Impro and Science — a Teaser

Written by Ben Verhoeven June 25, 2020 One comment

The text below is a tea­ser sec­ti­on from a lar­ger text tit­led “Impro­vi­sa­ti­on and the Sci­en­ti­fic Method” by Gael Door­ne­weerd-Per­ry and myself that will appear later this year in a book con­tai­ning essays from mem­bers of The SIN net­work.
You can find ano­ther tea­ser of the chap­ter, on entro­py, on Gael’s blog.

Both Gael and I have a sci­en­ti­fic background—Gael as a geo­lo­gist and myself as a com­puta­ti­o­nal linguist—and we love improv.

Reproducibility in improvised theatre

Good research needs to be repro­du­ci­ble. If ano­ther researcher does the exact same expe­ri­ment they should be able to find the same results, other­wi­se the con­clu­si­on of the first research should serious­ly be ques­ti­o­ned. When con­nec­ting this aspect of sci­en­ce to impro­vi­sa­ti­on, it see­ms an ana­lo­gy bet­ween sci­en­ce and impro­vi­sa­ti­on is in trou­ble.

Impro­vi­sa­ti­on is any­thing but repro­du­ci­ble, right? Eve­ry show or sce­ne is only per­for­med once, eve­ry charac­ter is dis­co­ver­ed in the moment. Yet the­re are coun­ter examples. Sketch wri­ters some­ti­mes use impro­vi­sa­ti­on as a method of gene­ra­ting ide­as for new sket­ches. Some per­for­mers find them­sel­ves regu­lar­ly playing the same charac­ter again, per­haps becau­se it was recei­ved well by an audien­ce the pre­vious time. As impro­vi­sers, we think that this is not advi­sa­ble and that we should always aim to put our­sel­ves in new situ­a­ti­ons when on sta­ge.

But here’s ano­ther idea. We belie­ve that repro­du­ci­bi­li­ty in impro­vi­sa­ti­on should not be applied to the con­tent of the sce­nes. Instead, we are inte­rested to inves­ti­ga­te if the suc­cess of a sce­ne or a show is repro­du­ci­ble. What are the con­di­ti­ons that were suc­ces­sful? What are the ele­ments of a show that are a ‘gua­ran­teed win’? What is the com­bi­na­ti­on of tools that are giving us the most chan­ces of playing a good sce­ne? In the case of cre­a­ting a show it might be the theme—everyone loves love sto­ries—, or a spe­ci­fic set up—difficult to mess up if the rule of the show is only two-per­son sce­nes—, etc. On sta­ge whi­le impro­vi­sing, it can be the ‘improv rules’ we esta­blish.

One thought on “Impro and Science — a Teaser

  • […] The text below is a tea­ser sec­ti­on from the chap­ter “Impro­vi­sa­ti­on and the Sci­en­ti­fic Method” by Ben Ver­hoe­ven and myself. The book whe­re it belongs will be publis­hed later this year, and will inte­gra­te other essais, inclu­ding Bio­lo­gy of Improv in its full ver­si­on. You can find ano­ther tea­ser of the chap­ter, on repro­du­ci­bi­li­ty, on Ben’s blog. […]

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