"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”- Shaw
I had just finished writing some notes on a show when I saw the above quote on my friend’s Facebook wall and it made me laugh. Thanks Tad.
I’ve been chewing on an idea that most improvisation classes are actually developing bad habits in students. The process of learning to improvise has been over simplified. It is being turned into ‘drive through’ snippets of fast food wisdom quotes, with equal the nutritional value.
There are many different approaches, philosophies and agendas in teaching improvisation. From all I have encountered the one thing they all share is the importance of acceptance. Offer, character, situation, truth, scene, game; whatever the focus or however it is taught acceptance is there. In order to accept one must first hear and by hearing and accepting a level of communication has happened, right?
If we go by the definition of Communication as defined by the Oxford Dictionary online which is;
~ the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium
We should be experts in communication. We should be experts in listening, offering, and observing. We are not. So much improvisation is the illusion of communication. Many improvisors have become Communication Illusionists they look like they are listening, they may sound like they are accepting but in reality they are not. What they are doing is looking for their launch points, the information they need to shine, succeed, get a laugh. They pan your offers for their gold.
Communication is give and take. These illusionists are experts at the take. Watch them closely their give is weak and hidden in their own need. They are clever though and can further hide this lack of generosity in great energy, cleverness or charm. They also tend to avoid any scenes with real emotion or genuine connection between characters.
Improvisors who are doing this have been failed by their teachers. They are survivors. In early impro classes they learned to survive by this illusion technique and were probably rewarded for doing so. They haven’t been taught to embrace fear, failure and the unknown. They have not developed the skills of truly valuing your partner.
Working with this type of improvisor is disappointing. Like someone you went out on a date with because they seemed charming, and energetic just to discover that under the illusion they are self obsessed. Each and every question they ask you is only a opportunity to talk about themselves. No mater how attracted you may be to their charm, you know the sex is going to be boring, predictable and really only satisfactory to one. You’ll leave feeling odd and it won’t be until a few days later that you look back and realise why.
Communication Illusionists are more fun for the audience to watch then for other improvisors to work with.
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