At Safe Play, we acknowledge the following:
Problematic behavior—including harassment, bullying, and abuse—is widespread in improv communities, schools, and festivals.
Every collaborative art form is vulnerable to good intentions being abused. This is particularly true in improv, where the work both on – and offstage relies heavily on the community and friendships developed within. No matter one’s position in the improv world (eg : teacher, organizer, producer, student), problematic behaviors can happen. As a result, many talented performers end up hurt, abused, and pushed out of improv as an art form and as a community.
Improv communities, theaters, schools, and festivals have a ‘yes, and’ problem
When taught without context or nuance, the concept of ‘yes, and’ pressures improvisers to say yes to unsafe or uncomfortable situations. It also causes improvisers to believe that they should expect others to join in anything they create, regardless of how misguided, prejudiced, or hurtful their idea might be. This misunderstanding of consent can happen on or off the stage.
Improv must be safe but currently has no common regulations for safety or protection.
Everybody should be able to work and play in a space free from abuse and discrimination. Dignity, compassion, and respect are absolutely essential for all forms of collaboration. Moreover, psychological safety in a group is a prerequisite for creativity, playfulness, and fun that define improv at its best.
However, there is no requirement for theaters, schools, or festivals to institute parameters (such as a code of conduct, anti-harassment policy, education of leaders, etc.) to create a safe space for everyone. This means there is no guarantee that your local institution has put safeguards in place, or if it has, that they are being enforced.
The current situation favors abusers and silences people who are abused.
In our society in general, the fear of consequences is greater for the people targeted by the problematic behaviors than for the people committing them. And since improv is so collaborative, the resulting network of friendships and close connections can make speaking up feel next to impossible. But when we stay silent, it empowers the wrong people.
To combat these problems, we at Safe Play, intend to:
Play our part in identifying abusers and sexual predators in our improv spaces.
We will offer a communication channel between improvisers who want to report problematic behavior and improv leaders who want to know about it.
Create a place to be heard, empowered, and supported for everybody who needs it.
Acknowledging that we at Safe Play have no legal authority, we commit to providing those who speak up with a place to be heard without the fear of consequences or retaliation. We want to give back to people who have been hurt and harmed in improv the power and control over their stories, whatever that means for them. Whenever possible, we will offer resources and contacts to start the process of healing and/or taking action in their own community.
In the future, we at Safe Play, intend to:
Compile and maintain a library of resources on anti-harassment best practices.
These resources—developed by ourselves and others—might include training materials, templates for anti-harassment policies, etc. We intend to support theaters, schools, festivals, and other improv institutions in implementing their own anti-harassment measures in a transparent manner and creating better improv communities.
Provide resources for people to acknowledge and work on their own problematic behaviors.
Even the best improvisers in the world make mistakes. Often, they’re happy accidents that lead to hilarious improv; other times, they make our fellow improvisers uncomfortable, excluded, and hurt. Recognising that there are different levels of problematic behavior, and that some of them are subconscious or systemic, we want to offer education and support to all people who sincerely wish to do better.