Here are a few reflections on the role of the applied improvisation facilitator.
I’ve suggested, in a “principle” for Applied Improvisation that…”The skilled applied improviser always improvises the improvisation they are applying.”
It’s a paradoxical golden rule because I don’t believe it should ever be applied as a rule at all. In fact it is more of a belief that, when applied, it emerges as true, looking back, in most situations!
When a facilitator stands in a circle in an applied improvisation session – they are both among and apart. Among because they are with the group, and ought to be in an improvisational state – open, ready to change, ready to drop, or ready to repeat, if that is what the moment needs. They are also apart in that they have the label “facilitator”, and that is different from the “participant”.
As one “among” the group, the facilitator is a real time sensor of what is needed, sacrificing some of the belonging in order to be able to observe the group, in the present, as an “other” thing that has needs in that moment. Among but a little aloof! As “apart”, they are in a separate place where that aloofness is more complete, where they make decisions, ideally improvised as well, from a perspective of detached objectivity.
There is another possible place where the facilitator is a vital “organ” of the group organism.
“Having decidedness” is a quality of the facilitator where their aloofness becomes even more pronounced because decisions about what the group will do have been decided before the circle formed. It is usually well intentioned but it does prevent a lot of improvisation and emergence happening in the sensing of the real time moment. The facilitator then unloads or offloads or “delivers”this “having decideness” into the circle, whether that is really needed or not. Nervous participants will either withdraw or collude and attempt to “please the circle”.
Strong “having decidedness” is often met by participant collusion. It also can be a blunt instrument, the wrong tool for the specific situation, and it can miss the deeper needs of the group.
Having Decidedness is anti-improvisational unless the little bit of it (a pre-designed activity for example) is genuinely brought out, in the moment, afresh, as if as a new act of improvisation. The tool is brough out of the bag spontaneously.
“Having Decidedness is usually more about the facilitator than the group, and is often an act of hypocrisy in an applied improvisation context.
What do you think?