Working with(out) a net: Improvisational theater and enhanced well-being

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Abstract

This article highlights several parallels between practices in improvisational theater (improv) and practices in several domains of applied psychology: body awareness and mindfulness, positive psychology interventions, and person-centered psychotherapy. What accounts for these parallels is that both improv and applied psychology practices aim to increase personal awareness, interpersonal attentiveness, and trust among members of the ensemble. The question is whether there is a positive relationship between improv practice and well-being in other life domains. There is good reason to think so: important theatrical skills are represented, with different names, in the methods of body awareness and other meditations, applied positive psychology, and psychotherapy. If particular practices in these domains are psychologically healthy, then practicing them through improv might also increase well-being. And, because improv is unavoidably social, performers are always embedded in the social milieux of improv communities. It can be frightening to anticipate going on stage to make it up as you go along. This is the felt sense of working without a net. But there is a source of support in improv that can alleviate the fear of failure: the realization that 'my only obligation on stage is to my scene partner, whose only obligation is to me.' (PsycINFO Database Record (c) 2016 APA, all rights reserved)

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APA

Bermant, G. (2013). Working with(out) a net: Improvisational theater and enhanced well-being. Frontiers in Psychology, 4(DEC). https://doi.org/10.3389/fpsyg.2013.00929

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