Improve Acting Instincts and Performance With This Clever Improv Game

Children (5-7) wearing animal costumes on stage, portrait
The "Yes, And" improv game can help actors of all ages. Colin Hawkins / Getty Images

Unless an actor is the star of a one-person show, his or her acting experience will involve a lot of cooperation and engagement with other actors. In theory, an actor should be able to pick up on his or her fellow actors' body language and tone, responding appropriately and seamlessly, even in the trickiest situations. 

The Problems Actors Face on Stage When Things Go Wrong

Plenty of actors have been part of a scene in which lines are dropped.

Without proper training, actors often stand speechless, wondering what happened, and what to do next. With an understanding of improv and cooperation, actors can seamlessly continue the scene, guiding the story back to the script.

Similar situations occur in a live theater all the time. A prop has disappeared, a cue is missed, a table is in the wrong position, and actors must work together to keep the scene moving forward in a plausible manner.

How Actors Learn to Go With the Flow on Stage

Part of the proper training for the unexpected involves improv work that requires creative cooperation. The game "Yes, And" forces actors to avoid rejecting other cast members' ideas, and, instead, to find a way to go with the flow. "Yes, And" is the opposite of "No, But," which is a response that can lead to catastrophe on stage.

The game "Yes, And" is very simple. In an improv situation, actors are required to accept their fellow actors' ideas and build on them.

For example, at the beginning of the scene, the first character begins by establishing setting and plot, as seen below. 

  • Character #1: "What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand! " (Following the “Yes, And” method, the second character will accept the premise and add to the situation.)
  • Character #2: "Yep and the boss said we don’t get no water until this fence is mended."
  • Character #1: "Yes and ain’t he the meanest cuss we’ve ever worked for?"
  • Character #2: "Yep and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and headin’ off for San Francisco."

Developing Conflict Can Help Actors Move the Plot Along

Now, the scene could continue on indefinitely with the actors simply agreeing with one another. However, it’s best to develop conflict as well. For example:

  • Character #2: "Yep, and it’s made me think about leaving behind this cowboy life and headin’ off for San Francisco."
  • Character #1: "Yes, and you’d be broke twenty minutes after stepping off the stagecoach.
  • Character #2: "Yeah, and I supposed you think you could do better?!"
  • Character #1: "Yes! And after I made my fortune panning for gold I come back and buy this sorry ranch and you’d be working for me!"

After working on “Yes, And” exercises, actors ultimately learn how to do scenes in which they embrace the ideas and concepts offered by fellow performers. Actors don’t actually need to say the words “Yes, And” for the system to work. They simply need to affirm what the character is saying and allow it to build the scene.

If actors deny their fellow performer, the scene may be dead in the water before it even had a chance.

See how it could unfold:

  • Character #1: "What a hot and miserable day to be a ranch hand!"
  • Character #2: "No it’s not. And we’re not ranch hands either."
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Bradford, Wade. "Improve Acting Instincts and Performance With This Clever Improv Game." ThoughtCo, Nov. 13, 2017, thoughtco.com/yes-and-improv-game-2713213. Bradford, Wade. (2017, November 13). Improve Acting Instincts and Performance With This Clever Improv Game. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/yes-and-improv-game-2713213 Bradford, Wade. "Improve Acting Instincts and Performance With This Clever Improv Game." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/yes-and-improv-game-2713213 (accessed December 11, 2017).