I am doing Theatresports since last summer, a wonderful ‘facilitation training’ that made me understand and practice my ability to accept offers playfully and to approach challenging facilitation situations more curiously.
Theatersports is a team based form of improvisational theatre. As a team we engage in ‘games’ and create a scene out of a ‘theme’, or an ‘idea’ suggested to us. We develop a little story while playing spontaneously and in inter-action with each other.
I see parallels between Liberating Structures and my Theatresports experience.
Structures and games – the boundaries and rules
In Theatersports, we improvise and make things up on the spot without any preparation but within boundaries and rules. These boundaries provide us a creative safe space, in which our interactive play is emerging. We develop our stories based on structured games. They give us rhythm and pace, and a first clue what might happen, some direction for the start. All the rest is driven by curiosity and interaction. Once we have the starting point we can let go and improvise.
Liberating Structures function in a similar way: 10 guiding principles and a toolbox of structures provide a common language and framework for the team or group to interact. The structured interaction guides the investigation process of an issue and the development of ideas for solutions. The improvisational power of Liberating Structures is not only found in each “exercise” when the ‘players’ involved in the conversation process make choices and discoveries based on curiosity. Liberating Structures also support and guide the unfolding process in a flexible and adaptable way. The team or group steers the flow of their own process by combining structures to strings. This is an inherently creative process within the boundaries and rules of Liberating Structures.
Mindset – the openness
“Make it big, listen to your team members and develop it further together.” These are the words of Jos Paauw, our fabulous Theatersports trainer. The appreciative, curious and openminded approach of Theatersports is grounded in the basic principle of “Yes, and…”. Accepting someone’s offer and building on it is the beauty of the creative mindset we train every Monday evening. A “No” means leaving the stage, with laughter and a bow. The ‘emplayability’ mindset (thank you Ton for this new word creation) is at the same time a networked one of connecting dots, weaving story threads together and relating to each other.
Liberating Structures operates from a similar place, networked, open, flexible, positive, inclusive, playful and forward moving. This mindset is based in the principles of Liberating Structures, like “Amplify Freedom AND Responsibility”. Boundaries and rules open the room for improvisation in Theatersports as well as in Liberating Structures. Creativity needs constraints. Structure and freedom go hand in hand, a seemingly paradoxical situation of no freedom without structure, no meaningful structure without freedom.
Teamwork -– the creative process
In a sense, all facilitation and all group process are improvisation — when people get together, anything might happen. “Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened”.
We create in interaction. Theatersports needs a collaborative team or an “ensemble” as Cathy Salit would put it.
An ensemble is something entirely different form the individuals who make it up. What makes an ensemble unique is that it acts, works, and speaks in many voices; has lots of eyes and ears, has its own personalities and sensibilities; can turn left and right; stand and sit simultaneously; can leave the room and still be there; can agree and disagree at the same time.
It’s the diversity of the group that provides the material for new ideas, new ways to talk and work together. Building diverse ensembles makes it possible for everyone to give something and for everyone to learn.
In Liberating Structures, it is the creative team that develops solutions. The basic interaction structure of 1-2-4-all demonstrates this perfectly and reappears in many of the structures as sort of substructure or logic of how to proceed. Every brain is activated, all voices count, all perspectives matter, everyone is unleashed. 1-2-4-all supports and drives the creative process. It needs an ensemble in the reflection process to build ideas, and create solutions together (see my former blog post The power of the little liberating structure 1-2-4-all).
Liberating Structures Festival coming up
At the Liberating Structures Festival in October in the Hague we will have the chance to improvise. We do some groundwork in the Immersion Workshop and build our repertoire. We start to play in the Beyond the Basics Clinic. And leave our comfort zone on the last day when we are creatively experimenting with the structures. This will be our coddiwompling day.
Join us for a free one hour online taster on July 8th from 16h-17h CET.
Register here and you will get the link to Zoom: http://bit.ly/LSfestivalTaster
Join us for one of the 3 workshops during the Liberating Structures Festival from 7-11 October in The Hague, Netherlands:
–> Download the flyer here: Liberating Structures Festival The Hague 2019
–> More information : https://liberatingstructures.eu/the-hague-ls-festival/
–> Registration: https://liberating-structures-the-hague-festival.eventbrite.com
It would be great to welcome you personally in The Hague.