acting one *
Peter Brook: Preparation - «The freedom of improvisation was last week, and you can't get that freedom back unless you have mastery of the material. The spur of the moment has to come of actually knowing what is and what isn't». Who is teaching this class? Anatoly? Shakespeare? Movie stars? Gods? Team teaching -- Stanislavsky and Meyerhold? Acting One pages have no style! Too many!

Physical Page @ BM

Read pages on movement (before or after) Q. What are the two elements we need for imrov?
A. Situation + Characters


ARISTOTLE. Anatoly? Could I have a word with you? Could you promise me not to let the new ones, you know, gods and muses, speak, please? Too many voices, my young friend. Enough of those two Russians, Teacher and Master, as you call them, enough! If Apollo and and Dionysus will talk, and the girls, what kind of class it could be? I understand, it's acting, not Plato's Academy, but nevertheless, you know... Promise?




Viola Spolin has taught it through creating gamelike exercises. The actor has certain given conditions to respond to and a goal. In performance, improvisation becomes a collaborative art of spontaneous theatrical creation. comedy-improv books (list)
"Secret Number One: Improvise -- Improvisation means making it up as you go along. It means letting go in order to try something new and exciting. Actors use improv to free up their creativity and to discover their comfort level with the script." Acting Techniques for Speakers

Secrets? Hello? Ten secrets!

"Until the Actor loses all Awareness of Self; the Character will Never come to Life." - James Caan -

Michael Chekhov

Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques by Viola Spolin

Seven Aspects of Spontaneity (games)

Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques Northwestern University Press, 1963 - Theory and Foundation - I. Creative Experience - Ii. Workshop Procedures - Exercises: The Workshop Sessions in This Section Can Be Used in Progressive Sequence. - Iii. Orientation - Iv. Where - V. Acting with the Whole Body - Vi. Non-Directional Blocking - Vii. Refining Awareness - Viii. Speech, Broadcasting, And Technical Effects - Ix. Developing Material for Situations - X. Rounding-Out Exercises - Xi. Emotion - Xii. Character - Children and the Theater - Xiii. Understanding the Child - Xiv. Fundamentals for the Child Actor - Xv. Workshop for Six-To-Eight-Year-Olds - Formal Theater And Improvisational Theater - Xvi. Preparation - Xvii. Rehearsal and Performance - Xviii. Post-Mortem and Special Problems

[ see GAMES page ]


Actors should be overheard, not listened to, and the audience is fifty percent of the performance.-- Shirley Booth
LESSON 1: Intro to improv. 

LESSON 2: Improv for vocal responses. 

LESSON 3: Improv for movement.

LESSON 4: Improv for character study. 

LESSON 5: Improv for sensory awareness. 

LESSON 6: Improv scenes.
The ancient art of improv has two uses in modern theatre. One is an exercise, used in acting classes or during rehearsals. The second is performance, when imaginative actors make up storyettes on the spur of the moment, often starting with key ideas from the audience.

Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques: Viola Spolin, Paul Sills. If you're going to learn improv, best do it from experts. Viola Spolin, in many ways the mother of modern improv, certainly is one; and Paul Sills (her son), known for his Story Theatre, is another. They have the credentials to make this one of the primary books for improv.

Must for ANY Impov: Character and Situation (see DramLit for definition).

Do the comedy first. Must have a conflict (objective and obstacle). "The Drunk" exercise: "being drunk is a primitive" characterization. Objective -- to get a bootle (example) at other end of the room. What is the obstacle? Being drunk. Normal tragectory of motion -- a straight line. (Watch Chaplin's silent movies for physical comedy).
Can we add new colors? Age, nationality, urgency and so on. Keep enlarging the conflict: dark room, trying to look sober and etc. Prop? Hat and walking stick (Chaplin) -- what are yours? Can we make your costume work?

How to use 5Ws in Improv
Remember our "what, when, where, who, why, what?"

Let apply the "who-what-why" formula to development of an improvisational scene:

Situation: What happened?

Characters: to Whom did it happen?

Locale: Where did it happen?

Motivationa: Why did it happen?

Atmosphere: When did it happen?

Take one task at the time:

Situation = "What" (conflict, exposition)

Character = "Who" (age, traits, etc.)

Character + Situation
"When"? -- try, improvise, add to what you already developed. "When" = time of the day, day of the week, season ... take whatever could help you to move the scene/character ahead.


Conducted Story: The goal of the conducted story is to have the players tell a story that moves seemlessly from one player to another. The goal of the conductor is to make the story flow as well as possible. If the conductor moves from one player to another the new player that is speaking must continue on as though there was no pause. For instance, moves from player Eh who said, "many children were afraid of Carl for he was known to ha.." to player Bee, who would continue seemlessly " piles of library books that were overdue." The key is listening. It is a listening exercise. The four players that are not speaking must be listening. They all must have the next word ready to go, and only if they are listening will that word make any sense. The players must also be accepting of what is happening in the story. Forcing their own agenda will show up quickly. Words like, 'but' and 'instead of' reflect someone denies another players offers.

"Creation begins with the magic 'if.' Put this question to yourself: if I were in the character's place, what would I do? Notice what I said: What I would do, not what I would feel!" Stanislavsky [526]

Improv methods for rehearsals: development of character, shaping the situation.

