(In this post, I'll give my opinion on chaos and improv and also how it affects introverts and extroverts).
There are a number of purists out there that say that improvisation is about 'no rules'; that a scene, character or game should be played in an organic sense based on whatever happens right there and then. No planning should be involved.
"After all, rules hinder creativity, man..! You've gotta just go with the flow, you know?"
Fair point, but I think that's too extreme a thought. Fanatical, even. And this is why.
IMPROV ONLY LOOKS LIKE IT FEEDS OFF CHAOS
An as an audience or even someone who has just delved into the wonderful world of improv, the creation of characters or scenes are shown to be organic. In fact, that's the whole idea of improv - to be organic. To be able to deal with things that get thrown at you, and build on it. When this is done efficiently and properly, the scene is a wondrous thing to see where storytelling, characters and scene all live in a happy place. That's what the purists mean.
But let's look at it in more detail.
There are rules for improv, most importantly the "yes, and" premise. That's for improv in general - both short-form (games) and longform (scenes). So that's one rule making sense from the chaos of offers. When one talks about short-form and longform, there are rules as well to make sure that the offers (and scene) don't go off the rails and become a stinking mess of confusion.
Now, let's look at the improvising individual - the performer, the student.
If you're a performer, those same rules help you process which would 'instinctively' be the best choice from the incredible number of stimuli/offers you're getting from your scene partner or premise.
You may think that it "just happens" but those rules you've learnt have you subconsciously sift through the possibilities at a lightning pace to fit that game, scene or format. At first when one starts out in improv, we may not make the best judgements (or so we think) but over time as we understand the governance of the rules/mechanics, the scenes become quality scenes.
IMPROV, CHAOS AND AFFECTS ON INTROVERTS AND EXTROVERTS
In the book 'The Introvert Advantage: Making the Most of Your Inner Strengths' by Marti Olsen Laney Psy.D, it eludes that introverts are people who are quite sensitive to Dopamine, which occurs when there is external stimulation. When this happens, the introverts 'overdoses' on it and becomes exhausted. Conversely, extroverts can’t get enough Dopamine, and they require Adrenaline for their brains to create it. Extroverts also have a shorter pathway and less blood-flow to the brain.
So what does this mean for both the introvert and extrovert when learning or doing improv? It means that the rules of improv help each type of personality in a different way.
For the introvert, the rules act as a lifeline in a tsunami of ideas such that they can go through the steps without drowning. Yes, at first it might be difficult but practice makes perfect, and soon they're subconsciously processing the offers with everyone none the wiser.
For the extrovert, it helps refine their decisions such that they don't become that kid that runs around due to too much sugar or red cordial, kung-fu kicking everyone around them. They're required to stop for that nano-second and refer back to the rules of the game/format and make sure it fits as best they can at that time.
So in the end, whether you're a stickler for rules, a freewheeling wildchild, an introverted systems lover or that loud party goer that knows no bounds, improv needs rules to:
What do you think?
I'll leave you with a video from puppet creator, Wez Champion, on his opinion on how I see improv can be for anyone: