Friday, October 27th, 2017...2:51 pm

GradEscape Reflection: YES AND…

Jump to Comments


Post by: Cricia Rinchon, Gradlife Ambassador

Did you know that The Second City – Training Centre is the largest school of improvisation and sketch comedy in the world? Last Tuesday a group of us went to The Second City for an improv class. When we walked into the “classroom”, our instructor invited us to put our coats on hooks and set our bags down by the walls. He wrote “YES, AND…” on a whiteboard and instilled the theme for the rest of the class: learning how to accept information, and then adding to it.  

We started off with a simple warm-up exercise. Everyone got into a big circle and the instructor started by clapping and pointing to nominate another person to continue the cycle of clapping, pointing, and nominating. As the group got more comfortable, our claps transformed from being quiet and apprehensive to loud and charged with excitement.

Over the course of the two hour class, the warm-up exercise seamlessly transitioned into games, and these games eventually transitioned to building scenes together. Each exercise was “deceivingly simple” and had a purpose far deeper than it seemed at surface level. At the end of each exercise, our instructor would make summarizing statements that we’ve all heard before in passing or from reading a fortune cookie–but there was something about the way they tied into the exercises that brought a whole new level of meaning to them.

Throughout the class, our group of a dozen strangers from various graduate disciplines bonded as we were immersed in the safe and trusting environment The Second City created for us. I couldn’t help but think that this class is the perfect team-bonding exercise as there were many common principles between a good improviser and a good team-player.

Here are a 3 principles we learned from our improv instructor that I found incredibly applicable to working in a team: 

“Be selfless and think about your partner.” First and foremost, good improvisors want to make it easier for their fellow improvisors. This mentality promotes providing support for our teammates. For example, being reactive to the information you received from your partner is only half the battle, as it doesn’t provide your partner with much material to work with for the next step. It is important to be proactive with providing more information and material for your partner to work with. This relates to teamwork because it reminded me that getting my job done was only half the battle–the other half was ensuring my contribution fitted well with the team’s greater mutual goal.

“Only give information to someone who is ready to accept it.One of the games involved standing in a circle and passing a mimed ball to each other. Simple, right? It became less so as the instructor threw in multiple balls. To keep track of when and where these mimed balls were being thrown, we had to emphasize eye-contact and beware of ambiguous body language. For example, it’s really difficult for your fellow improvisors to tell the difference between standing and being ready to catch an invisible ball and being ready to throw an invisible ball that you’re holding. This relates to teamwork because when I become too task-oriented, I may overlook the importance of soft skills that make the process easier for my teammates. This was a great exercise of communication, as checking that the timing and way information is being conveyed can be just as important as getting the information across.

“Forgive yourself.” Everyone makes mistakes. During our class, each person goofed at one point or another, and if we got too caught up in that mistake or wrongly over-thought about our peers judging us the momentum of the exercise or scene would dissipate. Improv encouraged me to remember to not be so hard on myself and to not get too caught up in striving for a false sense of perfection, as more often than not it slows down the momentum of team workflow.

I highly encourage everyone to check out The Second City’s classes! It could be a great way to bond with your friends, family, or coworkers. If you’re not sure if you’d like to make the financial investment just yet: try grabbing a group of friends to do the exercises from Improv Encylopedia for free. Finally, be sure to checkout our Upcoming Events for more GradEscapes!  



Leave a Reply