- Paperback: 208 pages
- Publisher: Routledge; 1 edition (January 7, 1987)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0878301178
- ISBN-13: 978-0878301171
- Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.8 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 83 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #66,146 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre 1st Edition
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""Impro ought to be required reading not only for theatre people generally but also for teachers, educators, and students of all kinds and persuassions. Readers of this book are not going to agree with everything in it; but if they are not challenged by it, if they do not ultimately succumb to its wisdom and whimsicality, they are in a very sad state indeed . . . .Johnstone seeks to liberate the imagination, to cultivate in the adult the creative power of the child . . . .Deserves to be widely read and tested in the classroom and rehearsal hall . . .Full of excellent good sense, actual observations and inspired assetions."
-"CHOICE: Books for College Libraries
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As an example of an interesting psychological insight, Johnstone discusses trance states. He strongly recommends using theatrical masks for improvisation, and his method for using them—though he references many earlier teachers with the same idea—involves using mirrors and skillful encouragement in order to take the student out of their normative self and get them to really experience being something else. But we are in fact always going in and out of trance states, he explains: it's impossible to always be "in control," and attempting that just leads to frustration and anxiety.
Another basic point is that imagination is a kind of natural state of the human mind. At one point he says explicitly that imagination is the "true self," which is if nothing else a fascinating hypothesis. His take on school education recalls other writers, especially John Holt, whom he cites several times: basically, modern education tends to discourage spontaneity and imagination.
Finally, his structural way of seeing theater, comedy, and human interaction in general, involves "status games," which makes a lot of sense. For example, he loves Beckett's way of playing with master-servant dynamics, one-upping, etc. He describes a method of teaching theater that involves getting people to understand their own habits of "status posturing," in order to assume other positions and act naturally. He says that long spontaneous improvisation sessions can grow out of just a simple configuration of status, and gives examples of such games.
Johnstone's outlook reminds me of life's strange beauty. Life is indeed much like improvisational theater, and it's great to learn from the insights of someone whose life work involves taking this seriously.
And while this is indeed discussed in this book, there is so much more. While ostensibly a book on teaching techniques for better improv theater the reasoning and discussion on *why* this or that technique works is amazing.
The author talks about why most formal education stinks, why people who try too hard to be original often are anything but, how and why people befuddle their own imagination and inventiveness, and how one can get around all that.
Even if you never partake in any improv theater the book will give you interesting and useful ideas on how people (including you) perceive things, how people react to the unfamiliar and challenging, and how you can open yourself up to more rewarding experiences.