Improv theatre is a fast-paced form of performance that challenges actors to create and tell a story together on the spot with minimal inspiration and a live audience. It’s a challenging art form that comes with its own exercises to help performers shine and none are more beneficial to all artists than “Yes, and…”
Playing “Yes, and…” is very simple. One actor starts by setting the scene. The next actor then jumps in with a line that begins with “Yes, and…” and adds to the story. This continues until time runs out or a natural conclusion is reached.
In improv, the story must get moving immediately and a big “no” is a great way to stall everything. “No” is the full rejection of an idea. It kills comradery and it kills scenes before they even get going. It disrespects the thoughts of others and, in theatre, this is no way to build a cohesive acting unit. By forcing a “yes,” actors teach themselves how to accept an idea from another person. Then, by adding on, they help build on that idea. By having to accept these, regardless of how good or bad they think the ideas are, they are showing respect to the creativity of other people. By adding their own thoughts, they then become invested in helping make that thought better and better. In no time, every person now has a direct investment in the story that means something to them. It’s a positive feedback loop created from one of the simplest exercises ever created for performance. In time, it becomes a habit so ingrained that the two words, “yes, and…,” can be dropped in full in favor of forming more natural sentences.