Improv embodies the essential dimensions of play as defined by the Montessori method of education. This is important because it allows us insight into what makes it so powerful - because it adheres to these critical elements of play, improv becomes a powerful learning and skill-development tool.
is voluntary, enjoyable, purposeful, and spontaneous
Play is self-chosen and self-directed; players are always free to quit. Play is what we want to do, as opposed to what we are obliged to do. Play allows us to focus on intrinsic instead of extrinsic rewards. Play allows us to reframe how we think about daily tasks. Games allow us to work on how we are maneuvering through our worlds and how we think about said worlds without it feeling like work. In an academic, or professional environment, where achievements are emphasized, play is an activity in which means are more valued than ends. Children are very focused on processes, not ends. Play is an activity conducted primarily for its own sake. They choose to repeat activities over and over again, not to achieve a result, but to joyfully engage in and master a process. Play often has goals, but the goals are experienced as an intrinsic part of the game. Play is guided by mental rules. Play always has structure, and that structure derives from rules in the player’s mind. Play draws and fascinates the player precisely because it is structured by rules that the player has invented or accepted.
expands creativity by using problem-solving and social skills
Play is non-literal, imaginative, marked off in some way from reality. Play often involves engaging in activities that are “serious yet not serious, real yet not real.” Play may involve imagination, pretending to do things, fantasy. Improvisers are required not just to come up with ideas spontaneously, but they have to do so while collaborating with others. By agreeing and adding onto what others are saying to find the joy in each moment, we become more positive, less judgmental, and more creative.
involves expanding on new ideas
Playing improv games gives us the opportunity to learn new things. The learning happens, because we are focused on the aim of the game - it happens naturally!
supports both children and adults in adapting socially
Play, including improv, helps us connect with people. As we age, meeting people becomes harder. The connections and reconnections we make in playing together result in us building more joyful relationships with others.
serves to address emotional issues
Improv games give us the opportunity to practice improving our mental health on our own. In improv, we work to identify and respond to emotions in characters: of our own, and others'. Play involves an active, alert, but non-stressed frame of mind. Improv gets players to stop overthinking and focus on the game at hand.