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Interviewing Keith Johnstone: Unveiling the Creative Genius Behind Impro and Theatrical Innovation

Impro by Keith Johnstone

As the door to the quaint coffee shop swings open, a sense of anticipation lingers in the air. I find myself nervous, yet immensely excited, to have the rare opportunity to interview the legendary improvisation guru, Keith Johnstone. Known for pioneering the techniques and philosophies that have revolutionized the art of improvisational theater, Johnstone’s influence has stretched far and wide, captivating the hearts and minds of performers worldwide. Sitting down with a steaming cup of coffee, I hope to delve into the mind of this visionary, exploring the depths of his creative process, the impact of his teachings, and his unwavering dedication to cultivating innovation and spontaneity on the stage.

Keith Johnstone is a renowned improvisation expert and theatre practitioner, best known for his groundbreaking contributions to the field of improvisational theatre. Born in 1933 in London, Johnstone has had a profound impact on the world of improvisation through his innovative techniques, writing, and teachings. Throughout his career, he has explored the fundamental principles of improvisation and has been instrumental in developing improvisational theatre as a distinct art form. With his unique insights and instructional methods, Johnstone has revolutionized the way artists, actors, and performers approach spontaneous creativity on stage. His teachings continue to inspire and influence both seasoned professionals and aspiring improvisers around the globe.

10 Thought-Provoking Questions with Keith Johnstone

1. Can you provide ten Impro by Keith Johnstone quotes to our readers?

Impro quotes as follows:

a. “The more choices we have, the freer we are.”

b. “You are improvising every moment. Your whole life is an improvisation.”

c. “Fear is like a firewall between your creativity and your mind.”

d. “The improvisational mindset is about seeing opportunities instead of obstacles.”

e. “Improvisation is not about being funny, it’s about being real.”

f. “Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Embrace them and learn from them.”

g. “Good improvisers listen deeply and respond honestly.”

h. “Improv is a celebration of spontaneity and the unknown.”

i. “The key to successful improvisation is letting go of control and being fully present.”

j. “Improvisation teaches us to trust our instincts and go with the flow.”

2.In your book “Impro,” you explore the concept of improvisation and its applications beyond theater. Can you explain how improvisation techniques can benefit individuals in various aspects of their lives, both personally and professionally?

Improvisation techniques can greatly benefit individuals in various aspects of their lives, both personally and professionally. The principles and skills learned in improvisation can be applied to everyday situations, promoting open-mindedness, effective communication, and creativity.

Personally, improvisation encourages individuals to embrace uncertainty and become comfortable with taking risks. This mindset can enhance decision-making abilities and help individuals adapt to unforeseen circumstances. Improvisation fosters active listening and empathy, enabling individuals to connect with others on a deeper level, building stronger relationships personally and professionally.

Professionally, improvisation techniques develop crucial skills such as collaboration, teamwork, and innovation. Improvisation promotes thinking on one’s feet, enabling individuals to respond quickly and effectively to unexpected challenges or changes in the workplace. Improvisational training enhances public speaking skills, boosting confidence and presence. Additionally, improvisation encourages creativity, allowing individuals to generate unique and inventive solutions, making them valuable assets in problem-solving and leadership roles.

Overall, implementing improvisation techniques in various aspects of life can cultivate adaptability, effective communication, creative thinking, and collaboration, leading to personal and professional growth and success.

3.Improvisation often involves letting go of control and embracing spontaneity. How can individuals overcome their fear of the unknown and develop the confidence to improvise effectively?

To overcome the fear of the unknown and develop confidence in improvisation, it is essential to understand the underlying principles of spontaneity and relinquishing control. Firstly, individuals must recognize that improvisation is about embracing uncertainty, rather than fearing it. This mindset shift allows them to view the unknown as an opportunity for creative exploration.

Building confidence in improvisation requires practicing acceptance and a willingness to make mistakes. Recognizing that no idea or action is inherently wrong encourages individuals to take risks and trust their instincts. Creating a safe and supportive environment for improvisation is crucial, where mistakes are celebrated as learning opportunities, rather than failures.

Additionally, focusing on the present moment helps individuals let go of control. By immersing themselves fully in the scene or activity, they can remain open and responsive to their surroundings. Techniques such as deep breathing or mindfulness exercises can help calm nerves and keep attention centered on the present.

Lastly, regular practice is key to developing confidence in improvisation. Consistent exposure to spontaneous situations gradually desensitizes individuals to the fear of the unknown, allowing them to navigate uncertainty more effectively. By embracing the process of improvisation and cultivating an attitude of curiosity and adaptability, individuals can gradually build the confidence needed to improvise effectively.

