Improv, World Building, & Creativity

We are focusing on world building in an improv class I am taking. The general set up is the players are given a suggestion and then, based on each person’s associations to that suggestion, elements are added to co-create an imaginary space. Initially the spaces are pretty true-to-life (ie, a couch in a therapist’s office). But the fun is when the spaces become more fantastic and introduce unexpected elements. In the dramatic realm we are not limited to what’s expected, realistic, or the norm. Whether we are world-building with clients or using world-building for personal exploration or creative inspiration, below I present some suggestions for deepening the ability to introduce more symbolic and metaphorical elements. In progressing to action, these elements can facilitate more depth-oriented improv and exploration as the players engage with them and one another.

  1. Use a book of symbols or dream interpretations: Skim through a book of symbols, reading a few entries that catch your interest. Make a note of how that element might be introduced into a space. You are free associating to the symbol itself as well as components and concepts in the description. Examples: Vault of Stars; Box of Lost Objects; A Deep Hole That Swallows Things & Regurgitates Them Somehow Transformed
  2. Use an image-based deck such as Dixit: I like Dixit because the images are abstract, surreal, and already outside the realm of the expected. Notice elements of the image and write down any ideas these generate for elements to incorporate into a world. Examples: A Mirror That Reflects Your Deepest (Fears, Desires, Wishes, Hopes…); An Enormous Tree With the Moon Trapped In It; Broken Stars; Packed Suitcases; TV That Leaks Ghosts
  3. Use a book of poetry: Poems have rich imagery. Read a few lines of poetry to generate creative ideas.

The power comes through interaction, the next step. What would be reflected in that mirror? Why are the stars broken? Whose suitcases are packed, where are they going, what are they leaving? What gets swallowed, and how is it transformed? These are powerful questions that can now be explored through the embodied and collaborative processes of improv.

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