There are hundreds of fantastic books out there to learn the craft of improvisational theater. From Viola Spolin's classic Improvisation for the Theater to The Annoyance Theater Chicago's Mick Napier's book Improvise: Scene from The Inside Out and many many others.
But if you want a fast read and a quick introduction to improv theater, or you just need a fast reminder if you are doing improv in some sort of form as a living?
Even if you are using the ideas of improvisational theater to transcribe into writing, Nothing beats Jimmy Carrane and Liz Allen's Improvising Better: A Guide to the Working Improviser.
It's funny. Jimmy Carrane and I have run in the same circles of improv in Chicago (being one degree from each other via my husband and his horribly named ensemble Fooglewoogle in the 80's while Jimmy was doing IO shows at the long defunct Cross Currents) and seeing him onstage the times I have is pretty wonderful. One of those guys who has it down and should seriously be right there with the Colbert's and Carrell's of the world.
One of the last times I remember seeing him perform was during The Chicago Improv Festival. A teacher well known in the improv world (feel good supreme instructor Martin de Maat) had passed away. I came back to Chicago to attend and perform the memorial performance. Jimmy performed with 30 Rock (and comic book guru) Scott Adsit. It was a short set, but it was filled not only with a lot of love...they were just plain goddamn funny.
So for him and Liz Allen to write a book on improvisation after all of these years to me is the progression in something that a lot of new improvisers in our profession need: A very examined and specific look at improv and techniques and arsenal needed for the upcoming actor, performer, writer and director.
I'm not a gusher over people who write books, as I write myself. But I can say with all honesty that this is a working actors book that should be on a shelf or at least a napsack of some actor heading off to an acting class. Along with Napier's and Spolin's
And maybe this is also a little bit of "Old Skool Chicago Love" from me too.
Improvising Better: A Guide to the Working Improviser
Jimmy Carrane and Liz Allen
Pick it up on Amazon
Causes Shaun Landry Supports
The Alzheimer's Foundation, NAACP, Breast Cancer Foundation, Gilda's Club.