In Level 1 Improv class, we practiced our ‘Yes, And’ by literally practicing saying “Yes...and” at the beginning of each responding line: 1) “Yes” begins a repeat of the information we’ve been given, 2) “And” contributes additional information.
For example, Player 1 initiates the scene with,
“Honey, I’m so glad you’re home.”
Player 2 mechanically practices:
“Yes, I’m glad to be home, and I thought we could talk about Chester’s math test scores.”
Player 1 also practices:
“Yes, we can talk about his scores. And I think we should spend more evening family time helping him with homework.”
Eventually the exercise of explicitly articulated ‘yes, and’ helped us establish this posture towards each other into our muscle memory. We intentionally practiced what we eventually learned to do instinctually. This exercise taught us to listen (and show we understand), to support each other, and to build the scene’s strong base reality within which we will play. Without the ‘and’ after the yes, we can find ourselves in a stagnant scene.
Exiting the stage and moving out into the wider world, I can easily feel quite powerless as I read the news (local, national, or global). There are a great many painful things that I do not know how to fix, cannot fix, or are not mine to control or effect.
I do not know how to end violence, soothe and heal the internal motivations that lead to human rights violations, and change systems to value people over profit.
I do not know how to be at the location of a public or private shooting and talk the shooter out of their horrific decision.
I do not know how to set us free from the antagonizers of depression, anxiety, or childhood wounds.
There are many moments where this (and other) incapacity overwhelms me. I do not like feeling defeated, discouraged, or stuck. But, the word “and” has been keeping me company off stage too.
Yes, the violence and violations seem insurmountable, AND people write letters, vote, and take to the streets to share their voice. They debate, run for office, and keep showing up believing it is possible for a healthier and more just system to exist.
Yes, tragic shootings are happening, AND people are rallying, advocating, organizing, and cultivating spaces for dialogue and community, standing up for their right to a safe and sustainable home.
Yes, internal battles wage on, AND people are reaching out, sharing their vulnerability, seeking support and spaces that bring them into joy, community, hope, and help along the journey.
Yes, there is darkness and pain and there are endings, AND, there are birthday parties and communities gathering and good food being shared.
I take inspiration from the people who practice this remarkable and powerful AND, acknowledging the reality of certain difficult things, AND showing up with love and light, compassion and cultivating hope.
I believe ‘yes, and’ is the best act of support and revolution I have ever encountered.
I consider the improvisers some of the most resilient and proactive humans I know; among them I feel privileged to stand and play.
So no matter what we may find ourselves having to say ‘yes’ to, may we always know, find, and create with AND.
Evey McKellar is a Level 4 Improv student, a writer and UMC clergy. She works for a nonprofit, lives in Dallas, and loves Cane Rosso.