I love the Yes And exercise. It’s such a core part of improv that I never regret doing it in a workshop and it’s great to always go back to as an exercise with a performing team.
Yes And is at the heart of impro – I’m going to be on stage, listen and see the other person, accept what they are doing (Yes) AND add a detail/offer back to them. Two people Yes Anding is captivating to watch. Going line by line is great to go back to and is impro in it’s purest form – don’t worry where you are going, just pick up on what actually just happened, what the other person is actually doing, and add to that. It can take a while to get people to actually deal with what actually just got said, rather than what they think should have been said or where the scene should have been going.
Yes Anding has loads of positive outcomes – it generates content and the scene, it takes the pressure of the individual and puts the point of attention on the other person. But it’s also deeper than that, as it creates a warm and supportive atmosphere. An improviser freezes up when they are fearful of being judged. So when we Yes And another improviser not only do we help the scene, but we give them confidence and support as their ideas are accepted and built upon.
In its original form the game of Yes Works by having two improvisers on stage, one starts with any offer (simple and obvious/boring is good) and then after that every line has to star with Yes And. For instance:
A: We’re in a pub.
B: Yes And there’s a beer pump.
A: Yes And let’s get some beer.
B: Yes And here we go, have a pint.
A: Yes And thanks, down in one!
B: Yes And wow that feels good!
A: Yes And yeah I feel amazing!
B: Yes And let’s sing about how amazing we’re feeling
It looks simple but on the first round it can be really tricky. Funny enough people will think they are playing it but quite often they’ll stop saying Yes And after the first line. Other responses to look out for as a teacher are…
Yes And No
Yes And But
The gaps we put in are thinking spaces we are using to judge/edit our own ideas, rather than having a spontaneous response.
So next round I get people to concentrate on just saying ‘Yes And’ quickly, cheerfully and enthusiastically right at the start, and not worry about what they are saying. Yes Anding first, thinking and justifying later. This can take quite a while with people. Don’t worry if it generates crazy scenes, on this round it’s more an exercise on listening and getting out of your head than on scene work. It seems really simple as an instruction ‘just say yes and at the start’ but if you listen as a teacher you’ll see it’s actually quite rare for someone to be able to do it straight away, so work on it and encourage it.
After that we also did a more fluid Yes And exercises. The one above is more frenetic in energy, which can be good to get people out of their heads, so this one is more fluid. The core idea being that just because you are playing a more gentle energy doesn’t mean the rate of yes anding is slowed down. So in this version the actors literally sway like a little happy dance through the scene, and have big warm grins. Encourage them to feel the flow of energy as they fully receive an offer, add to it, and send an offer back in once constant dance. I got them doing a rhythmic clapping game beforehand as this seemed to help. I’d also like to try this where a ball is consistently thrown from one to the other in time with the offers, to keep the rhythm and flow.
Next one is Physical Yes And, which seems to be a whole new exercise, or at least I haven’t heard of it before. Yes And can usually be a bit verbal, so we did one in near silence. First offer is someone saying the Where/Location of the scene, and after that they still say ‘Yes And’ but then do a physical offer that adds to the last offer without saying anything. For instance:
A: We’re in a pub.
B: Yes And starts pouring a beer from beer pump, puts glass on bar.
A: Yes And picks up beer, hands over money
B: Yes And accepts money, puts it in till, gives back change
A: Yes And accepts change, has a sip, happens to look over B’s shoulder
B: Yes And looks behind him, points
A: Yes And points to same thing, gasps
B: Yes And gasps
A: Yes And looks terrified
B: Yes And gets dun down from behind bar, points it at intruder.
Actually saying Yes And out loud before the physical action made it easier to really recognise each person’s physical offers in the scene, and moved scenes quickly forward.
Lots of love,