In improv, the question about rules constantly pops up. A nice reflection on that has been written by macro recently (in German). And I agree with him that it is indeed paradox in improv: On the one hand, there’s the statement “There are no mistakes in improv”, while on the other hand, there’s a full bunch of colourful rules that players are confronted with.
I think, the dilemma – or paradox – can be solved in that very moment when rules turn into attitudes. My observation is, that a lot of players who play improv for a longer time, slowly, slowly internalize the rules, so that they are actually no longer rules but attitudes, which – in case of doubt – can be applied offstage, too. Here, I have things in mind like “Say yes!” (acceptance), “Embrace Failure!” or “Let your Partner Shine!” Of course this does not mean that you live these attitudes always and everywhere. We’re all humans and as such, we are sometimes jealous or even mean – of course. But, even here, the rule “Embrace failure!” can be applied, which in this context means as much as: Be generous to yourself.
As soon as rules have become attitudes, the players have a much higher flexibility for their play. Because they can remove a large chunk of their attention away from following the “rules” and can focus on other aspects of their play or the show / scene.
Translation by: Claudia Hoppe