4.”Impro” emphasizes the importance of active listening and being present in the moment. How can individuals enhance their listening skills and cultivate a mindset of openness and responsiveness?

Impro emphasizes the importance of active listening and being present in the moment as it is essential for effective improvisation. To enhance their listening skills and cultivate a mindset of openness and responsiveness, individuals can adopt several practices.

Firstly, individuals should make a conscious effort to be fully present when engaging in conversations or improvisational exercises. This involves eliminating distractions, such as electronic devices, and actively focusing on the speaker or scene partner.

Secondly, individuals should develop active listening skills by genuinely paying attention to verbal and non-verbal cues. This includes observing body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions, which can provide valuable information about the speaker’s intentions and emotions.

Thirdly, individuals should practice empathetic listening, seeking to understand the perspective and feelings of others. This can be achieved by suspending judgment, asking clarifying questions, and reflecting back on what has been said.

Finally, individuals should cultivate a mindset of openness and responsiveness by embracing a “yes, and” mentality. This means accepting and building upon others’ ideas rather than blocking or negating them, allowing for a collaborative and creative dialogue.

By actively incorporating these practices into their everyday interactions, individuals can significantly enhance their listening skills and develop a mindset of openness and responsiveness.

Impro by Keith Johnstone

5.Your book discusses the concept of “status” and its impact on human interactions. Can you elaborate on how understanding and managing status dynamics can enhance communication and relationships, both on and off stage?

Understanding and managing status dynamics is crucial for enhancing communication and relationships on and off stage. Status refers to the social standing or perceived value placed on individuals within a given context. By recognizing and navigating the subtle shifts in status dynamics, one can effectively communicate and establish rapport with others.

On stage, an actor who understands status can create compelling performances by portraying characters with contrasting statuses. This brings depth and believability to the interaction, engaging the audience emotionally. It also allows actors to respond authentically, adapting their status to effectively connect with scene partners.

Off stage, understanding status dynamics helps individuals build effective relationships. By recognizing when to assert oneself, when to yield, and when to empathize, one can establish a healthy give-and-take, fostering trust and understanding in personal interactions. This knowledge helps navigate power dynamics, be it in professional relationships or social settings, promoting cooperation and effective collaboration.

Overall, understanding and managing status enhances communication and relationships by promoting self-awareness, adaptability, and empathy. It cultivates a more nuanced understanding of social dynamics, enabling individuals to connect with others authentically and build stronger, more meaningful connections.

6.Improvisation encourages collaboration and teamwork. What techniques or exercises do you recommend for individuals to improve their ability to work effectively in a team and build upon each other’s ideas?

I completely agree that improvisation encourages collaboration and teamwork. One technique that I highly recommend for individuals to improve their ability to work effectively in a team and build upon each other’s ideas is called “Yes, and…” This technique involves accepting and adding to each other’s ideas rather than shutting them down.

Through exercises like “Yes, and…” players are encouraged to support their scene partners by listening carefully to what they say and respond positively, adding new information to the scene. This technique instills the notion that every idea has value, fostering a collaborative environment where everyone feels heard and respected.

Another exercise that promotes teamwork is “Group Mind.” This exercise involves players working together to create a cohesive and unified scene without pre-planning or individual agendas. By focusing on the collective goal and trusting each other’s instincts, participants learn to build upon each other’s ideas seamlessly.

These techniques help individuals develop their ability to collaborate, actively listen, and contribute constructively. By practicing these exercises, individuals can cultivate a mindset that values teamwork, leading to improved teamwork and the building of stronger, more cohesive ideas within a group.

7.”Impro” also delves into the idea of spontaneity and creativity. How can individuals tap into their innate creativity and develop their improvisational skills to think outside the box and find innovative solutions?

Impro is a powerful tool that not only encourages spontaneity but also nurtures creativity in individuals. To tap into their innate creativity, individuals must first embrace a mindset that allows for exploration and playfulness. By adopting a non-judgmental attitude towards their own ideas, individuals can free themselves from the fear of failure, and in turn, discover new, innovative solutions.

Developing improvisational skills requires practice and a willingness to step outside of one’s comfort zone. Engaging in improvisational exercises and games can help individuals break through mental barriers and expand their thinking. These exercises challenge individuals to think on their feet, adapt quickly to unexpected situations, and make creative choices in the moment.

Another key aspect is fostering a supportive and collaborative environment. By working with others who share a passion for innovation and creativity, individuals can learn from different perspectives and find inspiration in the group’s collective imagination.

