THE WEEKLY - Walla Walla a 'yes and..' kind of town

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No results pop up when you Google "Improv Walla Walla."

But this town, perhaps unwittingly, has embraced the most important of all improv philosophies: Saying "Yes."

Through the efforts of donors, co-founders and a growing web of Shakespeare activists, Walla Walla is embarking on an exciting journey that began with a gutsy concept: Let's say 'yes' to Walla Walla becoming a theater destination.

I arrived in Walla Walla from the San Francisco Bay Area three weeks ago to start a summer internship with the new Power House Theatre's marketing team. So far, I have been moved by the improv spirit of this town.

As an improviser, a willingness to dive into the unknown is the most thrilling aspect. Stepping out on stage or into our communities, improvisers function as a group who are committed to affirming each others' ideas with gusto and to helping turn those ideas into realities.

As the improv motto goes:

There are those who say "Yes" and those who say "No."

Those who say "Yes" are rewarded with the adventures they encounter.

Those who say "No" are rewarded with the safety they attain.

As the adventure begins, Walla Walla will realize that it takes more than a "yes" to build a Shakespeare festival and a theater destination.

It takes "yes and ... ."

In her book, "Improv Wisdom," Patricia Ryan Madson writes that "the spirit of improvising is embodied in the notion of 'yes and.' Agreement begins the process; what comes next is to add something or develop the offer in a positive direction."

So, what is Walla Walla's 'yes and'?

Walla Walla's "yes and" are people who step up to offer their help to build this dream theater destination.

They contribute their ideas and time so that this dream will develop in wonderfully unpredictable ways.

They give legs to this dream so that it will ultimately have a chance to stand on its own.

Already Walla Walla community members have joined in. Whitman College donated seats to the Power House Theatre and students participated in its construction.

Individual residents, non-profit members, and local businesses have partnered with Shakespeare Walla Walla to promote its upcoming summer festival.

As the community embodies its "yes and" spirit, possibilities of what this theater destination could be broaden immensely.

I would love for Shakespeare Walla Walla and Power House Theatre to establish a year-round schedule of productions, ranging from improvisation to Shakespeare to new plays.

I would love for these performances to delight, inspire and involve the people of Walla Walla and the greater Pacific Northwest region. (Hint: No idea is too big or too unrealistic with 'yes and'. It's improv!)

A few years from now, I will Google "Improv Walla Walla" and find a performing improv troupe listed.

And a successful year-round theatre festival.

And a year-round artist residency program.

And additional professional theatre venues.

And, I'll know how it happened. A gutsy idea set an adventure into motion when a community decided to say, "Yes and."

Claire Slattery holds a bachelor of arts degree in drama and communication from Stanford University and has been performing and teaching improv for the past six years. She will be teaching an adult improv class in late August at the Power House Theatre in Walla Walla. Contact her at claire@phtww.com for enrollment information.

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