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Impro for Storytellers 1st Edition
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This follow-up is more specialized: a handbook for putting IMPRO into practice, including detailed improv structures for performance and for rehearsal, and chapters on how to teach these games. Sample run lists and notes from performances impart Johnstone's experiences, trials and errors over many years teaching in several countries. The book is exhaustive and beautifully written, but for the general reader, IMPRO is more appropriate.
One disappointment about the book is some sloppy copy-editing. It is rife with typos, of the sort that are not picked out by a computer spell-checker since the typos form actual words.
The title IMPRO FOR STORYTELLERS is, as Tim Sheppard pointed out below, potentially misleading. This is not a book that will help a solo performer generate material, though some of the exercises within can be translated for that purpose. Johnstone's concern is that improv not be restricted to a form of "light entertainment" (think "Who's Line Is It Anyway?"), but as a way of generating narrative and using it to explore human relationships.
The games range from easy to very hard; many would make excellent fun warm-ups to introduce non-actors to basic acting theory and to interacting with an audience. What makes this book unusual for an acting text is the emphasis on story, and the highly audience-centric approach to performance.
I would seriously recommend this book to writers, screenwriters, and story artists. The ultimate goal for Johnstone is to teach his improvisers to hook the audience and keep them hooked by altering tactics, reversing, raising the stakes, setting up expectations. Throughout, his unexpected cry of "Be obvious! Don't be creative!" keeps the story being invented on an engaging emotional level.
I bought this because I'm teaching a class involving some acting, but found so many exciting ideas for plotting I want to send a copy to everyone I know in story. First rate.
As much a psychological treatise as a practical work, it is one of my favorite HOW-TO books on writing. The transcripts of sample activities read like step-by-step reinforcements of a more open, organic means of thinking.
What Manuel Smith did for Assertiveness in "When I say No I feel Guilty" Johnstone does for creative storytelling in this book!
Many people never discover this book because they read Johnstone's first book, Impro, and find it difficult to apply as well as not very relevant once it delves into the eccentric world of mask work. Impro for Storytellers is highly relevant, contains many games, exercises, and suggestions to try, and is a highly entertaining read. I recommend reading this first and reading Impro later if you enjoy it. I certainly enjoyed it over and over again.