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The Tragedy of Hospitality Improv

David Alger's first rule of improv is to 'say yes-and!'

By: Richard Kim
Tags: random thoughts, hospitality, business relationships

For a story to be built, whether it is short form or long form, the players have to agree to the basic situation and set-up. The who, what, and where have to be developed for a scene to work. improvencyclopedia.org

The third rule is "Don't Block". Essentially, these so-called rules of improv are designed to grease the wheels of communication between the actors and stop a story from halting in its tracks. For those of us participating in the theatrical performance that is the service industry, this sounds familiar.

Of the many character archetypes that we witness in our daily lives, we are often on the receiving end of "the Disgruntled Organizer." Let's call her Lady Gertrude (with our sincerest apologies to all Gertrudes). As the protagonist of her own construction, Gertrude creates for us, a universe in which every stain on linen that lasts more than 30 seconds is an unacceptable travesty upon her Majesty. Every voice of discontent from her attendees, no matter how contradictory, must be relayed and transformed into monetary compensation. After all, the customer is always right.

The Royal Family around Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France

The Royal Family around Louis Joseph, Dauphin of France, in 1782
(Also, what some people see in the mirror)

And as improv professionals, to this basic situation and set-up, we must say yes, and…

But we wonder. What would please her Highness? What lies within her Grace's Overton window

  • Her Royal Majesty, Gertrude
    • I heard from my attendants (Gertrude did not attend the event; Gertrude sends servants to report to her after the matter from the westerly land of Chicago) that the lunch fare was a preposterous 5 minutes late.
  • Event Insider Serf
    • An absolutely unacceptable turn of events, my liege.
      (Choose your response below!)
  1. 5 minutes isn't that big of a deal…
  2. It was our oversight. We forgot to put it out.
  3. We were just so busy…
  4. It was an oversight by the catering company. They forgot to bring it.
  5. There was a hold-up with the building elevator.
  6. There was traffic…
  7. There was traffic, because of a protest.
  8. There was a blizzard.
  9. The delivery person died.
  10. You didn't hear about the nuclear attack?

Operation Crossroads

Operation Crossroads
(Also, the only acceptable excuse for tardiness for Lady Gertrude)

Would it be forward of the lowly peasant to believe that perhaps Gertrude's window of acceptability lies uncomfortably close to death and apocalypse? We have a feeling that anything below number 7 would be counted heresy.

​Of course, as an event space, as a vendor, as a supplier, we strive for a customer-first approach. That is how we try to distinguish ourselves. But let's take a moment of moral self-reflection. Together. We need to better understand your struggles. But please take a minute in our shoes--we promise they're not too dirty.

Build Bridges

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