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“Yes, And…” Extends Beyond Improv

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Deborah Smith_(1)If you have taken an improv class, and even if you haven’t, you have probably heard of the “Yes, And…” game. If you haven’t ventured into improv, it is one of the most fundamental rules of this world: always say “yes” and add information or value to the scene. A secret is that this is actually an awesome life lesson wrapped up in a memorable catch phrase.

In business, as in acting, we are often confronted by situations that are foreign, unknown, and sometimes a bit uncomfortable. I am not talking about things that make you question your morals; I would never condone that. I am talking about things that will help us grow as people and artists. Things we should say “Yes, And…” to.

Ok, story time, for the last 16 months I have been working on a construction site in the outback of Australia. The main reason was helping my Aussie boyfriend achieve his dreams, but I got there by being open to all experiences headed my way. How does this relate to acting you may ask? While I was working on site, I learned a great deal about myself, my capabilities, and it renewed my fervor for acting.

I also learned how to make incredible spreadsheets with Excel. I spent so many hours building spreadsheets and databases for others that when it came time to track my acting career, I made one heck of a spreadsheet. I use this spreadsheet to track my goals, audition outfits, successes, learnings, etc, and I would have never built something like this had I not worked on the construction site. This spreadsheet keeps me accountable to my dreams and it has helped with networking too!

I have learned that most actors hate this side of the business. The admin/analytical side of the business. I admit proudly that I love it! And I have used this knowledge to make connections and share my spreadsheet with creative types in LA and Australia. I have helped others get organized and track their goals through what I learned about Excel. Did I ever think Excel was going to get me acting connections? Heck no, but I still said “Yes, And…” and let the take away come later.

As actors, we take on some pretty weird thrival jobs to support ourselves. Instead of being negative, approach that job with gusto and start to explore how that job can help your craft. Are you a waitress? Great! I bet you have a better sense of balance than you did when you started. Go ahead and try out that dance class you always thought you were too uncoordinated for! Working as an admin assistant? Fabulous. How can you take your organizational skills from your thrival job and use them to support yourself. Better yet, how can you take these skills and support someone else?

We talk a lot about connections being the key of the acting business, but we don’t talk about how to stand out from the thousands of others making connections. Think about what about you makes you special, and what skill you can use to help someone else succeed? To maintain relationships, we should always be thinking about how we can assist others both with our stellar acting skills (of course), but also with our other non-acting skills. For me, my business/ organizational background is constantly opening doors, and I never would have known that saying “Yes, And…” to construction would be so beneficial.

Just like an improvised scene can not move forward without adding new information, you can not move forward without saying “Yes, And…” and adding new experiences to your life and craft. As artists, we need to remember that we should be the fullest, most well rounded person in the room. You never know when your “Yes, And…” will lead to new opportunities that will help you grow as an actor. What have you said “Yes, And…” to and how can that make you stand out from the crowd?

Deborah Lee Smith

About Deborah Lee Smith

Deborah Lee Smith is an award-winning actor, producer, and founder of “More Than You See”, a non profit organization dedicated to sharing stories and resources surrounding the daily struggles of mental health. Recent projects include “Here Awhile” starring Anna Camp (Pitch Perfect), and “Last Three Days” starring Robert Palmer Watkins (General Hospital). Deborah is also a regular contributing staff writer for the entertainment website “Ms. In The Biz”.