Improvization and BM. In classs: animal intro games

All I can do for now is to send you to my old page Improvization in Method directory and to Theatre Biomechanics pages. Emotional Symphony: Five of the players are lined up in a performance fashion. One person is chosen to conduct the players in the symphony. Each player is endowed with some emotion. It is good to get a range of contrasting emotions for the players to use. Once each player is given their emotion the conductor points from one player to another. The players do not speak, but express their emotions through physicalization and noise. The intensity of the emotion is increased as the conductor raises her hand while pointing at the player. The conductor moves from player to player conducting an emotional symphony.

Go to theory directory! Yes, on acting! 24hour-act, acting, audience, auditions, directing, director, rehearse, system, warmups and more!

** Samples:


Games and Move pages

Check the Spolin's book.

How do we use improvization for "script development"?

Directors, Writers and Actors


Bring in class 3-5 improv situations.


Psychological (Method) and physical (BM) approach to improvization.

Combination of text-based and improv rehearsals, including the cold readings.

Next: Body

"Ask-fors" are what separates improvisational theatre from all other forms of theatre. The barrier between the audience and the players is broken down by asking the audience what they want the next scene to be about. Extracting that information is a skill in itself. Every troupe has its own style of asking for audience suggestions. The approach suggested here is a neutral one aimed at a slightly neophyte or recalcitrant audience.
Tell the audience that the show is improvised ahead of time. If they have no idea that you are going to be hitting them up for suggestions even the rudest audience knows to not interact with the actors on stage. Be polite, thank the audience member for the suggestion. Qualify that the scene will somehow involve the audience members suggestion, and does not need to involve the ask for itself.

Gibberish Exercises:
Once in the circle the one of the players turns to their left and greets their neighbour in a gibberish tongue. That player responds with a gibberish 'hello' that mimics the other player. That player turns around and greets the next in the circle and so on. Once the gibberish greeting has gone around the whole circle the gibberish gets embellished. For instance, all the gibberish could be sad gibberish, or happy gibberish, Italian gibberish, Scottish gibberish, Cantonese gibberish, Computer gibberish. The gibberish can also be used to communicate intent like, 'used car sales' gibberish, 'pick up line' gibberish. The goal is get people communicating emotions and concepts without depending on words. If going around the circle gets boring the exercise can be combined with the exercise Cross Circle to get the players moving.[ Translating gibberish has one person assigned to translating another's gibberish. ]

Machines: A machine that does not exist is called for and the players create the machine by each adding an essential part. There is no discussion amongst the players before starting. The first player starts with a repetitive activity and an associated noise. The next players add to the machine with some activity that fits into the previous player's activity. This continues until a machine is created. The machine is sped up and slowed down. Certain players can be asked to malfunction, and the whole machine must respond. There is no leader in the creation of the machine. It is important that all the players reflect the changes in each part of the machine. Speak In One Voice: The object of the exercise is to have the group speak as if they were one person. This is done, not by having one person lead the pack, but by having the pack share each word as it is formed. The players need to all be looking at each other and sharing the focus. It helps to get several groups each speaking in one voice, and having them act out a scene together. In "Yes And" the players are constantly saying, 'yes and'. The mechanism goes something like this. One player may start off with, "Your coat is so lovely." The response of the other player could be, "YES AND I made it for you." The other player responds, "YES AND I have a thousand dollars for it." "YES AND I am going to use that money to make a hundred more coats for you." The players must always have the 'yes and' at the beginning of their sentence. This seems contrived and it is. It is remarkable how much easier it is to notice players that insist on controlling the scene. They cannot bring themselves to accept the offer. The most common response is, "yes and but." These scenes have a tendency to accelerate into the stratosphere.

Lady B and Lane (read online "The Importance of Being Earnest)
Help Desk: Once the person at the info desk is in place the players approach the desk and ask for things that one might find in a department store. They are expected to make strong character choices, and make enquiries related to their characters. Ensure that each player draws from physicality, voice and intent to create their character. The help desk person is neutral and helpful to all the players that come along. The Interview Game: 15 - 20 min.
Have students pair up with someone who they don't know very well. Assign one partner as "A" and the other as "B". Each student is given 3 minutes to interview their partner. Encourage them to try and discover and remember as many details as possible. Have each student introduce their partner and give a short report on what they have learned about them.

Long Distance Telephone: 5 - 10 min.
(to reinforce names) Decide on a phrase (ex: bring a pencil to next class). Tell it to student #1, who will go and whisper it in the ear of whomever's name you called out and sit in that student's (#2) spot. Call another name and student #2 will pass the message on to them. Object is to not garble the message. A good variation of this is to have a student do the calling, if they make an error, a new student is chosen to call. Если вы хотите попасть в действительно новое место, вы не можете знать, куда вы идёте. -- Стив Пэкстон (основатель контактной импровизации)

Method & Biomechanics: From Gestalt perspective body is a personification of inner life; it is materialized contact-boundary between inner world and environment. Body and its gestures are what another person can experience. We can look at body experience as a key to awareness of feelings, needs, and wishes. Idea of wholeness of spiritual and physical dimensions were presented in actors masterpiece school of Stanislavsky and M. Chekhov.