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Improv Wisdom: Don't Prepare, Just Show Up Hardcover – May 3, 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Drama teacher turned self-help advisor Madson learned the hard way that playing by the rules doesn't always mean you win-despite doing all the right things, she was denied tenure in the job of her dreams. The acting teacher learned to jettison the script and improvise her life-and she ended up teaching at a much better university: Stanford. If you improvise, she says, you "will make more mistakes" but you'll also "laugh more often, and have some adventures." Here she offers 13 maxims to guide the fledgling improviser. "Say yes" with the ecstasy of Molly Bloom: it will open up new worlds. "Don't prepare": in focusing on the future, you might miss the present. "Start anywhere": take any entry into a problem, and once you get inside you'll have a better perspective. Madson offers little exercises drawn from improv acting that are easy and eye-opening, such as look at a familiar environment and notice something new in it. Or make a list of important places in your life, put down the book and just go to one of them. Madson's prose radiates the joy of living, the pleasure she has found in taking things as they come. Most self-help books offer a forced sense of inspiration; Madson is genuinely inspiring. "Say yes" to this book.
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“A marvelous guide to freedom and delight. Improv has become a wisdom tradition of its own and Patricia shows how its lessons can bring out the best in us.” —John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros
“Patricia Ryan Madson is one of Stanford’s truly inspired teachers; she has changed the lives of thousands of students over the past twenty-eight years. In her smiling book, Improv Wisdom, she reminds us that being alive is like riding a bicycle—we always feel a little off-balance and insecure, but ‘in the act of balancing we come alive.’ She makes you want to get up and do something—try it out, make mistakes, laugh, play, and try it again.” —Charles Junkerman, Associate Provost and Dean of Continuing Studies, Stanford University
“Reading even just a few pages of Patricia Madson’s book might change your life forever. That’s what has happened to me. These pages are chock-full of wisdom, clarity, and helpful techniques on enhancing spontaneity in everyday life. Read this book—you will be glad and so will everyone else in your life.” —Nina Wise, author of A Big New Free Happy Unusual Life
“I have witnessed Patricia Madson’s magic touch in both her classes and her performances. Her students often describe her as a ‘goddess,’ but that may be an understatement. I rejoice that her wisdom is now available to new audiences.” —Philip G. Zimbardo, author of Psychology and Life and Shyness
“The premise of Patricia Madson’s book is astonishing: to practice the basic rules of improvisational theater is to walk a path toward a spiritually satisfying life. Her underlying claim is simple and sound: if you are willing to be completely present, making full use of whatever happens, you will find goodness in any situation. This is a lucid, wise, and free-spirited book.” —Norman Fischer, founder and teacher of the Everyday Zen Foundation
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Of course, I got it immediately. Anything that makes that list is something I'm going to read. :)
And, here we are. Improv Wisdom rocks. So does Patricia Ryan Madson.
Patricia is an Emerita of Stanford University where she taught for three decades in the Drama Department. She integrates the wisdom of two primary, extraordinary teachers/philosophies: Keith Johnstone's Impro goodness + David Reynolds' Constructive Living mojo.
"A good improvisor is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse. My students wanted to know the password for joining the society of such people, to play fearlessly, and to work with greater ease.
Here is the password--it is yes! Understanding the power of yes is easy; practicing that acceptance and affirmation in daily life becomes our challenge.
I'm writing to encourage you to improvise your life, please. I want you to take chances and do more of the things that are important to you. I'm hoping that you will make more mistakes, laugh more often, and have some adventures...
What is missing in your life? The paperweight on my desk challenges me to ask the bumper-sticker question: What would you do if you knew you could not fail?" What would you do?
As improvisors we discover we don't need this unrealistic guarantee to begin. The only real failure is not doing anything. Why not explore, get moving on your life, kick-start your dreams, paint outside the lines? This book will provide inspiration and practical suggestions. Try them." ~ Patricia Ryan Madson from Improv Wisdom
This book is a down-to-earth, inspiring, quick-read featuring the thirteen maxims of improv living. It's packed with Big Ideas and practical exercises (Patricia calls them "Try this!" and they're great).
Here are the thirteen maxims: say yes + don't prepare + just show up + start anywhere + be average + pay attention + face the facts + stay on course + wake up to the gifts + make mistakes, please + act now + take care of each other + enjoy the ride!
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I picked up the book about a week ago, I've read it twice, I know I'll keep coming back to it. It's appealing on so many levels--the plain spoken thoughts, the inspirational examples and stories, the practical exercises to try things out for myself (Already, I've had a few Ta-Dah moments ;-)
To say it will change your life is a little too much and probably not what Ms Madson has intended. To say it's a tool to help you change your own life--should you choose to show up is more appropriate.
Kudo's and thank you to Ms Madson!