A book provides guidelines for learning the art of improvisation.
Debut author Schindler is a founding member of Chicago City Limits, New York City’s longest-running improv comedy show, and Soter (You Should Get a Cat, 2016, etc.) is a producer and performer for Manhattan’s Sunday Night Improv. Together in this how-to manual, the duo seeks to make learning improvisation creative and fun. Beginning with a brief history (improv has Chicago roots), the work quickly jumps into the nuts and bolts of slapstick “comedy of the moment.” Instead of scripts, improv performers are given prompts—from the troupe, a partner, or even the audience—and they must learn to act naturally and off the cuff. Chapters begin with footnoted quotes, mostly from actors—like John Cleese of Monty Python’s Flying Circus—and then key concepts are explained for the novice. While it may seem ironic to have rules for spontaneous acting, the authors’ tenets are meant to help newcomers learn to work in sync with other actors. For example, in the guideline “accept all offers,” if an acting partner presents an imaginary cup of coffee, an improviser should take it and develop that idea instead of asking for tea and stopping the flow of the scene. Exercises and games are also included; for example, in “Silent Partner,” one team member must stay quiet, communicating only with body language and facial expressions. Packed with action photos from the authors’ careers (some contain famous faces, like Robin Williams’), the easy-flowing layout is eye-catching. Memorable analogies are used to explain key concepts; for example, building a scene is compared to constructing a house, brick by brick. Most intriguingly, the buoyant chapters end with examples from the authors’ own seasoned careers, such as the times they achieved “group mind,” which caused them to perform seamlessly with their partners. Quirky and lighthearted (at the end of the introduction, the authors proclaim, “Read on, MacDuff”), this lively romp through the improv world is accessible for both high school and adult readers.
A colorful, spirited gem for aspiring actors or groups looking to improve teamwork.