Some great points here, especially point one.
Improv Mid-Life Crisis→
They just need a lesson in the difference between play and game. With play, you can do whatever you want. With game, well, there is a structure with rules.
Sidney Goldstein, Basketball and Improv→
Goldstein has a solid fundamental philosophy on developing basketball skills, one a lot of coaches don’t share. Most coaches recruit and play the best talent available, treat drills as a warm up and think that drawing up plays and running their players in scrimmages will make them better. Goldstein believes any player of any shape or size can learn and develop the skill to do anything with regular, proper practice. Goldstein for example says a 7 footer could learn to crossover dribble and hit a jump shot with practice, and the reason most can’t is because most coaches focus on having them stand near the hoop, rebound, block shots and dunk on people… and thus never teach them those other skills.
I read through Goldstein’s topics, specifically his Advice to New Coaches, and couldn’t help notice parallels to learning and teaching effective improv. Both basketball and improv are active skill based endeavors that for any preparation has to be done in the moment on the fly, where a combination of execution and creativity determines success.
Talent vs. Skill→
You wouldn’t expect a class to just “get” a short form game without explaining the rules, just as you wouldn’t expect someone starting UCB to “get” game without having it broken down. That doesn’t mean some people won’t get it right from the start—whoop dee doo, they’re your Level 1 class star. Big deal. But there’s plenty of people who just need the steps explained and suddenly they’re killing it. On the flip side, they might never get those steps explained and, despite what you can see is a sincere engagement with the process, they can’t seem to do a good scene at a basic level. In my experience in the English and improv classroom, this is almost always due to the teacher not breaking down the process into manageable steps, or, if the process was adequately broken down, the student is trying to “skip steps” and get to the result faster because he thinks that having to work through the steps makes him “dumber” or “less funny,” respectively.
Hoo boy. A big fat yes to this post.