Improv Handbook: The Ultimate Guide to Improvising in Theatre, Comedy, and Beyond / Edition 1

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The most comprehensive, smart, helpful and inspiring guide to improve available today. Applicable to comedians, actors, public speakers and anyone who needs to think on their toes.

From The Improv Handbook:

The problem for improvisers is anxiety. faced with a lot of nameless eyes staring at us, and feeling more than anything else like prey, we are likely to want to display very consistent behavior, so that anyone who looks at us, looks away and then looks back sees the same thing. Thus we become boring, we fade into the background, and we cease to be of interest.

The Improv Handbook provides everything someone interested in improvisational comedy needs to know, as written by a husband and wife comedy duo with years of experience and teaching in the field. in addition to providing a comprehensive history of improvisational theater as a backdrop, it also looks at modern theories and practices of improvisation on a global scale, including how the form of comedy has evolved differently in different parts of the world, from Europe to the UK to the Chicago scene. The Improv Handbook also contains an essential performance segment that details different formats of improvisation. Chapter topics include Theatresports, Micetro, Gorilla Theatre, and the inventions of Keith Johnstone and Del Close as well as other popular forms of improv, like those on "Whose Line is it Anyway." The core section of the book is called simply, "How to Improvise" and delves into issues of spontaneity, the fundamentals of storytelling, working together, upping the ante, and character development. The book concludes with sections on how to improvise in front of an audience and- just as crucially- how to attract an audience in the first place.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780826428585
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury Academic
  • Publication date: 5/1/2008
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 448
  • Sales rank: 778,375
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Tom Salinsky is the co-founder (with his wife Deborah Frances-White) of The Spontaneity Shop. He and Deborah have performed improvisation for The Royal Court, The RSC Summer Season, The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Festival, and at the Bloomsbury Theatre. They have toured the world and performed at many comedy festivals by invitation. They teach at RADA, The Actors Centre, The National Youth Theatre, and many other colleges and institutions, as well as their own successful workshop program.

Deborah Frances-White is the co-founder (with her husband Tom Salinsky) of The Spontaneity Shop. She and Tom have performed improvisation for The Royal Court, The RSC Summer Season, The Gilded Balloon at the Edinburgh Festival, and at the Bloomsbury Theatre. They have toured the world and performed at many comedy festivals by invitation. They teach at RADA, The Actors Centre, The National Youth Theatre, and many other colleges and institutions, as well as their own successful workshop program.

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Table of Contents

Part One: Improvisation


Antiquity: Forms of improvisation from before the 20th CenturyJohnstone / Calgary: Keith Johnstone, the Theatre Machine, and the Loose Moose
Close / Chicago: Del Close and the Chicago scene
Spolin: The Compass Players and Viola Spolin's continuing influence
The World Over: The spread of improvised theatre across Europe, America and the rest of the world
The Spontaneity Shop / UK: Improvisation in the UK - a personal history


TheatreSports: The grandaddy of them all
Micetro, Gorilla Theatre, LifeGame: Later inventions of Keith Johnstone
The Harold and Its Relations: Del Close's way of doing things
The Rest: Less interesting, influential, or popular forms: "Whose Line Is It Anyway"; "Improvised" films and television; TellTales; X-improvised.

Intermission: Great Teachers

Part Two: How to Improvise
Core BeliefsStorytelling: Improvisation isn't about jokes, or about "anything goes". It's about telling a story.Failure - on and off the stage: Why "we suck and we love to fail" is the most important thing anyone's ever said to us.

How To Use This Section

Day One
Spontaneity: Pointing at things; What are you doing?
Saying "Yes": Block/Offer/Accept; Yes and...

Day Two
Fundamentals of Storytelling: Platforms - go through an unusual door; Breaking routines; The right trouble for the right hero; Reincorporation

Day Three
Status: What status is and what it isn't; High status and low status "triggers"; Status and space; Status is relative

Day Four
Working Together: Tug of war; Word at a time; Speak in one voice; Dubbing

Day Five
Being Changed: Status switch; Gibberish; It's Tuesday

Day Six
Upping the Ante: Jump and justify; Boris; He said she said; Questions only
You can't learn mime from a book

Day Seven
Characters: Changing the body image; Characters from a hat

Day Eight: Blind Offers
Intermission: The rules and why there aren't any

Part Three: How To Improve

All Talk and No ActionSilent scenesGibberishThree word sentencesCan't Define, Won't DefineSolid as a RockShoe shopsIt's TuesdayThe Gagmeister GeneralStory WoesContinue or thank youShoe shopsCharacterTwinsIntermission: Game CorruptionPart Four: How To Improvise In PublicFeel the Fear and Do It AnywayNuts and BoltsThe groupThe venuePress and publicityPreparationOn the dayNext stepsPick Your FormatLicensed formatsUnlicensed formatsInnovating formatsIntermission: Truth in Comedy in Bits and PiecesPart Five: How To Improvise All Over the WorldGetting On the TelevisionGetting On the Festival CircuitHosting Your Own FestivalIntermission: "Please don't..."Part Six: Making Improvisation PayThe Corporate MarketCorporate TrainingCorporate EntertainmentIntermission: Why ImprovisationPart Seven: Talk the Talk - Interviews with ImprovisersTom and Deborah interview each otherKeith JohnstoneDan O'ConnorPatti StilesPaul SillsCharna HalpernPlus several more alumni of shows like Saturday Night Live and The Daily Show, who we should be able to includePart Eight: Final ThoughtsGlossary, bibliography, index, useful contacts

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