Improv Wisdom: Don't prepare, just show up
Patricia Ryan Madson
Bell Tower, 2005 - 10.88USD
This is not a guide to improv; it's a sort of zen-like guide to life, based on the principles of Improv.
Patricial Ryan Madson has been teaching for four decades. On the Stanford drama faculty since 1977, she founded the Stanford Improvisors in 1991. As head of the undergraduate acting program, she won the university’s highest teaching prize, the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for outstanding contribution to undergraduate education. She also teaches at the Esalen Institute and for Stanford’s Continuing Studies.
In this book, she offers 13 improv-inspired maxims on how to deal with life. Themes like "Say yes", "Don't prepare", "Be average" and "Make mistakes" certainly remind of Keith Johnstone's teachings.
As a self-help book it is certainly an interesting read - even for the skilled improviser.
However, the book is not without its flaws. For example, certain improv-aspects are not explained within an improv context. That is not to say that a concept such as being grateful for everything that is offered to you is not a nice premise for life, but the link with improv is not (well) explained.
Also, not all in the improv community will agree with all maxims. Someone like Mick Napier will argue that the "classic" improv premises are not all that relevant. Rather than "taking care of each other" ( maxim 12 in the book), Napier argues one is better off taking care of yourself and the rest will follow (see Improvise - Scene from the inside out.
That said, as a self-help, zen-like and improv-based approach to life, the book is a good read. Not perfect, but refreshingly alternative. For the improviser looking for material to help you get better at the art, this is simply not the right book.
There is a website about the book, where you can read the 13 maxims, as well as excerpts from the book.