CONTEXT and FORMAL AGREEMENTS
There is no such thing as a ‘free improvisation’. Each improvisation always happens in a distinct context (space/people/tacitly agreed types of interaction, etc.) whether that context is named or not.
The idea of ‘free improvisation’ doesn’t acknowledge the fact that always tacit agreements exist in a social context.
In general, if the context of an improvisation is not named and clarified beforehand, we will always make our own assumptions about the rules, guided by the ‘group culture’ we mean to perceive, which most of the time translates during the improvisation into a general and polite way of interacting with each other. Or it results in the opposite: rash behaviour of some performers and complete confusion about the context with the rest. Either way, it is not helpful.
The idea that something like a ‘free improvisation’ exists (no rules, no context given) clouds our awareness as performers (as there is always context, and there are always tacit rules) and makes our interaction effectively pretty ‘unfree’. Crisp and open interaction does not happen without a shared, transparent context – a common ground.
SETTING UP AN IMPROVISATION (CLARIFYING THE CONTEXT)
There are many ways in which to prepare performers for an improvisation (exercises, rituals, assignments, or no preparation at all) and there is also a gliding scale in how much or how little rules are given for the interaction on stage. But apart from anything else you do in preparation, there is always the necessity to at least clarify the FORMAL AGREEMENTS for the improvisation that is about to be played.
FORMAL AGREEMENTS should be simple and clear. Yet again, it could be few or many agreements. Always, however, at the very least clarify for the performers (or with each other) the four aspects below:
SPACE (How is the performance space defined?)
TIME (beginning, duration, end)
INTERACTION (What type of interaction is asked from the performers?)
(am I forgetting any other important formal aspect? Please fill in by commenting on this page.)