Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out

Overview

For more than 20 years of directing, teaching, and participating in improvisation, Mick Napier has watched thousands of scenes. His experience as founder of the acclaimed Annoyance Theatre/Annoyance Productions, as well as Resident Director and Artistic Consultant for The Second City, has led him to continually question why and how scenes work or don't work and what one must do in order for a scene to be successful.

In this book, Napier takes an irreverent, but constructive look...

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Overview

For more than 20 years of directing, teaching, and participating in improvisation, Mick Napier has watched thousands of scenes. His experience as founder of the acclaimed Annoyance Theatre/Annoyance Productions, as well as Resident Director and Artistic Consultant for The Second City, has led him to continually question why and how scenes work or don't work and what one must do in order for a scene to be successful.

In this book, Napier takes an irreverent, but constructive look at the art and practice of improvised scenes. He covers such topics as:

  • two-person scenes
  • group scenes
  • entering scenes
  • techniques to achieve richer, more layered scenes
  • auditioning
  • solo exercises for practice at home.
Napier also challenges the conventional wisdom of the rules of improvisation, examining what's behind them and how they came to be in the first place.

Get helpful, tangible guidelines for bringing strength and direction to your scenes. Just Improvise.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780325006307
  • Publisher: Heinemann
  • Publication date: 3/3/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Sales rank: 269,340
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

Mick Napier is the founder of the acclaimed Annoyance Theatre/Annoyance Productions, as well as Resident Director and Artistic Consultant for The Second City. He lives in Chicago.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction
1 What is improvisation? 1
2 Rules 3
3 How to improvise 14
4 "What about my partner?" 29
5 Context and scenes 37
6 Common problems 48
7 More than two people in a scene 58
8 Advanced improvisation 72
9 Advice and guidelines for improvisers 88
10 Improvisation and the second law of thermodynamics 103
11 Exercises to do at home 111
12 Annoyance 128
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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 16, 2005

    Insightful, Practical, nearly Brilliant, and Essential.

    Napier's book ought to be not just brilliant in spurts, but throughout, and therefore, important. In his insightful 'how to' section, Nick Napier offers practical, hands-on teaching approaches and scene starting techniques. No touchy-feely stuff here, this is hard core 'do this' direction. You will become a stronger improvisor, or find validation and language for what you do if you already are a strong improvisor, by reading chapters three to the end. You will be dazzled and validated by his easy-to-apply techniques, and no-nonsense, do-it-now language. Like much genius, Napier's advice is elegant and obvious. You'll wish you'd thought of saying it that way. It's huge. And wonderful, right away, as they say. From chapter three on, he presents the first improv text to address performance practice. This is a neglected and vital subject (practical technique for 'acceptance' in real-time) approached with positive principals, and directness. Napier's insight into what makes bad improv teaching practice is worthy, original, painfully obvious, and daringly contrarian, and if he'd kept his argument on target, he'd have added a marvelous opening to his true achievement, the manual section of the book. If he'd exhibited this restraint and stuck to his own experience, his book might have been the improvisational equivalent of Melissa Bruder's gem, A PRACTICAL HANDBOOK FOR THE ACTOR, and become the most indespensible book in all improvisation literature. However, like the teachers he rages against, who interpret Spolin and Johnstone as a series of 'don'ts', Napier misses the mark. He blames the problems of improv pedagogy on the 'rules' themselves, states them negatively, then describes their 'evolution' as if they were always stated negatively, which simply isn't so. As a result, he introduces his would-be revolution with a sloppy, whining, misplaced rant, which is neither researched nor causal, a charge he levels against his 'enemies'. There is nothing like actual information to strengthen an argument. It's sorely lacking here. You can also skip chapter 10, 'Improvisation and the Second Law of Thermodynamics', which I think he thinks is funny, but instead is contrived and boring except for the dead poodle. He's trying too hard. Genuinely funny is the fact that the dead poodle makes his point concisely and with wit, as opposed to his long-winded explanation of the physics behind the crushed pup. Not even his attempt at humorous apology work (didn't he just warn actors against apologizing?) during this deadening physics lecture. It's a little sad, actually. Also sad is that as he expands his advice, he advises his readers to apply the 'rules' he despises in a positive manner, with rigor and vigor (DO something, make choices, accept, dare the unknown, etc.). Ironic that he's very Spolin, very Johnstone, at his core, which, given his contrarian stance, makes one wonder if he's ever read Johnstone or Spolin. If he's going so far as to write a text, he should have done the reading, especially since he calls himself a latent scientist. A scientist does his research and cites primary sources. Note - there is no bibliography in his book. But as I said before, hang in there, once he gets to his true expertise, he's worth the trouble. When he ends his negative justifications (interestingly, one of his improvisation rules is, 'don't justify'), and gets to his explanation of 'deals', we're in excellent hands. PLEASE NOTE THIS IS A RECOMMENDATION, not a pan. Just skim or skip the boring, whining and inaccurate first two chapters and tenth chapters, and go right to the meat of the book starting with chapter 3 'How to Improvise'. You'll find an innovative, brilliant teacher at his best, and indispensible advice, especially for the advanced improvisor. You'll benefit from his strengths: putting fun, play and techniques used by some of the finest artists in theater improvisation into accessible, no-nons

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    Posted June 25, 2009

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