Improv for Actors Paperback – 1 Apr 2004
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About the Author
Dan Diggles teaches improvisation at Marymount Manhattan College and has taught master classes in improvisation at Columbia University. A cofounder of the FreeStyle Repertory Theatre, he lives in New York City.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I was amazed at Dan Diggles' gift for taking all the lessons I'd already learned but didn't believe and turning them into memorable and logical life lessons for performing! This book is a wonderful resource for any actor or improviser. Almost every page made me smile or gasp at the simplicity of things I'd been making too complicated.
Thanks, Dan, for making me a better actor, improviser and person.
Truth in Comedy can teach you about the roots of Improv.
The UCB Comedy Manual can teach you to find the game and heighten it.
Improv for Actors by Dan Diggles can teach you how to become a versatile and confident improviser.
Designed as a textbook and a teacher's guide, this book begins with 5 or 6 chapters of "laying down the law", teaching the three most important rules of improv:
1. Make your scene partner look good.
2. Say the first thing that comes to your head. Be obvious, be bold. (some people disagree with this, but this is much harder than it sounds for some people, and if you can't do this one, you can't do either)
3. Say "Yes, and..."
It encourages you to "Be the best of yourself on stage" this is another way of saying "play to the top of your intelligence", but it means more. It reinforces the fact that you already know everything you need to in order to become a great improviser, if you can just get out of your own way.
As I said, this book is laid out like a class. For someone learning improv without a theatre near by, this means that once you are finished reading the book, you could easily use the (16?) lesson plans in this book to teach your own improv class. There are tons of examples, so you should not stray too far from Dan's teachings.
Also, note the title says it is "for actors". There are a few sections of this book that deal with learning a "neutral scene" and then playing that scene with different characters, scenarios and statuses. Why would improvisers want to learn lines? But the real question is "Why are you doing improv?" If you eventually want to become a working actor, you have to read lines, learn them for auditions, do commercials and television, maybe even the occasional play. Even stand-ups can benefit from learning a little characterization.
I applaud this book and everything it teaches. If you are looking to do traditional long form like the Harold, check out "Long Form Improv" by Ben Huack. If you are looking to do fast-laugh, game-heavy improv, check out the UCB Comedy Manual (which is one of the best textbooks on improv I have found, but teaches their style so concretely that it is not my #1 recommendation). If you can do everything Diggles teaches, you could walk into a UCB-style setting and learn to play "the game" in no time, or you could walk into a "slow comedy" long-form troupe and be right at home. Last of all, you could now teach an improv class using this book's lesson plans if you had to.
It's generally directed at an Improv teacher (probably teaching at a school). So, unless you are in that (rare-ish) position, you can gloss over some bits about not talking about your friends in class and the grading thing.
But otherwise, this is a Great book about the 3 big rules:
- Say, "Yes, and..."
- Say the first thing that comes to mind.
- Make your partner look good.
Sure, we hear that a lot, but he really makes it stick to your ribs.
It's not chock full of games, just a few that he focuses on as great building blocks. (You can find a million games online and in other books.)
This book is definitely great for improvisers, actors, and anyone else that needs to get up on a stage. The 3 rules are great for performances and perhaps for living as well.
I really think that everyone could get something useful out of this one.
But my improv teacher recommended this book to me as an improv student, and although it makes a good workbook, it's not ideal as something to just read for insight on the art and craft of improv. There is a fair bit of that, but mostly the book is nuts and bolts, descriptions of training exercises that one can do in classes. They are much more fun to do than to read about :)
For the *student* of improv, I recommend Keith Johnstone's "Impro", which indeed Diggles cites as an inspiration of his.