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What Sandcastles Can Tell You

There are two kinds of people.

The first kind likes to build sandcastles. They enjoy the challenge. The quiet fussiness of designing and then slowly, deliberately, meticulously crafting a masterpiece fills them with joy. To them, this is fun at its most sublime.

The second kind likes to kick sandcastles down and destroy them. They enjoy the unbridled freedom. The emotional release of smashing and toppling a structure is cathartic, exciting and fulfilling.

The builders cannot understand how anyone could get joy out of destruction. It is incomprehensible to them. How can fun be mindless?! The smashers cannot fathom how it is possible to enjoy a process that seems like work, and is done quietly and calmly. How can fun be mindful?! Thinking is fun! No! Thinking is work...unleashing is fun!

This is true of improvisers. If you haven't seen this process play out, you haven't done enough improv with enough people.

Neither side understands the other. Both sides are annoyed by the other. Yet, neither side is wrong. Both sides are right. How can these two mutually opposed groups coexist within the same troupe or theater?

First, it is helpful to honestly assess which camp you're in. Construction? Destruction? You gravitate toward one or the other. Second, a director needs to help improvisers in each camp to accept and acknowledge the rights and preferences of both viewpoints. Then, the improvisers must do the something that great improvisers can do: change and adapt.

The destroyers need to spend 30 percent of their energy in building, and learn to embrace the fun of it. The builders need to embrace the fun of blowing things up 30 percent of the time. It's not a zero-sum game. Destroyers need builders, so that they have something great to destroy. Builders need destroyers, because nothing is or should be permanent in improv.

You can shake your head in desperation at the blustering jerk who insists on smashing things. Or you can scratch your head in dismay at the diligent worker-bee who can't loosen up and let go. Some fun is loud. Some is quiet. You can't change that.

You could banish everyone from one or the other group from your troupe. Or, you could address the differences that exist and work to make them strengths.

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