Process: An Improviser's Journey
Process: An Improviser's Journey is a book written by Mary Scruggs and Michael J. Gellman. In the style of Stanislavski's An Actor Prepares, it follows fictional participants in one of Gellman's Second City workshops focused on improvising full-length plays. The foreword is written by Anne Libera.
Theory and content
Through the course of the narrative, the students engage in exercises whose goal is to heighten their understanding of three core fundamentals, which Gellman himself refers to as the backbone of his teachings in regard to this particular form; Point of View (establishing and heightening a character's motives and personality, particularly threw the use of "I" statements), Point of Concentration (allowing oneself to see in detail the imaginary world that comes to mind at the beginning of a scene, and focusing on particular details of that world to provide grounding, detail, and substance to the scene), and Point of Focus (the awareness of the give and take between improvisers in a given scene, and the ability to surrender and take focus organically and when necessary). Gellman at times contrasts the skills and technique necessary in order to successfully perform a improvised one-act with no exits and entrances with those required to perform more free form improvisational forms, and stresses the need of his performers to discover the scene slowly and naturally without contriving or forcing endowments and conflict on one's partners early in the scene.
This slow-burn Chicago style of improvisation encourages its participants not to know where they are going next, and presents one of the main challenges of improvisation as remaining graceful in the face of this fear of not knowing. This investment in the "process" is the main theory of the book - that you must focus on your present moment and not worry about any kind of premise, Game, or plot. This perspective opposes that of the UCB Manual.
The book does not employ the term Monoscene when describing the work that Gellman's students are doing, although this term accurately describes their form. Gellman also utilizes a modified version of the Le Ronde in rehearsal, but refers to it as the "Henry."
Table of Contents
The 154 page-book is broken up into 11 chapters.
- An Improviser's Journey
- The Audition
- A New Journey
- Objects, Environment, and a Trip Through the Imagination
- The Trouble with Words
- The Universe Within a Single Point of Concentration
- Looking Out
- Couch and Point of View
- A Small Town Called Henry
- Five-Minute Porch Plays
- Here, There Be Dragons