One of the differences between applied improv and improv comedy is that we take the focus off of performing and put it on the process of play. One of the most fundamental and powerful parts of that process involves trust!
What does trust mean to you?
For me, it means feeling safe, respected, even loved, along with a sense of ease in my body, mind, and soul. Trusting someone means I can count on them to do what they say, give me a break for my imperfections, own their own part in a conflict, accept me, even celebrate me as I am…things like that. I’ve had some betrayals in life and don’t take these things for granted. Insecurities and sensitivities are part of who I am. Join the club, right?
Taking improv classes has been really helpful to me in exploring trust and having fun doing it. The very principles of play support trusting relationships. They do vary from teacher to teacher a little bit. At Portsmouth Improv Learning Lab, fondly referred to as PILL, we follow these principles and in parenthesis, (their relevance to trust).
PILL Principles of Improv
- “Yes and…” (This golden rule of improv ensures that players share responsibility for co-creating scenes and stories. I learn that I can count on i.e. trust my partner!)
- Support your partner (I help others devlop trust as I am trustworthy. I gain insight and experience into what trust looks and feels like.)
- You have everything you need (Here I learn to trust myself to offer something of value while trusting my partner will make it work.)
- Celebrate “mistakes” (It’s ok to be human! YAY! I’m OK, you’re OK, we’re OK!)
- Avoid questions (This one is a little harder to explain, but deep inside, there are times that I and others will ask questions to avoid fully participating in a relationship. Avoiding them, for some people, means trusting themselves and others.)
- Feel free to make things up (Actors already know this, but some people who are new to improv need permission to get out of their heads. The pressure of being right or knowing something can be set aside. I make something up trusting my partner will run with it giving me feedback that trusting is safe).
- Observers play an important role (This gives people new to improv the freedom to not take a risk if they don’t feel safe. I learn to trust the teacher here and have control where I may need it. AND I can be helpful by watching and sharing insights.)
Despite difficulties broken trust situations have caused for me, these experiences have taught me to place a high value on trust and helped me to be sensitive to what others are experiencing. It is part of how I continue to grow as a person. And as a teacher to be more effective in creating a safe environment for students to take risks, play, and grow together.
You don’t have to have trust issues to enjoy or learn from PILL. I don’t always feel trusting, but when I do it is indeed a glorious feeling. Do you have experiences with trust in taking or teaching applied improv? What would you add?