Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out

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Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out is an instructional book on improvisational theory written by Mick Napier, the founder of the Annoyance Theatre in Chicago. It was published in 2004. The book was edited by Lisa Barnett, and is dedicated to Martin de Maat.

Theory and content

The book is a product of Napier's more than 20 years of directing, teaching, and performing experience. It can be considered a kind of "revisionist" theory on improvisation, in that it attempts to question many of the accepted rules of the artform. Napier discusses principles on why and how scenes work or don't work, challenging the canon if improv conventional wisdom and examining what's behind it and how it came to be in the first place. The writing makes use of a starkly irreverent, nontraditional tone.

Napier's philosophy attests that the rules of improvisation were born out of a corrective mindset toward noticed common bad habits in improvisation. He diagnoses many of these bad habits (and therefore the rules that seek to fix them) as being rooted in a fearful, analytic head-space. He dismisses these traditional improv instructions, even going so far as to question the philosophy of Yes, And, and provides his own advice in their place.

This book features an updated version of his The Perfect Actor essay.

Table of Contents

The 130 pages of the book are broken up into 12 chapters.

  1. What Is Improvisation?
  2. Rules
  3. How to Improvise
  4. "What About My Partner?"
  5. Context and Scenes
  6. Common Problems
  7. More Than Two People in a Scene
  8. Advanced Improvisation
  9. Advice and Guidelines for Improvisers
  10. Improvisation and the Second Law of Thermodynamics
  11. Exercises to Do at Home
  12. Annoyance

See also