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Yes, and? The Power of Improv

Happy World Theatre Day everyone! It may feel really weird to think about that now since COVID-19 turned our world upside down, but I still think that celebrating things like that brings back a sense of normalcy to these troubling times.  Besides, I have been involved with theatre since my wee years during drama week at CampZone, and it has been an important part of my life ever since. In fact, one of the last things that I did on campus before they shut everything down for online schooling was participate in 24 Hour Theatre, an event where shows are written, rehearsed, and performed in (you guessed it) only 24 hours.  It was such a fun experience and I hope to be able to do it again next year.

Photo from my performance as Camp Counselor Julia from Dinosaur Camp

In light of recent events, I’ve been thinking about how many of us have found escape through theatre and the arts in general. Whether this means movies, tv shows, drawing, reading, or making music, the arts have been so important in providing me with a positive outlook as everything becomes so uncertain.  When things began to be canceled, many of my theatrical friends were hit hard with the cancellation of shows that they had been working on for months, and it was devastating. As someone who has been very involved in the arts throughout my life, I’ve found solace in these past two weeks with the mentality brought to me by the iconic improv philosophy, “Yes, and”. 

Yes, and” is the first rule of improvisational acting which means that you always agree and add on to what the first person says to you.  In the theatre camps that I attended as a kid, we would get put in small groups and create improv skits with each other and this rule was one that you simply were not allowed to break.  We would come up with all kinds of wild stories as we built upon each other’s ideas while playing with “yes, and” rules of improv. 

But “yes, and” became more to me as a person.  It became my attitude towards having allergies- “yes, I have allergies, AND I can still sing and dance on stage”, “yes, I have allergies, AND I can go on overnight music department trips without my parents”.  As I grew my experience, I began to realize the kind of positivity and importance of community that stems from a “yes, and” philosophy.  

As we wrap up our second week in COVID quarantine, I think it is important to apply “yes, and” to our situation.  Yes, I may be stuck in my house, and I will make the most of it.  Yes, I can only contact my friends online, and we will hang out on Zoom for our movie nights, Just Dance games, and other shenanigans.  I hope everyone is able to stay mentally and physically healthy while we wait out this pandemic. Please feel free to share what you’re doing during the quarantine in the comments!

My first community theatre production, Fiddler on the Roof 2009. Catch me in the front row with the blue shirt and glasses. 

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