Scrabble Is An Improv Game

Posted on 08 January 2022

I love playing Scrabble, and I love performing improv. And it occurred to me that there are lots of similarities.



Let’s play

Scrabble is a game we play. And improv performers are called players, and in the short-form style of improv that my team performs, the scenes and rehearsal exercises we do are called games.

Getting comfortable with uncertainty

Scrabble and improv are exercises in getting comfortable with – and even enjoying – uncertainty. From one turn to the next in a Scrabble game, I don’t know what letters my partner and I are going to get or what words my partner is going to put on the board. And in improv there’s no script, so I don’t know what random suggestions we’re going to receive from the audience, and I don’t know and can’t predict what my scene partner (or partners) and I are going to say and do.

Letting go of control

They’re both also exercises in letting go of control. In Scrabble, it helps if I don’t get fixated about a letter I want to get or a word I want to play. Things are changing unpredictably from turn to turn, and if I’m blinkered about placing a particular word on a particular position on the board, I might miss an unexpected, higher-scoring opportunity that becomes available when my partner plays their next word. And in improv, it helps if I don’t try to plan what I’m going to say or do, predict what’s going to happen next, or control the direction that the scene goes, because my task is to respond to what’s happening from moment to moment.

Yes, and…

In Scrabble, after the first word has been placed in the centre of the board, every subsequent word has to connect to and add to a word that’s on the board. And improv is about accepting and building on the moment-by-moment reality that my scene partner (or partners) and I are creating together – that’s the “Yes, and…” principle of improv.

Do YOU play Scrabble with an improv mindset? And where else in your life does an improv mindset apply?

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