Effort v. Execution

Jill Bernard and Craig Cackowski offered complementary workshops at Camp Improv Utopia East. Jill’s class was called “The Fireball Theory” and focused on playing fast enough that there wasn’t time to doubt one’s choices. Craig’s, called “Sell It!”, made the point that improv sets are judged more on effort than on execution. In improv, effort corresponds to confident play, and execution is satisfying some aesthetic sense of what makes a successful scene.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about the idea of effort versus execution. My first thought was of an example in life in which execution appeared to be more important than effort, and the best one I could think of was my job. However, the more I thought about it, things weren’t so simplistic. Whenever we’ve encountered roadblocks that were beyond my abilities to resolve as an individual, my ability to execute in part came through conveying a type of confidence and determination in meetings, and in these environments, my efforts were far more important in having others take me seriously.

Likewise, part of my confidence as an improviser is a direct by-product of having had sets, scenes, or experiences that I’ve deemed a success, and which make me believe I can have such experiences again. Therefore, my efforts derive from examples in my past in which I was able to execute.

Given that they are intertwined, how does one find the right balance as an improviser? I would say that both in life and in improv, I find myself disappointed when I ignore or take one of them for granted; more often than not, it’s effort.

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