Posted by Amanda Farrar on April 16, 2015
There is a predominant concept in improvisation which is “Yes, and!” The idea is that if your partner presents an idea, your job it support the idea and add to it. Barrel of Monkeys embraces this concept in all of our work, and ask any Monkey and they will tell you that Tom Malinowski is the embodiment of “Yes, And”. More than a concept to be used on the stage, Tom encourages us all to use it in our lives day to day. The following is the “How To” guide from the “Yes, And” guru! Enjoy.
You can practice your “Yes, And” skills with Barrel of Monkeys! For example: “Yes! I will read this article AND I will come to the matinee performance of That’s Weird, Grandma on Sunday at 2pm!” OR “Yes, I will come to the matinee on Sunday AND I will make a donation to support the imaginations of children!”
Yes, And: A Lifestyle
By Tom Malinowski
Journeys can take on a multitude of forms – a trek across the cosmos, figuring out how to drink a purple ocean, and even changing a square tire. Hesitation is normal and natural when it comes to embarking on journeys, both strange and familiar. Barrel of Monkeys helps foster creativity and confidence through writing and acting. During the 1st day of a Barrel of Monkeys elementary school residency, the kids are apprehensive yet eager to participate in the activities – warming up, brainstorming characters and ideas, and finally creating a story. Even though we try our best to create an atmosphere of openness and ‘just write anything,’ there’s that pause a student can have when it comes to having such a boundless imagination. “Can I write about my sister who picks on me?” “I don’t know if I want to write about dragons eating cars or cats liking cheese.” “I think all children should have free video games.” We say YES to these ideas AND we want a bit more. “Yes to your sister, and can you describe her” “Yes to both dragons and cats, and what kinds of cars do the dragons eat?” “Yes to free video games, and is it ok if adults like free video games too?” A little bit of detail goes a long way. We accept their ideas which are amazing and funny. We want to be clear to them too why we like what they’re creating. “I like how you describe the lake because it reminds me of a vacation I took when I was your age.” “That’s funny because a bug would say that to the bird!”
When the performers and educators take to the stage and adapt a child’s story, we continue our “YES, AND” philosophy. We want to stay true to the story and not overstep any boundaries, nor do we want to make the story simplistic. Barrel of Monkeys has been around since 1997, and that in itself shows that we have succeeded in helping so many ideas come out of the best place: a child’s imagination. And one way we celebrate this is by bringing it to the stage. The actors are in a constant flux of give and take, which is the ultimate YES, AND. These stories deserve to come alive in the best way possible.
At first I was hesitant in teaching for Barrel of Monkeys, but it opened my eyes to the whimsical, hilarious world of kids. I was also nervous about auditioning for Barrel of Monkeys. But in the end I said yes, and ended up teaching and performing with Barrel of Monkeys for over 13 years. Being a performer and educator helped me to choose the path of a librarian. I now reside in Boise, Idaho and I’m one of the Branch Librarians for Boise Public Library. Although I miss my comrades and being in the classroom, I’m still doing YES, AND with my story times, outreach programs, and dealing with the public. “YES I can help you find that book, AND may I make a suggestion as well?”