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4.26  ·  Rating details ·  2,161 Ratings  ·  178 Reviews
Keith Johnstone's involvement with the theatre began when George Devine and Tony Richardson, artistic directors of the Royal Court Theatre, commissioned a play from him. This was in 1956. A few years later he was himself Associate Artistic Director, working as a play-reader and director, in particular helping to run the Writers' Group. The improvisatory techniques and exer ...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published January 7th 1987 by Routledge (first published 1979)
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Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction, theater
A book that changed my life. The idea of saying yes and being present, of not blocking and not needing to be the cleverest person on the room have made me more open to adventure and, I'm pretty sure, happier overall.
Aug 17, 2008 is currently reading it
"Switch off the no-saying intellect and welcome the unconscious as a friend: it will lead you places you never dreamed of, and produce results more 'original' than anything you could achieve by aiming at originality."
Aug 08, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A strange book with a lot of interesting observations, even for those uninterested in improvisational theater. Sometimes he fixates on a concept (like masks) which incrementally raises his new-age mumbo jumbo tally for me--but generally he tells an interesting story about his experiments, outcomes and thoughts about understanding characters and their motives.

For example, he talks about how he was finally able to get his actors to improvise realistic dialog when he had them imagine that, with ev
Oct 25, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: psychology
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: théâtre
Definitely a book to reread every few years. I feel a revival of my inner-contrarian and I've gotten a few improv games out of it to boot! The chapter on status is hiLARious. I believe I now have a new perspective on self-expression as not really being about the individual, especially in theatre. I had a lover once who said making art and becoming an artist were peculiar to the West. Johnstone expanded on this idea in a way that made me a bit uncomfortable at times, making broad claims from what ...more
Aug 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: artists, thespians, budding social psychologists
This is going to sound corny: this isn't just a book about improvisation, IT'S A BOOK ABOUT LIFE!! Okay, terrible, but true. Johnstone writes about human psychology and the way we interact socially as a way into comedy and improvisation. That bestseller "Blink" shamelessly quotes from it, yet the surprising insights this book reveals make that book rather dull in comparison.
Huyen Chip
Nov 22, 2015 rated it really liked it
The merit for this book's four star came entirely from the chapter "Status". Johnstone saw life as nothing but a series of transactions of status. This chapter made me conscious about how I carry myself and what I do with the space around me. Space has everything to do with status. The more space you take up, the higher you put your status. The more uncomfortable we are in a situation, the less we know what to do with space around us. What Johnstone wrote about status suddenly made me understand ...more
Martin Sebesta
Apr 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Není to kniha, ale životní filozofie. A divadla se taky týká vlastně jen napůl. Nejvíc ze všeho je to boj proti extrémní racionalitě západní civilizace, která se projevuje selháváním i v bytostně lidských situacích, jako je dostat se do tranzu (přeneseně i nepřeneseně) nebo vyprávět příběh. Svým způsobem je to návod, jak se poprat s prokrastinací, který byl napsán, ještě než se slovo prokrastinace vůbec objevilo. A možná úplně ze všeho je to příručka pro západního člověka, jak žít zase o trochu ...more
Alejandro Sanoja
Nov 28, 2017 rated it liked it
In life we are taught to be polite, to not always express what we are thinking. In business, it is wise to conceal emotions and reactions so that we don't give away information. In improvisation and acting... we have to do the complete opposite! What a challenge.

Thanks to my friend José for giving me this book, it has expanded my mind and perception in many ways. Hopefully, it will make me a better improviser and overall better human.

This is also a great book if you want to be better at public
Apr 25, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by a friend who was acutely aware of my interest in the occult and my active practice of magic. I was surprised to find that many of the techniques used and goals sought after are the same. I started with little interest in theater but this book was incredibly hard to put down, and actually may inspire me to pursue improv in the future.
Jan 11, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, I would rate this book a three, but I gave it a four for some excellent insights it has on interpersonal relationships and drama that I think work just as well in business and life.

