Listening. Theater games require close attention to what others say in the context of the exercise so our response connects appropriately. In one commonly-used game a player begin a story with 2 sentences, points to another group member who must pick up the story with 2 more sentences and so on until every person in the group has contributed to the narrative. In this game, as in real life relationships, we do not know when we will be called upon to contribute and we must cohere to the story line. A narrative co-created with others who may take the story in a direction we had not anticipated has its challenges, but tuning in closely to their thoughts and feelings is always worth the effort.
Making your partner look good. Scenes created through theater games always involve an exchange with a partner who is out on a limb equally as much as we are. Accepting and developing a partner's choices builds trust and generates a wider range of risk-taking possibilities. In life this one choice has multiple benefits: it enlarges our sense of self, grows the positive energy in a relationship, and maximizes the potential of both.
Agreements. To produce something meaningful out of an imaginary idea, the participants must agree on the rules of the game, e.g. "we will have a conversation in which each sentence starts with the next consecutive letter of the alphabet," or "we will talk about something that happened today in the style of a soap opera." The parameters of the game drive novelty and invention and keep us on our toes. In a similar way, healthy partnerships use agreements to keep partners accountable to one another while distributing power equally.
Creative tension. The potential for failure, not knowing what will happen next, the "in the moment" demand for a response that are elements of live improvisation bring out fear, perfectionsm, self-consciousnes and all sorts of control issues. But the good will and generosity of spirit inherent in the philosophy of improvisation invite risk-taking and support spontaneity that is then available for other applications, such as taking the emotional and psychological risks that characterize a passionate life.