In summary, to tap into innate creativity and develop improvisational skills, individuals must adopt a playful mindset, engage in regular practice, and embrace collaboration. Through these methods, they can think outside the box and discover innovative solutions in various aspects of their lives.

8.The fear of failure can often hinder individuals from taking risks and fully embracing improvisation. How can individuals overcome this fear and embrace a mindset of experimentation and learning from mistakes?

The fear of failure is a common barrier to embracing improvisation, but it can be overcome with a shift in mindset and approach. Firstly, it’s important to reframe failure as a valuable learning experience rather than a negative outcome. Recognize that mistakes are an integral part of the improvisation process and can provide valuable insights for growth. Secondly, create a safe and supportive environment where individuals feel encouraged to take risks and make mistakes without judgment or consequences. This can be achieved through trust-building exercises, open communication, and fostering a non-judgmental atmosphere. Additionally, focusing on the present moment and letting go of the need for perfection can help individuals embrace experimentation. Remind yourself that improvisation is about being in the moment and responding authentically, rather than trying to be flawless. Lastly, celebrate and learn from mistakes. Encourage individuals to reflect on and discuss their mistakes, allowing them to uncover new insights and develop their improvisational skills further. By adopting these strategies and maintaining a mindset of curiosity and growth, individuals can successfully overcome the fear of failure and fully embrace improvisation.

9.Since the publication of your book, have you witnessed any new developments or trends in the field of improvisation? How do you envision the future of improvisation and its potential impact on individuals and society?

Since the publication of my book, I have witnessed several new developments and trends in the field of improvisation. One significant advancement is the growing recognition and acceptance of improvisation as a valuable tool for personal growth and development, alongside its traditional use in theater and comedy. Many individuals and organizations have embraced improvisation as a means to enhance communication skills, foster creativity, and build strong interpersonal relationships.

Additionally, I have seen an increased emphasis on the application of improvisation techniques beyond the stage. Improvisational practices are now being incorporated in various fields such as business, education, therapy, and even politics, acknowledging its potential to facilitate innovative and adaptive thinking. This expansion has led to the development of new improvisation formats and methodologies, catering to specific needs and goals outside of traditional theatrical contexts.

Regarding the future of improvisation, I envision its impact on individuals and society to continue growing in significance. As the world becomes more complex and uncertain, the ability to think on one’s feet, adapt to change, and collaborate effectively will become increasingly valuable. Improvisation provides individuals with the tools to navigate these challenges, fostering resilience, empathy, and creative problem-solving.

Moreover, in an increasingly interconnected world, improvisation has the power to bring people together across cultures and backgrounds. By promoting open-mindedness, collaboration, and the acceptance of diverse perspectives, improvisation has the potential to contribute to greater understanding and harmony within society.

In conclusion, I am excited by the newfound recognition of improvisation and its evolving applications. I believe it will continue to grow as a valuable tool for personal and societal development.

Impro by Keith Johnstone

10. Can you recommend more books like Impro?

Title: Unconventional Works: A Collection of Improvisational Theatre Books

1. “Improvisation for the Theater” by Viola Spolin: Considered one of the pioneers in the field of improvisation, Viola Spolin provides a comprehensive guide to the art form. This book explores various exercises, games, and techniques to develop spontaneity, creativity, and fearless performance.

2. “Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art” by Stephen Nachmanovitch: In this interdisciplinary exploration, Nachmanovitch delves into the power of improvisation and its applications beyond the realm of theater. Drawing from philosophy, psychology, and art, he offers insights into how improvisation can enhance daily life and improve artistic expression.

3. “Improvising: How to Master the Art” by Bob Kulhan: Culled from his years of experience as an improviser and educator, Kulhan presents practical methods and strategies for successful improvisation. With a strong emphasis on adaptability, communication, and teamwork, this book is ideal for those seeking to enhance their personal and professional lives.

4. “Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation” by Del Close, Charna Halpern, and Kim “Howard” Johnson: This seminal work by Del Close, widely regarded as the godfather of modern improvisation, delves into the fundamentals of comedic improvisation. Through anecdotes, exercises, and techniques, the authors guide readers in creating truthful, hilarious scenes on stage.

5. “The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual” by Matt Besser, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh: Filled with the insights and teachings of three founding members of the Upright Citizens Brigade (UCB), this manual is a treasure trove for aspiring improvisers. Covering a wide range of topics, it offers comprehensive instruction on character creation, scene work, and group dynamics.

By exploring these books, readers can gain a deeper understanding of the art of improvisation from multiple perspectives. Whether looking to improve their acting skills, enhance their creativity, or simply embrace more spontaneity in their lives, these five books provide a wealth of knowledge and practical exercises for unleashing the power of improvisation.

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