The Harold Herald
Vol. 3, no. 8 - April 13th, 2016
Last time, in our discussion about boundaries, I touched on the fact that some improvisers aren’t going to be comfortable in certain scenes, like those about abuse or violence. Still, I’m interested in exploring ways to make those scenes more accessible to our players and our audience. Today, I want to introduce the concept of “protection” in improv.
The idea of protection was introduced to me by Emily Candini and, to be honest, I wish she would swoop down and write this herald herself because I’d hate to butcher this awesome lesson she taught me. Emily believes that you can do an improvised scene about anything, and find ways to make it empowering, provided that you employ protection.
Protection means tackling a taboo or difficult subject by A) ensuring that the right character has the power in a scene, and B) displaying to the audience that the players are in control and comfortable. This makes the scene palatable for the audience and safe for the players. It can be the difference between a scene we think is OK and a scene we find inappropriate. Seems kinda broad, right? Emily’s example explains it best.
Emily references a hypothetical scene in which an older man hits on a young girl. That scene is gross and uncomfortable for an audience. But a scene in which a little girl hits on an adult man who is not interested? Potentially hilarious. Even better, that scene can be used to expose the inherent absurdity in men who prey on young girls. Flipping the power dynamic to favor the underdog protects the young girl character while still allowing you to satirize pedophilia.
One element that helps protect a scene is diversity within a team. Having a diverse team means you can explore more topics because you have a variety of perspectives relevant to the issues you’re tackling.  I’m more equipped to do a scene that highlights LGBT+ experiences than I am to do one that addresses what it’s like to live with racism. Diversity is key here (as if we needed another reason to value it).
In Emily’s class, I did a scene about rape, a subject I pretty much avoid at all costs when it comes to improv. Using the tools that Emily gave me, I felt completely comfortable in my scene. There was no violence, no fighting, just unpacking a tricky subject with my trusty scene partner. My character was in power and I was in power.
Still, some improvisers won’t be comfortable attempting these kinds of scenes because there’s a very fine line between a protected scene and an unprotected one. It takes sensitivity and some degree of trial and error to feel like you got it right. It’s not for everyone, and that’s fine!
I, personally, find the idea that I can do a scene about anything to be very comforting. I love knowing that if my scene partner is game to tackle hard stuff, we can explore anything unscripted. 

Up Next - Campfire: LIVE! - April 23rd with Justin Roberts! 

We're huge fans of the campfire. There's nothing quite like the feeling of huddling around a crackling log with your favorite folks, sharing old stories while making new ones. Thus, we've created Sidestage Improv's Campfire: LIVE!

This month, on William Shakespeare's birthday (and the 400th anniversary of his death), we're bringing in all-around British fellow Justin Roberts as our special guest. We can't wait. Grab tickets now!

Get tickets!

Bonus: Jazz, Mistakes, and Improv
Herbie Hancock talks Miles Davis and "mistakes." Life is improvised. Be prepared.
What Else?
Last Thursday, I took a last-minute trip to Spectacles Improv for the Orange County Improv Fest! I got to see my dear friend Josh Nicols do a set with Drew Coolidge. I hate recounting improv, but I will tell you that there was a picnic, a proposal, and plenty of juggling.  
The set had all the emotions and playfulness that I crave from a show. It was lovely to watch friends do great improv! It always is.
Today, I’m headed to Los Angeles for more of the same. Turns out people are doing great improv everywhere you look. 

~ Laurel Posakony, editor-in-chief
The Harold Herald
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