Dan Goldstein (First version 1998)
An improvisation is like a building. If well constructed, it will please us for a long time, either in memory or in stone. The Roman architect Marcus Vitruvius Pollio said that a building must be considered "with due reference to function, structure, and beauty". Considerations of this sort are what drove me to endorse Structured Improvisation.
There is a hunger for stories out there -- consider how many movies, plays and TV shows people all over the world consume daily. Most theatrical improvisation does little to satisfy this hunger. Structured Improvisation enables actors to create solid, coherent stories in real time which please not only the audience, but the actors as well.
To improvise well, we must have a feeling for the overall structure of what we are trying to create. Will it last for five minutes or an hour? In short-form, the structure is given to us in the form of the rules. In much longform, rules and structure are abandoned and anything goes. Often, such improvisations do not tell a story. Perhaps because of this, they fail to satisfy the actors and audience. In Structured Improvisation, we study the structure of an art form before improvising in it. We think about structure in terms of: plot, relationship networks, scene lengths, stage design, blocking, stage movement, and anything else which applies.
Improvisational theater does not spring to mind when we think about beauty in improvisation. We tend to think about more structured kinds of improvisation. We may think of a beautiful blues guitar solo, which takes place within the structure of an allotted number of bars, a key, a time signature, and the melody of the surrounding piece. We may think of athletes such as soccer players or bullfighters, who improvise their movements within the rules of the game or the dictates of tradition. By studying structures, we can learn to improvise pieces that flow so smoothly they seem scripted. Audiences look on in amazement at Structured Improvisation, knowing that something is guiding the beauty of the creation, but unable to say what it is.