Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Arthur Bochner, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Carolyn Ellis, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Keith Berry, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Daniel Belgrad, Ph.D.


improv, relationships, vulnerability, close, interpersonal communication, metacommunication


In this dissertation, I study the way couples improvise relationships together. I define improvisation as a kind of performance that leads to an interpretive practice where people develop the meanings of their relationships as they perform. Participating in a performance ethnography, my romantic partner, myself, and three other couples reflect on the way we perform together on stage. Adapting the popular improv performance format “Armando” and utilizing post-performance focus groups, I observe how the couples strive to make meaning together and negotiate a joint-perspective about how they played. Ultimately, I argue that attending to the way a couple improvises their relationship off stage can provide key insights into the communication patterns that allow them to share vulnerable experiences and grow close. In the end, I discuss ways that improv techniques and philosophies have informed and guided my own romantic relationship.

Included in

Communication Commons