‘Yes, and’ culture and what it means

A train of thought developed over the weekend about the underlying philosophy of Hope in Hell Theatre.

At Hope in Hell, we are going to have a “Yes, and” culture. Basically what this means is that anyone who wants to do a production with us, or use rehearsal space, or run their yoga sessions, etc, will be given a “Yes”, as long as its physically possible. We won’t be judging based on what we think is good, or valuable, or likely to sell tickets. We’ll use a box office split system to minimise financial barriers too. This may sound like a terrible and risky idea, but a conversation over the weekend has made me challenge that.

Friend (joking): “So, can I put on my one man show at your theatre?”

Me: “Yes”

Friend: “It’s gonna be all fish puns and also I’ll set a cat on fire”

Me: “Okay”

Friend: *baffled silence*

In this scenario, my friend was joking – they don’t really have a one man show with fish puns, they were just trying to make me say no. But they proved something – saying “Yes, and” does work. For people who have a genuine idea or drive to make something happen, it’s an open door to success. For people who don’t, it becomes rapidly obvious when you say “yes”, that actually they aren’t ready for it at all. But even then, a ‘Yes, and” response can be enough to develop a working relationship, to support them until they are ready to take the opportunity and run with it.

In essence,  the “Yes, and” culture creates far more potential than it does risk. For every cat-on-fire one man show, there’s a dozen other performers waiting in the wings for the encouragement and space to shine. It’s worth a few dud shows to create that.

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