An eclectic mix of autobiography and techniques, Johnson enlivens this encyclopaedia of improv techniques with stories of how he learnt and applied the techniques in his own work. There are some remarkable insights in the book that I imagine have made their way into other books but I have seen little discussi
Michael Roman
Nov 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I like books that help you think differently about the world.
There are some key insights in this book about "status" and body language that I haven't read elsewhere. Those ideas alone make the book worth reading - eye contact, trading in status, what your status is to others and how that affects your interactions.
There are also some great insights about education in the book.
My favorite quote I shared right away on social media: "When I hear that children have an attention span of ten minutes, o
Pedro Alcantara
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This is a mind-opening, mind-bending, mind-caressing, and mind-shaping book. It helped me understand some basic mechanisms in all human relationships, thereby making me a more astute and compassionate interlocutor. It invited me to embrace improvisation as a lifestyle and state of mind . . . very constructive! And it gave me a glimpse of a whole other world which you enter when you wear the Mask.

All in all, my favorite book. I never tire of re-reading it.
Jun 01, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books about improv though I still struggle to apply the lessons I learn from this book. Each time I pick it up I gain something different. This time I stopped without reading most of the "Masks" section as I don't plan on using masks in the near future, but the rest was great. I look forward to picking it up again in a couple of years and seeing what I learn next time.
Mark Gomer
Jun 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was a fun read. I will probably do some of these improv exercises with my partner. The last section, on "Masks and Trance", contains some good anecdotes about trance states, hypnosis, and general suggestibility, which I found particularly interesting.
Aysja Johnson
Feb 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I happened to reread Impro at a time when I was thinking a lot about minds, and it was the perfect springboard to many of the thoughts which would slowly change my ontology about them. It’s really a phenomenal book! I will try to contain this review to the most salient points, but it shaped me much more than I can convey… And with that, here are my thoughts:

The book is split into four parts; status, spontaneity, narrative skills, and masks and trace. Each one is itself a treasure, but my absolut
Sep 25, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recs-from-pals
Full of great intuitions about how humans relate. I particularly enjoyed the discussions of: status-raising and status-lowering games (and how you can be high status but play low, and vice versa); the challenges of extracting spontaneity from adults; the fact that people want to see improvisers struggle, rather than fluidly succeed; aiming for originality is foolish- instead aim for spontaneity; accepting and blocking (and why scenes should include both); that most stories about the interruption ...more
Dec 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
An excellent book. I plan to reread it.
Dec 22, 2008 rated it liked it
My husband gave me this book because of the gems it may contain about how people interact with each other and how that might reflect on business 'performance'. I really liked this book and draw on it sometimes since finishing it. I found it incredibly interesting and valuable as a means to provide insight into our regular daily behaviour. I think about the techniques when observing people in their daily lives and can really find insightful truths in observations of human behaviour. It's not nece ...more
Lisa Burton
Mar 16, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Improvisors and Theatre geeks
I'm loving it so far. It's a little harder to trudge through than Improvise by Mick Napier because the writing style is different, but it has a lot more specific ideas to offer to the world of improvisation and the theatre. There are some same ideas that are worded differently that sheds new light on improv scenes specifically for directors of troupes or classes which I kind of like. There are also some good teaching techniques and excercizes(I always misspell this word...did I do it right?) in ...more
Jeremy Zhang
Jun 26, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Recommended by a friend. Very very insightful book on the nuances of human interactions and reading people. Loved the first three sections (status, spontaneity, and narrative skills). I believe skills developed in improvisation and theatre have a lot of cross-functional impact in the business and social sphere.
Jan 05, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Forty years after it was written, this book still gleams, even for people who like me have nothing to do with the theater. Just reading the book makes you feel more alive. Keith's insights are kind, strange, and marvellously human. If more people taught like he does, we'd live in much freer, saner societies.
Chris March
Nov 28, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I'm not an actor, but I found the author's discussions of human social behavior and creativity to be eye-opening. If you're interested in spontaneity, brain-storming, co-operative verbal games, rapid narrative construction, personalities, body language, or performance, you might enjoy reading this.
Sherrie Gingery
Jan 13, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Not just about improv acting but can be applied to every day life. Wonderful for self-analysis and communication skills.I recommend this book to anyone interested in unlocking their creative powers.
Jaime Soria
Mar 21, 2017 rated it really liked it
Yowza, this book reads very much like a textbook. Be prepared for lots of intense concentration. It took me quite awhile to finish reading, which probably stems from my lifetime aversion to school and classes of any kind. I've come to realize that despite my hesitation to take improv classes, and my lack of excitement or happiness when I do take them, I do need to continue. The benefits to my auditions and scenework are undeniable. Reading about the different improvisational games and techniques ...more
Aug 17, 2017 rated it really liked it
A mesh of anecdote, teaching techniques, and psychology, Impro provides a clever and insightful introduction to basic theater exercises and methodology. The book is written for instructors of theater classes, but the insights into human intuition and body language can be helpful for anyone inside or outside of the acting community.

