Author, teacher, and improviser Michael Gellman was given a mission by Del Close himself: “[T]o create improvised one-act plays of literary quality from scratch.” Already steeped in the world of improvisation, he took it upon himself to do this, in the form of a class for other improvisers in which they would build the skills necessary to execute such a seemingly tall order. Scruggs and Gellman’s book, modeled after Stanislavski’s timeless An Actor Prepares, follows a fictional young actor taking Gellman’s real-life class.
Scruggs and Gellman introduce readers to Geoff, who has just moved to Chicago to pursue acting. He undergoes the standard trials of audition and rejection before he takes the advice of a fellow actor and turns to improv classes at Second City. At first, Geoff thinks improvisation is about laughs and loosening up, but he soon learns that it is a powerful tool as well as an end in itself. Through Geoff’s eyes, the book introduces readers to key tenets of improvisation: concentration, visualization, focus, object work, being in the moment, and the crucial “yes, and.” His experiences with the basics of improvisation do serve to get him a few roles, but his real breakthrough comes when he signs up for an improvised one-act class with Michael Gellman. He and his classmates arrive unprepared for the challenge, but with Gellman’s prompts and advice, they slowly move through process to performance over the course of three seasons in Chicago. The class culminates with their final project: a completely improvised one-act play performed in front of a live audience.
Publisher: Northwestern University Press