YES, AND...  Story Line

The Basics:

Have about five players stand in a line in front of the audience.  Have the first player come up with an idea--any idea--someplace to go, something to build or do, etc.  The next player in line then says, "YES!" as if the idea was the greatest thing that he or she ever heard, then repeats the idea that was presents and says, "AND..." and then adds to that idea, in such a way that expands on it, but never changes the nature of it.  The third person then says "YES" in a similar way, restates the idea as it was said by the two players before, and then says "AND..." and adds another part.  This process is continued until each player has a turn.

In The Classroom:

  • This game has one purpose:  To introduce a group to the concept of "YES, AND..." and to practice this concept.  Nothing kills and idea more than someone saying "NO" or "YES, BUT..."   Real ideas form in an environment where there are people who use "Yes, and..."  People who listen and are willing to change how they think based on what is said.  People who fully embrace the ideas that came before.
  • "Yes, and..." is the most important concept for doing improv, or for doing group decision making of any form.  It is the one idea that is consistent across all schools and styles of the craft.  Improvisation of any form cannot be done without it.  
  • This game is the most simple and concrete way of introducing the concept I could find or think of.  It usually goes something like this:  Player 1:  "I think we should build a statue!"  Player 2:  "Yes!  I think we should build as statue AND it should be of Harriet Tubman!"  Player 3:  "Yes! I agree!  We should build a statue of Harriet Tubman, AND it should be thirty feet high!"  Player 4:  "Yes!  We should build a thirty foot high statue of Harriet Tubman AND it should be made out of purple Jello!" Player 5:  "Yes! We SHOULD build a thirty foot high statue of Harriet Tubman made out of purple Jello, AND when we are finished we should invite the hungry people of the world to help us eat it, because Harriet Tubman was about helping people!" 
  • The "YES" should be so enthusiastic it makes the person who had the idea feel really good.  That is the goal!   
  • To talk about how Yes..and works I would say this after the first group:  "This was an interesting idea!  Whose idea was it?"  And the consensus would be that the idea belonged to everyone.  We have all had the experience where there we were in a group and an idea just took off, where the excitement kept growing as one idea inspired another and things kept growing until it was impossible to know in the end whose idea it was.  This is a "Yes, and.." moment, and if a group understands this concept, it happens more often and is more successful when it does.  It can even be planned, I often suggest to groups of students who are trying to decide between two or three ideas to "yes, and.." an idea and see what comes up.
  • This game also helps to flesh out some common errors with the "Yes, and..." concept.  The most common is called blocking.  Blocking is essentially saying "No" to an idea.  What people don't realize is that we can say no without actually saying it.  If player 5 said, "YES!...and then we should cover the Jello with iron, so the statue will last forever!"  That is the essentially rejecting the Jello idea, he may as well have said, "No, lets build it with iron instead, it will last longer!"  The goal is to fully embrace the idea that was given to you.  If Player 1 says we should go to Paris, then every idea after it needs to be about Paris.  If Player 2 says :Yes, and then we should go to Rome," this player simply shifted the idea away from Paris, and now the group will be making nothing more than an flight itinerary.  

More on Yes, and...

  • One of the best descriptions of "Yes, and..." that I have seen is from a TEDx talk by a man named David Morris.  The title of the talk was called "The Way of Improvisation"  Click HERE to watch it!