“Too much structure, too many tight rules, and a sense of significant and fearful consequences should those rules be broken all inhibit spontaneity. On the other hand, too little structure and too much ambiguity also raise anxiety. There are just too few guidelines on which to build a plausible role construct. So, there’s a ‘window,’ just a bit of structure, that creates an optimal circumstance.”Adam Blatner, Foundations of Psychodrama. History, Theory, and Practice. 4th Edition. New York: Springer Pub. Co., 2000. p. 85
I encountered the Ten Commandments of Theatresports when I was first introduced to improvisation in New Zealand during the 1980’s. These helpful “rules” provide a launching point to consider many of the fundamental principles that serve as the bedrock of most modern improvisational practices. There is some debate as to whether or not rules are necessarily helpful or may, rather, encourage players to think too much while creating onstage. Overall, however, I think there is sage wisdom to be mined, and I used these ten guidelines to inspire one of my first ImprovDr.com blog series.
Below you’ll find a summary of the commandments with hyperlinks to more detailed discussions and analysis. Each entry is also connected to a game or exercise that explores the concept.
1.) Thou shalt not block
2.) Thou shalt always retain focus
3.) Thou shalt not shine above thy team mates
4.) To gag is to commit a sin that will be paid for
5.) Thou shalt always be changed by what is said to you
6.) Thou shalt not waffle
7.) When in doubt, break the routine
8.) To wimp is to show thy true self
9.) Those who try to be clever are not, while those who are clever, do not try
10.) When thy faith is low, thy spirit weak, thy good fortune strained and thy team losing, be comforted and smile, because it just doesn’t matter!
As you explore and become more experienced in the craft of improvisation, exceptions to inherited rules always become apparent. But I believe there is a value in acknowledging that certain concepts and philosophies unite us as players even if we might disagree with some of the nuances. Looking back at these Commandments that I encountered over three decades ago reminded me of old habits that I’m still working on and inspired some new strategies for the path ahead. I hope these entries can be similarly helpful for you.
Related Entries: See specific Commandments linked above Antonyms: Chaos Synonyms: Rules, Structure