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Galileo Pissed People Off

For millennia, people believed that the sun, the planets and the entire universe revolved around the Earth. That concept is known as Geocentrism.

It was eventually proved — at great personal cost to those who went against the status quo — that the sun is, in fact, at the center of the solar system. That is known as Heliocentrism.

Here's the thing. Geocentrism worked in its time. You could use it to predict the apparent movement of the planets and the sun in the sky. It was overly complex, because it forced the planets and the sun to do incredibly ornate dances in order to reconcile their motions with our need to place Earth at the center of all things. It was not abandoned because it failed to make correct predictions. It was abandoned because it was wrong, and because it was too ridiculously complicated to have any relation to what could actually be happening in the heavens. It was not elegant or beautiful. It was not simple. It was not efficient.

It was also not an easy concept to get rid of. There were powerful vested interests at stake. People are people, after all. They do not like to be shown that their way of seeing things has been completely wrong all along. The more proof you show them, the more they resist changing their view.

Heliocentrism made things easier. It made it possible to understand not just what appeared to be happening in the sky, but what was actually happening. No trip to the Moon or Mars would be possible without it.

Improvisers often find themselves in the same position. Their heads have been filled with all sorts of notions that date back to the dawn of improv civilization, "Yes, and...." "Never ask questions in scenes." "Define the characters and the location immediately." "Never talk over another improviser." "There must always be a game." And more.

It turns out that there is another approach to improv. It negates all of that, as well as many other accepted truths. It has been proved over and over to work better than Geocentric improv. But, like Heliocentrism, it is much simpler, more elegant, and produces consistent results.

It is also easier to teach and to learn, unless you've already been taught the old way, which means you'll have to unlearn before you learn. As it was with Galileo, it is now. Powerful interests and huge populations have been indoctrinated with Geocentric improv. It is not easy for them to abandon their old notions. Those antiquated ideas still produce results (as did Geocentrism, in a way). Theaters and instructors and creative directors do not want to upset their own apple carts. They don't want to revamp their improv curricula. If you have convinced students that five or six levels of improv classes are essential (and have convinced your theater's bank account that the income generated by all those students taking all those classes is also essential), in whose interest is it to adopt a simpler, more efficient approach?

Eventually, Galileo won. He was dead by then. What will it take to turn this lumbering bus around? Some very influential voices are making themselves heard. And, disciple by disciple, a new approach is slowly infiltrating the ranks. Will it continue and flourish? I'll do what I can to make sure it does. Who can look at Heliocentrism and wish to return to Geocentrism?

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