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Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques (Drama and Performance Studies) Paperback – 30 Jun 1999


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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Northwestern University Press; 3rd Revised edition edition (30 Jun. 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 081014008X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810140080
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.3 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 324,312 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"She has genius and shares it." --Valerie Harper

About the Author

Viola Spolin, the originator of theater games, was introduced to the use of games, storytelling, folk dance, and dramatics as tools for stimulating creative expression in the 1920s while a student of Neva Boyd at Chicago's Hull House. During her years as a teacher and supervisor of creative dramatics there, she began to develop her nonverbal, nonpsychological approach. Her books have been translated into Swedish, German, and Portuguese. She died in 1994. Paul Sills is Viola Spolin's son and the founding director of Chicago's Second City and of Story Theater. He is the coeditor of the third edition of "Improvisation for the Theater."

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

By jasmine on 12 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback
Not only has Viola Spolin's inspired book provided me with endless games and exercises, but she has also given me an outlook and a way of working essential for the development of young actors. All the execrcises have practical, logical reasons behind them. It is easy to move around the book looking for ideas and the instructions are clear and thorough. My students are growing in awareness and confidence and we're having a lot of fun too!
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 38 reviews
73 of 73 people found the following review helpful
The Modern Theatrical Benchmark 8 April 2002
By Kevin L. Nenstiel - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is important to realize, before purchasing "Improvisation for the Theater," that it will not teach you the silly games and clownish humor you see on "Whose Line Is It Anyway?" Funny though many people find that show, it bears only a shirt-tail relationship to improvisation as Viola Spolin conceived of the concept.

First of all, she probably would have been horrified to discover that many people now regard improvisation and comedy synonymous. In her system, improvisation could have been comedic, tragic, surrealistic, or anything in between. The label hung on the performance was secondary to its quality, consistency, and depth.

In this, Spolin's classic textbook (newly updated and expanded by her son and daughter-in-law, her intellectual executors and heirs), she lays down the ins and outs of improvisation for performance. Activities listed in this book are designed to conduct a full workshop for improvisational actors. There are games listed for absolute beginners, orienting them to the demands of the stage, so there is no false expectation of prior experience. The games, moreover, are almost all adaptable to all ages, so a children's workshop won't feel you're going over their heads, and an adult workshop won't feel they're being condescended to.

The chapters are arranged in the sequence Spolin felt would be most efficient in creating a fully-dimensional improv show that would capture audience attention and be satisfying for all involved. Not everyone will agree that this is the best sequence, and with a little time and consideration, the games can be reordered to suit an individual director's tastes. However, this should be undertaken with care -- many people have used this workshop pattern very effectively for over forty years with great success and enjoyment.

The games, moreover, can be used individually, both in classrooms and in a theatrical directing environment. Many of the games teach important skills regarding vocal technique, character-motivated action, attention to environmental detail, and poise. Even when working with experienced actors, I have found many of these games useful in developing wholly realized characters and environments, and the group nature of the work is key in creating unity among cast members and ensuring everybody is playing off the same rules.

I have worked with scarcely an acting coach or director who has not, at some point, used some activity from this book to achieve some goal. By having actors participate in these activities, the whole production is moved toward a unified and consistent goal, usually one that cannot be achieved by mere talking and finger-pointing. Complex variations of these games are used by improvisational troupes throughout the world, and Spolin's teachings have really been the benchmark for theatrical education and directing for nearly half a century now.

No actor who wants to grow in skill, no acting teacher who wants to guide students toward higher ability, no director who wants to achieve results quickly and well, should ever be without this book. It is the measure of greatness in modern theatre.
38 of 38 people found the following review helpful
teachers and actors, this is for you! 11 Jun. 2000
By helen marquardt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
For serious students and teachers this is the basic bible of improvisation. It gives a strong, basic philosophy of improv for both teachers and actors. It contains methods, games and a variety of techniques to develop oneself both as a teacher & and actor. Step-by-step approaches are offered as well as overviews for ones own creativity. The book is well-organized, too so that the teacher/actor can easily access a favorite warm-up,beginning game or advanced exercise. Not a book for skimming! One must study this book, that is if you truly love the theatre!
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
Simply a must have for the student and teacher alike! 1 May 2001
By J. Remington - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Obviously, it would be optimal if one could work in a workshop that put this book up on its feet. That way the teacher/director could experience many of these games and technique building excersises first hand, thereby making them even more vibrant and clear.
That said, this third edition is extremely practical, detailed and very clearly written as it lays out hundreds of excersises which build not only acting technique, but group integrity as well. Spolin was a gifted teacher and director and her nearly seventy years of experience in the theatre pays great dividends to all who dare to follow in her footsteps,
Even more helpful than the vast multitude of improvisational activities is her advice to the director of the scripted play. Like William Ball's A Sense of Direction (also a must have!) she stresses the importance of building the positive environment and details specific strategies on how to make it happen.
This is a phenomenal resource for all teachers, students, actors and directors.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Great for teachers of drama too! 24 Sept. 2002
By Alan - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Not only useful for the "serious adult" improv artist--as a drama teacher who works with underprivileged kids I find this the best book out there for helping them develop a sense of "mastery" on stage, a drama more alive to them than memorizing lines. Recommended for anyone who works with young actors!
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
teaching acting 8 Dec. 2010
By Alicia Marie Morris - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Great book for more advanced drama students. I bought this book to use with my middle school drama classes. This is my first year teaching drama and I was told that this was the "Bible" of drama instruction books. While it is a great resource, I find alot of the concepts to be too complex and higher-level thinking than many middle schoolers can comprehend. I've had to simplify them alot. I've had little training but have taught MS choir for the last 4 years and have been the vocal coach for 2 highschool productions: Fiddler and Music Man. Viola does a great job telling the teacher what to say when the students are performing; "side-coaching" she calls it. That has really helped me know what to tell the students so I don't look like a complete idiot. It's really cool to have a Middle School Drama program (2 classes: 7th and 8th grade) but a clearer step-by-step guide would really help me out.
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