The first two chapters, "Status" and "Spontaneity", are by far the most interesting and applicable. Rather than telling the reader how to elevate his/her status or bec
Sep 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Hm, I feel like I really liked the first 3 sections, and then I got lost in the 4th (Masks and Trance).

Improv is a pretty interesting subject to me right now. I like some of its principles (saying yes, not blocking, staying in the moment) and I thought some of the advice about spontaneity (and acceptance of whatever comes) and how status exchanges make a scene more believable were quite interesting.

But I think towards the end the book got a little long and I found myself skimming more than read
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it
A treasure of invaluable insight and practical advice for overcoming creative blocks. The strategies read fluently on the page, as though they are being taught during an improv class. The content is not simply for theatre, but for all forms of creativity. Johnstone’s insight into what causes creative blocks is enlightening and always feels as though he really just wants to help people experience their true creative potential - to tap into the muse. The bit about masks was very interesting, but i ...more
Shubham Jain
May 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
This is one of those books that seed you with ideas that don't immediately make sense, but gradually sprout to create profound insights into human behaviour. The insights are subtle. The author is always talking about how to make Improvisation work, but in the process, he has laid down few principal ideas that makes us humans do what we do. Reading this, I am walking away with a very different perspective on acting.

My only gripe is the last section on Trance and Masks which seemed overly-elabor
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it
A tough book to rate as there were flashes of insight that definitely make the book worth reading but at times it meanders off into obscure topics especially someone with little experience of improvisation.
Perhaps this highlights my lack of understanding and I am sure I will revisit this book again in the future. As others have mentioned the sections on status transactions make this worth a read but at the moment it is possible I lack the comprehension skills to realise how valuable a resource
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KEITH JOHNSTONE is one of the few internationally recognized authorities in the field of improvisation, great chunks of which he created, including improvisation forms that include Theatresports™, Maestro Impro© (or Micetro© Impro), Gorilla Theatre™, and The Life Game©. Keith has written two best selling books about his Theatre and Improvisation theories and practices, in addition to several plays ...more
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“As I grew up, everything started getting grey and dull. I could still remember the amazing intensity of the world I'd lived in as a child, but I thought the dulling of perception was an inevitable consequence of age - just as a lens of the eye is bound gradually to dim. I didn't understand that clarity is in the mind.” 8 likes
“Sanity is actually a pretence, a way we learn to behave. We keep this pretence up because we don't want to be rejected by other people - and being classified insane is to be shut out of the group in a very complete way.
Most people I meet are secretly convinced that they're a little crazier than the average person. People understand the energy necessary to maintain their own shields, but not the energy expended by other people. They understand that their own sanity is a performance, but when confronted by other people they confuse the person with the role.
Sanity has nothing directly to do with the way you think. Its a matter of presenting yourself as safe.”
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