One night, we gathered around a table with pizza, wine, and a lot of blank paper, and set out to create a list of standards that we could expect from one another at all times. Everyone brainstormed, and we ended up with about 60 ideas scrawled across five or six pieces of construction paper.
Over the next course of the evening, we distilled them into ten principles that we all thought were essential to Book Club’s success. We all agreed on them, turned out the lights, and did an unspeakable-darkness-ritual-thing to seal the deal.
I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately. While I have played on house teams where there have been established guidelines (you must hire a coach, if you miss two trainings in a row you can’t play, etc) and in indie teams where we have set goals in terms of what kind of show we want to put on, I’ve never played on a team where the team have set out principles.
I think it’s important – maybe the most important thing when you’re starting a new group or joining an existing one that plans on doing anything more than a one off show. Part of it is to make that initial decision making easier – am I joining a team simply to get stage time? Do we have long term goals as a team beyond learning a certain performance style or form? What is the respect level between performers of different experience levels?
Another part of it making people accountable for their actions (indeed, making myself accountable for my actions too!). I’ve played on teams where conflict between players has came up, or communication issues have lead to a lack of commitment, perceived or otherwise. What came out of it? Fear and resentment. Without clearly stated principles, people were upset because their own ideals didn’t match with their teammates, and had no resource to try and solve those issues.
How enforceable are principles in a team? I don’t want to play on a team where everyone is pointing to the sacred parchment with the team code, where breaking the rules equals instant death. But the folly of improv is that it’s so easy to get up and do without any real focus. Maybe too easy. There has to be a happy medium between the freedom and principles. I’m not sure what it is yet.