Yes And: Not a struggle


"Hey" the actor said looking at me, "she blocked my offer, she's suppose to say 'yes and'"!

The scene stopped and we talked about the Improv concept of  'yes and'.

What does YES AND mean?

Yes and is a short phrase that refers to a principle concept of improvisation:  accepting ideas and building on them.  If we hold on to the phrase "yes and" rather than the concept we can lose sight of the goal in favor of enforcing a 'rule'.    Good art doesn't get created using rules.

Yes and is not a's a concept.  The Yes And concept directs performers to see what's there (in the story) and develop it (as opposed to introducing new elements that are not related to the what's already there).  What's there is called an 'offer'.  An offer is anything an actor does or says on the stage.  It can be as simple as an actor standing on stage looking at her watch or as specific as an actor saying, "Mrs. Martin it's time for your driving test, just step into the car and we'll get started."

The challenges comes when we expect other actors to accept the offers that we introduce.  This leads to too many offers ('offer soup') and a struggle to get 'your offer' accepted.   It's tempting to just throw ideas out there and blame the other person for not accepting YOUR offer and developing it.

The challenge for the improv actor is to be present on stage and see (and develop) what's there before introducing new ideas.

The first one to make an offer wins!  [not]

When actors first learn the 'yes and' concept they feel a great power, 'everyone has to agree with what I say'.  This can lead to a competition to be the actor who makes the first offer and/or arguments after the show as to whose offer was better.

The Yes and concept can be used for those who are competitive or who want to maintain control.  This can look like a 'rush' to be the one to defines the situation.  Males in particular can be competitive and can enjoy the struggle for control.  This is always at the expense of the scene integrity.  The audience watches the struggle for control not the story of the scene.

How to use Yes and

When an actor does not 'yes and' Resist the temptation to point to someone else and accuse them of NOT following the rule of  yes and.  Accusing someone else can bring about a defensive response and that does not build a better bond for performance.

It's better to ask yourself why you are so insistent that they are in the wrong.  Were you trying to control the scene?  Was your idea better?  It's not a's a challenge to see if you can build a scene together....not have one idea prevail over another.

Yes and is a wonderful sign post that points the direction to magical moments on stage.  Remember that it's not about being right and it's about building something together.  To do that everyone has to be moving in the same direction.