One of the Core ideas of improv is saying YES. It’s basically unlearning what we learned in our terrible twos – No! No! No! : )
In the Improv world…..You and I come on the stage together and you say, “Hey Doctor Miller I’m here for my 2 o’clock appointment.”
Me: I’m not a doctor. I’m standing here at this bus stop.
This is known as blocking and the scene goes nowhere. I’m basically saying ‘That was a stupid idea. I’m starting over.’
You: Hey Dr. Miller I’m here for my 2 o’clock appointment.
Me: Yes, Maria let’s take a look at your X-rays here [I mime putting the X-ray on the lightbox and showing it to you]
You: Wow, that’s worse than I thought! And my Olympic trials are coming up next week!
Me: Yes, I’ve already pre-ordered a bionic arm for you. It’s state of the art, so the Olympic committee won’t even know!
When we say YES, the scene can actually go somewhere.
Now if you have a gun to my head (in a scene) YES does not mean, ”Yes, shoot me!”. Yes could mean: “Get that stupid gun outta my face [as I move my head, mime grabbing it, disarming you].
So it’s not just going along exactly with everything offered. Embodying a posture of YES is about saying YES to ourselves, YES to the other, YES to the unfolding present moment.
The first time that I led a jail bible study in the Skagit County Jail, I decided that I was going to start with an improv game: Going on a Picnic. (Believe me – there were moments when I thought, ‘What am I thinking? These guys are gonna think this is so dumb.” However I decided to say YES to doing the game and fully owning it.
I started our time asking them: When was a time that someone has told you ”NO”? A few of the men shared horrible moments when one of their parents or relatives said things like “You’re not gonna be anything.”… or ”You’re shit.” or ”You’re not worth nothin’ “. And others have been beat with pipes or bats or fists. Some have been sexually abused. Their bodies/minds/spirits are receiving Enormous NOes. And most, if not all, of them have not fully recovered.
Then I asked them, “When was a time that someone told you YES?”. I remember one response from a middle-aged man. He said, “One time when I got out of prison, I mean right when I got out, this guy met me from this other ministry whom I had known, and he gave me a big hug. I felt like I wanted to totally leave behind my life that was consumed by drugs.
The power of an embrace. The power of YES.
Then we played Going on a Picnic. In short, you get with a partner and play three rounds. First round: you go back and forth offering ideas of what to bring on the picnic. Each offer is met with a NO. Second round: same thing except this time each offer is met with indifference. Something like: “Meh, you can if you want to, but I’m not really into mustard.”
Third round: Both people say YES to each offer. As they enter this round the volume and laughter gets to a whole new level. When we debriefed one of the inmates summed up the impact best when he said with a smile on his face, “It’s like we connected, man!”
We then read through a gospel story where a women is accused/shamed by the religious leaders who threatening to stone her, and they want to trap Jesus too. He steps in the circle, risking his life, and basically says, ”Whoever has never done anything wrong, go ahead and throw the first stone”. And one by one from the oldest to the youngest they drop their stones and walk away.
Then one of my favorite lines, “Where are your accusers?”
As a christian, I believe that Jesus is saying YES to the core of our being. The problem often is that there is TOO many voices of Accusation from society, our past, authority figures that we can’t hear/believe the YES of Jesus.
And the call for those of us in the church is to Embody this YES of Jesus to those who have had so many accusers, and to begin to fan into flame the imagination of the accused that they could have a renewed life and future – as Jesus did for the woman in the story.
How can you say YES today? Yes in your role as a parent…Yes, to facing a difficult relationship…. Yes, to a dream deferred…. Yes to exploring/receiving the Yes of those around you. Send and receive the Yes and see what happens!
(Yes, I said I was going to write seven days in a row about Seven things that Improv gives us…And it’s trickling out a bit slower than I thought. : )