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4.8 out of 5 stars
Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre
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on February 21, 2015
Exactly what I was looKing for!
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on June 16, 2009
After many years of being wary about Johnstone's book, I've finally given in. My initial response was that while other improv texts cover the "Hows" this one covered the "Whys".

This is a very enlightening book, but I feel it is too heavy for the everyday improvisor. A very large amount is focused on status. The subtleties of status are interesting to read about, but the text suffers from being TOO thorough. In addition, only about 1/20th of the final section (about Masks and Trance) were helpful to me.

All this aside, it is a very interesting book to discover what works, and more improtantly WHY. Knowing why something works will allow you to discover new ways of performing.

Recommended.
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on August 6, 2004
Keith Johnstone is nothing less than brilliant. This book inspires, challenges, and moves me to do more. Admittedly, sometimes Johnstone is on a wee bit of a story, but that is the spirit of the man who has given so much to the art form of improv. In this text lay the nuggets of much improv wisdom.
Johnstone, Spolin, Sills, Close, Napier... the gurus of the form.
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on May 15, 2003
I'm not an actor, have no experience of improvisational theatre (not even seen any!), but I loved this book. A fascinating glimpse into a highly creative and original mind, and funny as heck, especially the section on Status. This book would be of interest to teachers, particularly those teaching arts (including but not limited to language arts).
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2002
Impro is divided in four sections, Status, Spontaneity, Narrative Skills, and Masks and Trance. The most interesting section, Status, discusses how general physical attitudes dictate our attitude and how other people see us. Johnstone expounds his idea that all relationships are plays on status. His other chapters are more technical and discuss various theater exercises meant to stimulate spontaneity and narrative skills.
This book is difficult to judge. On the one hand, it is very challenging and engages us with interesting ideas, especially about status and power relations. But the last chapter in particular is replete with paranormal and new age nonsense - hypnosis, trances, aborigene religions, everything gets thrown in the mix. Johnstone's attitude towards education is also surprisingly outdated for a 1981 book : he keeps harping on educational attitudes which belong in the fifties. Johnstone is obviously a very superficial and linear-thinking man.
I suppose the recommendation would have to be based on whenever one works in the theater or not. If the former, then this book will no doubt be of great help, if one can ignore the nonsense : otherwise there is little recommend this book.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on April 26, 2002
I first came actoss this book when I first got interested in theatre in the early 80s in England, and I couldn't believe what I was reading. If theatre is a search for truth, then Johnstone exemplifies this with a fundamentalist's zeal.
Eschewing formula and "how to" guides, he presents improvisation on the stage as less of a craft and more a state of mind. His "bookending" of his practical advice with an angry account of his time spent as a teacher at the beginning of the book and his work on masks and trance in the last section underlines this.
Johnstone's book is a must for anybody wanting to improvise effectively on a stage, anyone wanting to use drama as a teaching or therapeutic tool, and an essential for anybody interested in the practical exploration of the subconscious mind and its workings.
It's a manual for creativity. It's an essential for an artist in any discipline. No: scrub the majority of that sentence. It's an essential, period.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 22, 2002
I suggest that you follow Amazon's recommendation and buy it with the acompanying sequel "Impro for Storytellers"
Hmm...Let's see:
Once upon a time there was a brilliant little boy who lived in an alternative universe so he had mercifully never heard of Viola Spolin.
Therefore instead of following standard improv exercises such as 'mirror' or 'tug of war on the imaginary rope' He began creating his own.
These wre not dependant on the Spolin credo of agreeing on the 'Who, What, When and Where'. Rather our young hero was more fascinated by 'Why?' or in plainer English, 'Why should either the audience or the actors give a (expletive deleted) about this improv exercise? What's its value and moreover, could it apply to acting in general?
Consequently through experimentation, a contrary kind of courage ('My acting teachers told me never to make faces as it was untruthful, so I mugged whenever I could') and a curious interest in the transformative power of Mask work--which was out of fashion in The West since the fall of Athens--arrived at some startingly new discoveries for character work as well as Improv.
He then moved to Canada, opened his own troupe, and the rest, as they say is history . . .
Let's see, did I leave anything out? Oh Yes, a practical piece of advice and a cryptic remark to end this review:
1. If the library is burning and you have a choice of saving Stanislavski's trilogy or these two books, save Johnstone's
2. Beware of Boris (to say nothing of Igor)
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2001
to study with Keith at the University of Calgary and to work with him at the Loose Moose Theater, and it had a tremendous impact on my life. His approach to education, to theater, to life all has a very liberating effect. This book carries a great deal of his spirit. It plants a terrific garden in your mind; some of the seeds sprout quickly while others may take a very long time to grow. This is a great book, for more reasons than I can say.
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on June 19, 2001
Keith Johnstone's book has influenced countless acting classes. Many artists who have not yet heard of this book are doing exercises based on his experiments in England with actors using improvisation to discover status operations within a scene, narrative structure, and the importance of structure and process over "content" (a sticking point for the improvisator, the public speaker, and everyone who has ever said, 'I can't think of anything.') It also provides one of the best short introductions to mask work around. So it might seem like an indispensable theatre book. And it is that. Indispensable.
Yet read Johnstone's first chapter - a memoir of his early teaching career, in which he discovered the process by which children learn to be uncreative as a tragic coping skill. This is not a theatre book. Theatre classes were the arena, but this is a book about teaching! This is about opening doors that have been slammed shut, and acquainting people with the creativity and exuberance that is everybody's birthright. The exercises, and analyses of his students' work with improvisation, along with Johnstone's unflagging faith in every person's imagination, have much to show us even on repeated readings and practice.
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on December 27, 2000
This book is the absolute bible of improv and acting. Keith Johnstone takes you step by step through his approach to teaching. The exercises he uses really work to get our intellects out of the way of our creativity.
The section on status is extremely useful. As a testament, I used some of them in my beginning improv class and amazing things happened. The class understood and became more aware of how we use status in every moment of our lives. Scenes immediately became more interesting and real. I look forward to the mask activities. The only negative comment I can make is that a few of the exercises were not clearly explained. Johnstone's descriptions, at times, assume previous knowledge of the game being described. This is a book every actor and improver should read. It will expand your creativity and improve your physical awareness onstage. Enjoy it!
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