times to practice and we don’t have room for everyone.   We’re offering co-op slots!  You get two hours a week just for you, and then dibs on flexible time as it is available.  Only $25 a week!

Here’s the application if that sounds like a sweet deal to you:

https://www.formstack.com/forms/?1716513-VK8bs1BGY4

—–

FAQ

Where is it?
At 3025 S Lyndale Ave, 55408, next to Saigon Restaurant.  Enter through the side door.

How will I get access?
You’ll have your own key.

How will I pay?
One monthly payment of $100.  Discounts available for members.

I don’t have a hundred dollars a month!
Divide it up among the participants in your rehearsal.

What about insurance and utilities?
Insurance and utilities are included.

 

 

WORKSHOP: MOVE FORWARD with Dave Kappelhoff & Tim Hellendrung

Sometimes you’re stuck and can’t move forward with your improv. These workshops explore the reasons why we get stuck and ways we can create new opportunities to begin scenes and move them forward with less effort. Character risks, game play, and story elements are explored–three critical areas that improvisers continually need to develop. Advice and struggles from improvisers within the local community are shared and will be used as starting points for each workshop. Exercises are also built off of student feedback and discussion as students are encouraged to bring their past show notes where they can be used as practical guides toward improvement. A great class for any improviser looking to renew their improv momentum. Sign up for one, two, or all three workshops.

Dates: Three Sundays: April 20, 27, and May 4
Time: 1-4pm
Where: HUGE Theater, 3037 Lyndale Ave S

Cost: $30/workshop

Tim Hellendrung is an experienced Twin Cities improvisor, having performed with ComedySportz since 2006. In addition to his training and performance with short-form, Tim can be seen on stage in Minneapolis with long-form groups Gay/Straight Alliance, The Adventures of Tim Troy & Damian, What If, For Better or For Worse and weekly at HUGE Theater’s Show X. Tim’s groups have been featured at both national and international improv festivals.

Dave Kappelhoff is a veteran improv instructor with 17 years of teaching experience with the Brave New Workshop. He has taught performance, sketch, youth, and everyday level classes and can be seen in various improv and sketch shows throughout the Twin Cities.

Register here!

Time to get out of your head!

The groups selected in the April 2014 IAGG lottery are
(in alphabetical order)  :

COLOSSUS

Good Grief

Happily Ever After

License To Krill

Liv & Bradley

Magellie

Mouth Trumpet

Opposable Mind

Piano Cat

Religiosity

Sheppard & Linden

Subject to Change Improv Troop

Swimming Pool

TBD Group (Nicholas Olson)

The Game

Two Dudes With First Names

ZapPonty

Upcoming Master Classes/Outside Classes hosted at HUGE

Upcoming workshops with James Rone as a fundraiser for Harbor Theatre Group:

You’re Already There Workshop: April 8 OR April 13, $30

You’re Already There - A workshop about recognizing and acknowledging your imaginary surroundings in an improv scene. This workshop will focus on the ways in which location and spacework can help you and your audience to believe in the fiction of your scene.

Taught by James Rone of Show X, Interplanetary Appeal, Ringo, For Better Or For Worse, and The Mess, this workshop is a fundraiser for Harbor Theatre Group, a youth theater group that provides young performers with a safe environment to explore and express their ideas while forming bonds with other performers and creating work of a high artistic standard.

The same workshop is offered on two different days: Tuesday, 4/8 from 7:00 – 9:00 PM and Sunday, 4/13, from 3:00 – 5:00 PM. Max capacity is 15 students per workshop.

The cost is $30 and the location is HUGE Improv Theater, 3037 S Lyndale Ave, 55408

Upcoming workshop with Emily Schmidt as a special treat while she visits the homeland:

Game of the Scene: Saturday April 19, 1-3, $30

What tools are in your scenework tool belt? Why do scenes sometimes feel like they stall? This 2-hour workshop will focus on using the concept of game to streamline your improv scenes and help you build a stronger foundation for analogous Harold beats. Use the patterns you already discover to build cleaner scenes!

Register here and please let me know if you have questions!

Read more about Emily here: http://www.emilyrschmidt.com

 

Volunteering at HUGE

We want our classes to be affordable to people at every income level, so we offer a trade in exchange for volunteer hours for students with financial need.  Other people volunteer at HUGE just for the fun of it, to support HUGE Theater, and to meet great people.

Potential volunteer positions include box officer, usher, cleaning crew, and customized positions based on your skills or interests.   Contact volunteers@hugetheater.com.  If you’re a Facebook user, there’s the HUGE Theater volunteers Facebook group as a way to connect as well.

 

3 For All Workshops: March 1 & 2

This is the improv workshop series you’ve been waiting for. On Saturday and Sunday March 1 & 2, Three For All from San Francisco will be returning. They’re teaching “Finding Your Strong Neutral”, “Improvising Sound Effects”, “Finding Your Backstory”, “Building The Space Object”, “Exploring Emotions” and “Transitions.” All three are amazing instructors. Rafe Chase is an Actor’s improvisor, capital A. Stephen Kearin is an impish gift with inhuman abilities. Tim Orr has one of the sharpest minds for analyzing improv in the business. There is something here for every student. Jump. On. It . REGISTER HERE.

3-for-all

Christian’s Question

I answered Christian’s question in the HUGE Newsletter (http://us4.campaign-archive1.com/?u=789b44d1ce73ebf01a485b40e&id=2f9e748883&e=6bfd0eb7f8 )but it comes up so very often that I wanted to post here too.  

Christian U asks, “How do you balance the ‘rules’ of improv with trying to be in the moment and spontaneous? I know it’s a basic question but it’s my biggest hurdle. The reality is that you CAN make a ‘mistake’ in improv and not everything can be spun into gold. I’ve watched those mistakes completely derail sets before.”  

Walt Whitman said, “Be curious, not judgmental.” It’s hard for people in various professions to wrap their heads around how improv works; if they spend all day making something run perfectly and there’s a specific outcome expected and desired, it is really hard to convince them there’s an entirely separate paradigm under which to operate. The truth about improv is this: if there was something specific we needed to have happen we would write a script. All the best scripts, particularly in comedy, are being written by improvisors right now. We are more than capable of writing scripts if that’s what the situation called for. But we’re not writing scripts because we’ve decided something else is important. The “rules” of improv are a series of derived ideas that make for some lovely moments, but a moth can upstage you if it finds its way in front of the lights, no matter how many rules of improv you are nailing. e.e. cummings wrote: “since feeling is first who pays any attention to the syntax of things will never wholly kiss you.”  The reason the sets you are referring to derailed is because the participants lost faith or hope or courage and didn’t play the hand they’d dealt themselves like the winner it could be. It’s already gold, no spinning needed.

I can tell you these words but I don’t know how to tell them to your heart and not your head.  I can only hope that maybe someday you get off a train at the wrong stop and there’s no train back for hours and instead of being upset you wander through the village and discover a small shop where they make a sweet candy more delicious than you’ve ever had, and the old man behind the counter tells you a story like you’ve never heard before, and there just happens to be a small string band playing in the gazebo in the square where people are dancing badly but with passion; and then when you finally get on the train it turns out they were fine without you all day long at your original destination.