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Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques (Drama and Performance Studies) Paperback – July 28, 1999

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

This new edition of a highly acclaimed handbook, last published in 1983 and widely used by theater teachers and directors, is sure to be welcomed by members of the theater profession. Spolin, who died in 1994, developed her improvisational techniques of using "game" exercises while teaching with the WPA Recreational Project in Chicago. Editor Sills, her son and founder of the Second City Theater, here updates over 200 classic exercises and adds 30 new ones. The creative group work and games, which can be used with all levels and ages of performers, and workshop techniques that enhance performers' natural abilities and intuition are all clearly explained. Also included are useful definitions of theater terms and a glossary of side-coaching phrases. Libraries with older editions will want this excellent update. Highly recommended for all theater arts collections.AHoward E. Miller, Rosary H.S. Lib., St. Louis
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

"Her book is the bible." --Rob Reiner


"It's like basic research ... she [has] changed the theater for generations." --Alan Alda


"She has genius and shares it." --Valerie Harper
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Product Details

  • Series: Drama and Performance Studies
  • Paperback: 412 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 3 edition (July 28, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081014008X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810140080
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (41 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,161 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 75 people found the following review helpful By Kevin L. Nenstiel TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 7, 2002
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is important to realize, before purchasing "Improvisation for the Theater," that it will not teach you the silly games and clownish humor you see on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Funny though many people find that show, it bears only a shirt-tail relationship to improvisation as Viola Spolin conceived of the concept.

First of all, she probably would have been horrified to discover that many people now regard improvisation and comedy synonymous. In her system, improvisation could have been comedic, tragic, surrealistic, or anything in between. The label hung on the performance was secondary to its quality, consistency, and depth.

In this, Spolin's classic textbook (newly updated and expanded by her son and daughter-in-law, her intellectual executors and heirs), she lays down the ins and outs of improvisation for performance. Activities listed in this book are designed to conduct a full workshop for improvisational actors. There are games listed for absolute beginners, orienting them to the demands of the stage, so there is no false expectation of prior experience. The games, moreover, are almost all adaptable to all ages, so a children's workshop won't feel you're going over their heads, and an adult workshop won't feel they're being condescended to.

The chapters are arranged in the sequence Spolin felt would be most efficient in creating a fully-dimensional improv show that would capture audience attention and be satisfying for all involved. Not everyone will agree that this is the best sequence, and with a little time and consideration, the games can be reordered to suit an individual director's tastes.
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38 of 38 people found the following review helpful By helen marquardt on June 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
For serious students and teachers this is the basic bible of improvisation. It gives a strong, basic philosophy of improv for both teachers and actors. It contains methods, games and a variety of techniques to develop oneself both as a teacher & and actor. Step-by-step approaches are offered as well as overviews for ones own creativity. The book is well-organized, too so that the teacher/actor can easily access a favorite warm-up,beginning game or advanced exercise. Not a book for skimming! One must study this book, that is if you truly love the theatre!
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By J. Remington on May 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
Obviously, it would be optimal if one could work in a workshop that put this book up on its feet. That way the teacher/director could experience many of these games and technique building excersises first hand, thereby making them even more vibrant and clear.
That said, this third edition is extremely practical, detailed and very clearly written as it lays out hundreds of excersises which build not only acting technique, but group integrity as well. Spolin was a gifted teacher and director and her nearly seventy years of experience in the theatre pays great dividends to all who dare to follow in her footsteps,
Even more helpful than the vast multitude of improvisational activities is her advice to the director of the scripted play. Like William Ball's A Sense of Direction (also a must have!) she stresses the importance of building the positive environment and details specific strategies on how to make it happen.
This is a phenomenal resource for all teachers, students, actors and directors.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Alan on September 23, 2002
Format: Paperback
Not only useful for the "serious adult" improv artist--as a drama teacher who works with underprivileged kids I find this the best book out there for helping them develop a sense of "mastery" on stage, a drama more alive to them than memorizing lines. Recommended for anyone who works with young actors!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Alicia Marie Hickman on December 8, 2010
Format: Paperback
Great book for more advanced drama students. I bought this book to use with my middle school drama classes. This is my first year teaching drama and I was told that this was the "Bible" of drama instruction books. While it is a great resource, I find alot of the concepts to be too complex and higher-level thinking than many middle schoolers can comprehend. I've had to simplify them alot. I've had little training but have taught MS choir for the last 4 years and have been the vocal coach for 2 highschool productions: Fiddler and Music Man. Viola does a great job telling the teacher what to say when the students are performing; "side-coaching" she calls it. That has really helped me know what to tell the students so I don't look like a complete idiot. It's really cool to have a Middle School Drama program (2 classes: 7th and 8th grade) but a clearer step-by-step guide would really help me out.
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9 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 25, 2003
Format: Paperback
In fact any other book you may buy will have most of spolins ideas.
If you are guiding any one in an improvisational education. this is the best. It is very important for improvisers to learn about comedic improv through spolins techniques. all other forms of improv is about the joke which lets face it is only funny because you know the performers. but spolin allows you to discover the scene not the joke. and if you are naturally a funny person chances are your scene will be funny. this is not to say that the funniest guy wont have a serious scene .some times when an improv is a true improv you have to let it be what it is whatever it is.
great book. great book .fun book. gauranteed to give you guru status if you follow her instruction. after all you will be giving the most wonderful gift to all your students. your students will develope as improvisers the correct way and will be able to work with anyone.
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