Part demonstration, part exercise, Yes Party aptly models the destructive results of negativity and Wimping.
It’s helpful to have a white board and markers (or similar) for this participatory brainstorming exercise. A facilitator leads the discussion, perhaps with a helper or two writing the offered suggestions on the whiteboard.
The facilitator invites the participants to offer up a theme for a party which is then written on the white board. Those in attendance are then asked for a reason why this party theme can’t happen or is a bad idea – a block or wimping “Yes, but…,” if you will. The theme is then crossed out. A series of new party ideas are then elicited with each receiving the same treatment. Continue in this fashion until there is a small collection of rejected themes.
The facilitator now elicits one more possible party theme. This time, rather than seeking a reason to nix the idea, participants are now invited to brainstorm ways to realize and expand upon this particular party concept. What types of food might be served? Will there be decorations or costumes? Who might serve as the entertainment? These additions are recorded without judgement on the whiteboard around the theme in question.
Facilitator: “What’s a fun theme for a party?”
Player: “A Halloween party.”
Halloween is written boldly on the white board.
Facilitator: “OK, what’s a reason for not having a Halloween party?”
Another Player: “It’s February.”
Halloween is crossed out on the white board.
Facilitator: “Fair enough. What’s another theme then?”
Another Player: “Pirates of the Caribbean.”
This new idea is recorded.
Facilitator: “Great! But what might be a reason we can’t do that?”
Another Player: “I don’t like pirates…”
Several more themes are obtained only to be rejected…
Facilitator: “Let’s try our planning session again. I need another possible theme…”
Player: “How about a villains theme?”
Facilitator: “I love it. So what would we need for such a party?”
Villains and the resulting additions are all recorded…
Player: “We could have black light to make it eerie.”
Another Player: “And a smoke machine…”
Another Player: “We’ll need a DJ with a customized playlist.”
Another Player: “And definitely themed costumes – everyone dressed up as their favorite villain…”
Facilitator: “Any refreshments…?”
This experience typically culminates in an extremely provocative visual: one section of the board covered in crossed out suggestions and another full of uncensored potential. As this exercise is more often tailored for improv novices, my tips focus on proven ways to debrief the experience.
Traps and Tips
1.) How did each planning session feel? There are no guarantees in improv – and both models can certainly prove joyous for different reasons – but generally participants will feel thwarted by the first model and at least comparatively encouraged by the second. There can be a joy in creatively shooting down others’ ideas, but ultimately this leaves very little of value on the brainstorming white board.
2.) Were you equally as likely to contribute to both seasons? Often the first round will peter out on its own accord. Once the dynamic becomes crystal clear with no idea surviving the group gauntlet, there is little motivation for folks to offer up anything new. In the second iteration, while there can be momentary stalls as everyone contemplates what might be missing, the mood tends to quickly become playful and less guarded. Every idea, after all, gets written down without judgement.
3.) Which approach was more likely to result in a fun party? This is when the visual representations of the two rounds are worth a thousand words. Little survives the carnage of blocking and wimping on the first board, while the second likely displays a delightful array of brilliant and off-kilter ideas (many of which are probably brilliant in their unique off-kilter way too). By joyously embracing all ideas, players are now likely to find inspiration for exciting offers that might not have been immediately apparent.
4.) Is there a place for assessment in the second model too? On the improv stage when we’re dealing with fictitious characters and journeys there are rarely damaging real world consequences. If we were to actually hold our brainstormed party, there are some parameters that would need to be honored. There are probably budgetary limitations, and important interpersonal social contracts to uphold, such as making sure everyone feels welcome and included. This exercise doesn’t seek to deny these realities but rather reveals that when critique enters the creative equation too quickly it tends to serve a destructive rather than constructive role. Sometimes the most lauded idea is actually a response to an earlier “out of left field” notion.
In life and art, it’s very easy to poke holes in the ideas of others and come up with wimping reasons that allow you to avoid action or momentum. Yes Party hopefully provides a glimpse into an alternative pathway where ideas – and the people behind them – are given some room to explore and muse without the pressure of always presenting polished finished product.
Cheers, David Charles.
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Photo Credit: Tony Firriolo
© 2023 David Charles/ImprovDr
Connected Concept: Wimping