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Student Blog: The 'Yes, And' Mentality in College and Beyond

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Figuring things out as you go isn't always easy, but sometimes it's necessary

Student Blog: The 'Yes, And' Mentality in College and Beyond It's funny, I've done theatre for so long and I still haven't gotten past the basics of improv. Sure, I have a witty sense of humor and can come up with pure jokes on the fly, but whenever I'm put in a scene and asked to improvise based on a vague assembly of phrases, my first instinct has always been to deny the exact scenario I (excuse me, my character) find myself in. It isn't even a conscious mistake, and yet I catch myself breaking the main rule of the craft: saying no. It stops the scene in its tracks, and the momentum dies in that exact moment.

I do find that the "yes, and" mentality is much easier done in real life than within the confines of a stage or classroom. For me, that is. But that doesn't mean it's any less scary. I wrote my college essay all those years ago about how I can make the best of any situation, and can always do things to help myself and those around me using theatre, improv, and on-stage mishaps in an extended metaphor - alongside my formative life experiences. I even toyed with the idea of getting an ampersand tattooed on me as a permanent reminder that I can always make things better than before while collaborating and creating. As I got older and college took me far out of my comfort zone, especially in the beginning when finding my place was overwhelming, all I wanted to do was deny everything that was happening to me (aka lay low, hide in my room, and yearn to go home). But I knew that when opportunities came my way, I knew I had to not only accept them, but also contribute to them. To say "yes, and" even when my fight or flight response so desperately wanted me to say "no."

Take joining the theatre company I was a part of, for example. I was so incredibly nervous and beat down from auditioning for a cappella groups and a couple of other shows to no avail, to the point where I almost stayed in my dorm instead of going to the audition that made me a part of the group. Not only was I in a handful of shows, I also started social media managing and eventually leading the publicity efforts for the company. I also was on the executive board for five semesters, holding three positions including Vice President (a position I held when we had to pivot everything we ever knew back in March of last year). None of these opportunities would have come my way if I let my anxiety and resistance win four years ago. I then wouldn't have gotten the strength to make more friends, apply for service programs and study abroad (through which I flew across the world by myself despite never having flown internationally before), and overall do things that challenge and push me every day.

I started a full-time, post-graduate apprenticeship three weeks ago, and on one of our training slides was a video interview of Tina Fey, who demonstrated the "yes, and" method to the host and audience. At first, the host did exactly what I do when asked to improvise a scene: introduced a denial. But as they practiced, the host and Tina had a good flow of improvised dialogue. The purpose of that training slide was to encourage us to not only take challenges, but also improve the workplace overall by adding your own input to build upon previous ideas. Yes, this new chapter of switching from four years of college and a lifetime of education to full-time work has been intimidating to say the least. However, the mindset of "yes, and" has always served as a guide, and now I know that it can stay with me as I embark, at full force, on this next chapter.


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From This Author Student Blogger: Alexandra Curnyn