30 October 2013


Personal photo - Hotel staircase in Genoa, Italy

As a part of company training, we had an improvisation class at work last week. I had already engaged in improvisation lessons at my acting classes a few years ago, but this time, the exercise made me think about life, and the balance between taking the lead and accepting to let go.

The training session was quite simple: we were gathered in a group of 8, and the trainer would give us simple exercises such as creating a still scene on the theme "Uncle Bob's death", or starting to tell a story and letting another continue on. At the end of the sessions, two main points struck me as important to succeed in improvisation, and I found these, to my surprise, to apply quite well to life in general.

Listening and Letting Go 

When asked about improvisation, many people answer it is about creativity and imagination. And it is. But it is also, a lot, about listening to the other participants of the impro scene, and accepting their proposition. Improvisation is about building on what the other person brings to the scene, and this is only possible if you listen to the other actor's choices and accept them, even if it doesn't go the way you had planned.

In life too, things often don't go the way we planned. Here is what we learned about listening to the other actors, and letting go of the control we want to have over the story, that I think can also apply to life in general:

The initial situation is not what we want - sometimes, we face situations we didn't want to be in the middle of. Yet we are. Instead of fighting the facts, it is more efficient and peaceful to accept the current situation, whatever it is, and find solutions accordingly.

The scenario doesn't turn out as planned - sometimes, people don't react the way we hoped, or, despite our preparations, events don't turn out the way we expected. We have to let go of the need to control the situation, accept that it turned out the way it did, and move on.

Other people don't see the scene the same way - Each person has their own vision of the scene and what they want to do with it, and the result, when successful, is a mix of both visions. It is the same in life, people around us don't always have the same values and ideas than us, and we need to accept this fact.

Making Life Decisions

In improvisation, making decisions is one of the key elements of the scene. It isn't prepared like a regular play, and you have to react to the situation quickly and with conviction. If you don't, you are paralyzed on the stage and the scene just ends. In a way, life is the same. We don't have any prepared lines for what's going to happen next or how people around us react.  But we choose how we react to all these external events.

In fact, I personally believe that it is our actions, behaviour and choices that make us who we are. Here is what we learned about making decisions in impro, which I find applies to life decisions as well:

We fear to be judged by the other participants - if we are sure that our decision is right by our standards, we shouldn't let other people's judgment interfere in our choices

We want to make the perfect choice - Sometimes, there is no "best" decision, or "perfect" scenario, in the end, moving forward with a decision is better than doing nothing at all while waiting for perfection.

In the end, improvisation is about finding the right balance between the 2 points above: listening and accepting the situation, letting go of the need to control everything; but being assertive enough to make our own decisions and stand behind them. That sounds a lot like a balance to think about in life too, doesn't it?

That's obviously a work in progress thought that I wanted to share while the improvisation class is still fresh in my mind, what do you think about it?


  1. like always i enjoyed to read your post because it is structured so clearly. often you write about topics i also think about and most times i share your point of view but somehow this thoughts are always such a mess in my head :D

    this topic however is a approach i havent thought about before. it makes sense to me. especially the last point about waiting/wishing for a perfect choise seems familiar.

    1. Thank you! It usually takes time to wrap my head around an idea and turn it into a post that makes sense for readers, but I'm happy it works :)

  2. What an amazingly well-thought out post! I love how you expand the overall topic of simplicity to so many different, yet entirely related areas. Your blog is very unique in that way. Very well written as well!

    1. Thank you for the kind note! I tend to write about topics I'm thinking or questioning about, because I watched, read or did certain things, and sometimes I wonder if it all makes sense as a whole on the blog, so I'm happy to hear it does.

  3. I love the way you write, had to say that. And this is an amazing post. In my experience (psychologyst, working with kids) theatre and impro are the BEST methods to do most of the stuff I need to do, not just the things you wrote about,

    1. Given the type of exercises we made during the 3 hour class, I can imagine all the possibilities of improvisation, when tailored to specific audiences or goals. For kids it must be a great way to make them express themselves...

  4. J'aime beaucoup la photo illustrant cet article, très belle perspective!

    Cet exercice m'a fait penser à un chouette petit jeu auquel j'ai joué récemment, portant le doux nom de "Oui, Seigneur des Ténèbres" dont le pitch (très simple est le suivant) : un maitre du jeu endosse le rôle du Seigneur des Ténèbres, et tous les autres participants sont les sbires de ce dernier; à qui une mission a été confiée et qu'ils ont lamentablement ratée. Le but du jeu est de se défendre des accusations portées par ses petits camarades à l'aide des cartes dont on dispose (en général assez farfelues). Un jeu d'improvisation totale donc, où l'on doit ici aussi attentivement suivre le déroulement de l'histoire (qui part très vite en sucette) et où il faut très rapidement composer avec le peu d'éléments qu'on a sous peine de subir les foudres maléfiques. Et à plusieurs reprises, je me suis retrouvé à complètement buguer, le cerveau HS et incapable de sortir la moindre histoire... Ou alors l'inverse, à broder pendant plusieurs minutes mais sans réussir à trouver d'idées pour accuser quelqu'un d'autre. ^^
    Une façon de faire nettement plus simple que la séance d'impro que tu as fait, mais très sympa toutefois !

    1. Merci pour le compliment sur la photo! Je fais des tests depuis que j'ai décidé de me mettre à la photographie et j'ai trouvé cette cage d'escalier très intéressante. C'est fou comme la photo nous fait faire plus attention à notre entourage.

      Oui je me souviens d'avoir joué à "Oui seigneur des ténèbres" avec mes amis "jeux de plateau". Nous avons également joué à un jeu de cartes d'impro similaire qui s'appelait "il était une fois" je crois, avec des cartes de lieux, personnages, actions etc. à partir desquelles il faut construire une histoire, interrompre et continuer celle des autres pour poser toutes les cartes et gagner. C'est vrai que ce type de jeu est un très bel exercice d'impro à plusieurs!