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October 29, 2003

Bounds of Choice

Keith Johnstone is a professor emeritus at the University of Calgary and the founder of TheatreSports. He writes:

Good improvisers seem telepathic; everything looks prearranged. This is because they accept all offers made - which is something no 'normal' person would do. Also they may accept offers which weren't really intended. I tell my actors never to think up an offer, but instead to assume that one has already been made. Groucho Marx understood this: a contestant at his quiz game 'froze' so he took the man's pulse and said, 'Either this man's dead or my watch has stopped.'

... Once you learn to accept offers, then accidents can no longer interrupt the action. When someone's chair collapsed, Stanislavsky berated him for not continuing, for not apologising to the character whose house he was in. This attitude makes for something really amazing in the theatre. The actor who will accept anything that happens seems supernatural; it's the most marvellous thing about improvisation: you are suddently in contact with people who are unbounded, whose imagination seems to function without limit.

... These 'offer-block-accept' games have a use quite apart from actor training. People with dull lives often think their lives are dull by chance. In reality everyone chooses more or less what kind of events will happen to them by their conscious patterns of blocking and yielding. A student objected to this view by saying, 'But you don't choose your life. Sometimes you are at the mercy of people who push you around.' I said, 'Do you avoid such people?' 'Oh!' she said, 'I see what you mean.'

( from Impro )

Posted by dotpeople at October 29, 2003 08:11 PM