Improv Theaters Should Cooperate

by Wells

I’ve wanted to link to this essay for a long time, but I couldn’t remember where I’d seen it.  Of course it was at the very reputable and enjoyable yesand.com.

I hope the archived version linked here never goes kaput.  It’s essentially a fable which explains how improv theaters could build a better community for themselves by sharing resources rather than by jeering each other and remaining separate.

Maybe I’ll be excommunicated for saying this but in New York improv the leaders seem to have been at war for a long while, and the people are weary of it.  If I was going to draft a peace treaty, some of the terms would include these:

  • Freedom to perform any show at any theater regardless of where our training was initiated.
  • Freedom to take classes and participate in workshops based upon the specific prerequisites of that workshop, and not upon perceived theater affiliation.

Students of the art do an okay job of intermingling and checking out each others’ work regardless of what side they’re on in this war.  But there is still a stigma and an institutional level of discouragement and stubborn theater nationalism that’s stifling progress.  Meddling with the art in this way is good for business in the short term.  But cooperation, which is good for the art, will ultimately prove better for business in the long term.  You don’t need to brand improv to sell the best version of it.

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