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How to Improvise a Full-Length Play: The Art of Spontaneous Theater Paperback – Bargain Price, October 16, 2007
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“I didn’t want to put this book down! But I did, because I couldn’t wait to get started on the exercises. What Kenn Adams offers us here is of enormous value to the creation of scripted as well as spontaneous theater. He charts a process that helps playwrights, dramaturges, directors, and actors—as well as improvisers—find their stories and grip their audiences. Oh, and . . . I laughed out loud!” (Laura Livingston, Artistic Director, Freestyle Repertory Theatre)
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I've read/studied. Every fiction writing class should use this as their text. It is my new writing 'bible.' I'm recommending it to all the members of my critique group.
The step by step program is just great, the exercises build the necessary skills to truly understand and improvise a full length play! Good job!
With no hesitation, 5 STARS!
The idea of the protagonist creating the climax of the play by acting on a third character, alone, is worth the price of the book.
I have used this structural idea in both straight improvisation and in devising a rehearsed play in which the students use their own words. In this latter case I plot out the shape of the plot from student created characters and situations.
Students are delighted that they can have considerable latitude in either improvised or devised pieces as long as they hit the basic plot points.
I find myself checking the structure when watching films and plays. It seems to work more universally than any other plotting scheme that I have found.
This one works.
As the title of my review indicates, this book is really for writers. It's actually only about 150 pages of content and almost all of them detail the story structure, or Story Spine, as Kenn calls it. And, in truth, it is very good. I've written over two dozen plays and several screen plays and he has it right on the money. If you are looking for a direct, step by step, book on show to set up a story, this is a great one.
But I think it failed on teaching how to actually move it to the stage. That's a big problem with improv teaching. When this is just something you've gone on stage and "done", it's hard to remember to teach it, especially in words. Kenn obviously has a great deal of experience and passes my 14 years by quite a few, but that should have helped this book.
I wanted to read about how he got his first cast to agree to this, what they went through in the original rehearsals, and the mistakes they made along the way. I wanted to know how they knew to improve and the different steps they took to get there. I wanted more than a one paragraph bit on "Practice".
I also had many questions. I've run all sorts of improv and have never done a full play. I wanted to know thngs like "what suggestions do you get at the beginning?", "How many people make up an ideal cast?", "Is it good to have a 'clock' in mind when doing this so you know you're on pace?", "How do you know that you're at the end of Act One?"... and many more. And those are just the "performance" questions. I had many more about the rehearsal process. Saddly I found myself not getting that with this book.
Kenn does add his email address at the end of the book and invites questions. I think this is great, and I would have done it if I just had a few questions left. Right now I have so many that it would take a book to answer them all -- and that's more or less what I thought I was getting here.
I still give it four stars because it is well written, it's a great book for any playwrite looking to get story structure down, and because I know how much work and personal worth you put into a book. Also, as I stated at the beginnng, I believe you take somethng from everything. I found a few great warm up exercises and I love that one of his three rules of improv is "Always make your partner look good".
Now... go out and support improv and live theatre where ever you can!