A Note About These Pages

(posted Sunday 2/28/99)

Why am I doing this?

Good question. Well...probably because I, like many of you, discovered Improv through trial and error. MUCH trial and MUCH error. All these tidbits came through from Viola Spolin, Meisner, Second City, and working, working, working, and finally teaching. All the while, I thought, all these discoveries, permutations, and machinations of "Intuition" and "improvisation" and "the moment" MUST have some center. So I began experimenting with finding this center; the moments of my work and moments of other's work that seemed] to clarify and contain this intuitive rascal called "improvisation". I always wondered why nobody had or even could, somehow, write it down. So I tried and, what follows, is "it". (a work in progress)


So here comes the pitch. All this information is Free. So, what to I want? Money? Fame? Fortune?

(Gee, that would be great) but, NO. All I ask is for a little....


That's it. Please, just take the time to let me know what you think, feel, experience, love, hate, in the course of our little meeting on these pages in front of these computors. Hey, I hate filling in "guest books" and "forms" as much as you do, but your FEEDBACK really helps me, in developing these pages. So "Please" take the time. I am putting the form you see below on each of the pages to make it as easy as possible. OK? Enough said.


Please enter your name: 
and your email address: 

what do you think,feel,about this page?

It was confusing It was clear It was too basic
It was too advanced I needed more expanation

Make any comments you'd like below:

Thanks for your input

Here is a link for some of the feeback these pages have gotten in the past.

Just click the slate

So Here Are the Rules -Simple Enough-

My clarifications appear in Dark Blue.Just click the chalk to the right of each "rule" for the link to exercises for each "rule". The exercises you find there will be ones that are tried and true (hope they work).

They were not evolved for "performance" but as specific "things to do" to develop or improve your improvisation skills. These rules and exercises are meant to be a basic "tool box" which you can then take with you to create the hundreds of forms, games, and scenarios available to the improviser.

After each rule you will find definitions for words pertinent to that rule. The numbers in the definitions are those found in the good old dictionary.

Clicking on it will take you to a form.....so you can e-mail your message for clarification 


(because there aren't any...really)

Yes that's right.....no rules really!  Just as in learning any new sport or activity we start with the strictest elements of body control (swing, follow through, etc.) and only then do we move into development of OUR OWN style sometimes breaking the original guidelines. These rules have been developed and altered over 20 years of working in improvisation.


(n other words:avoid a natural tendency to "negate" - negate)  Negate 1. to nullify or invalidate (something) 2. to deny the existence, evidence. or truth of (something) 3. to deny or nullify: a pessimism which always negates.
 This is rule ONE! The first thing that you will find yourself doing when you get up to work with a partner without a script is NEGATE in one form or another. We are very clever in determining subtle ways to negate-we have learned this defense mechanism for years....and now we get to be an intuitive child again.

2)ACTIVE ......?

(Don't question or ask questions) Active: 1. constantly engaged in action; an active life 6. capable of exerting influence (opposed to passive): active treason 9. requiring or giving rise to action; practical.
Questioning is just the one of the most common forms of NEGATION. Instead of going with our partner's statement we use a question....what this does in improvisation is kills the scene.....Questioning  shows up easily.....it is the easiest way out of the intuitive... The result is NOWHERE.  A question says "I'm not going to enter into your intuitive world...but I will just watch you

So (in short) work to replace questions in our work with good old "Yes...And..." statements.."


(Give to the moment) Give: to place in someone's care  4. to pay or transfer possession to another in exchange for something.
-There are only 3 Points Of Focus (POFS) on stage (or in life)  IMAGE-PARTNER-OBJECT

Ok...you might find yourself hard pressed to stop NEGATING....You need to replace the negative response with something else. WHAT??  You point your focus......that's WHAT :). Luckily there are only 3 that are possible...even though they change rapidly. Right now for example.....what is your point of focus?  The computer screen. Now look away and what do you see?
It will be one of 3 things... another

1) Object

2) person.

Now, if you close your eyes what do you see...Yes.

3) Image.

Although our focus can be an IMAGE with our eyes open  - as in daydreaming...thinking....

So (in short) there are only three points of focus you can possibly have in your whole waking life or on stage.



3)an IMAGE

Sometime when you are driving or riding or whenever..test this out...if you find another point of focus...Please let me know what I am missing. (OK...an animal can be thrown into object or person - depending...).


(Establish contact - focus} Contact: 1) the act of touching or meeting, as of two things, people, etc. 2) immediate proximity or association.

Yes establish.  Focus does not transfer automatically into improvisation - quite the opposite in fact - when you get up to improvise nearly everything you have learned will be at work to stop it. There was a time we were kids (they know this stuff) when a kid we didn't know showed up with a ball and we just ran off with the playmate without thinking......this is the place an improvisor must get to again. The best way of DOING this is to consciously ESTABLISH your point of focus. There are only 3... remember? 

More on "Point of Focus"

Ok...It seems that most of the games and forms commonly used by improvisers are, on some level, structures that narrow us to a "point of focus". The more the game or form keeps us "focused" the better are the chances for success. Perhaps one of the forms that most improvisers can accomplish with ease are "one-word-at-a-time" forms which we have all seen or performed under one name or another i.e. "Mr./Ms. Know it all" "Story" etc.. Ok. So we look at what is happening here in terms of "point of focus"...and what is it? Yes. Point of focus = Image. And that one point of focus remains as long as the game continues with little chance for anyone to change it, since the structure is that each improvisor speaks only one word.

Now....the most difficult improv forms, games are the one in which the structure is very loose in terms of "point of focus" i.e. "Freeze Tag" or any other form or game requiring Improvisation "scene work". See... these forms can have a lower rate of success simply because the "point of focus is not dictated in the structure. Suddenly improvisors are swimming in the sea of "anything is possible"; All three "points of focus are available all the time! Now...even though that seems ideal and delicious...the tendency is to "avoid" the "point of focus". It is the most common failure in improvisational "scene work". Each improviser tends to create yet another "point of focus" and another and another....rather than establishing JUST ONE.

Viola Spolin (quoted on the Class Page) has a great word for this: PENETRATION

That is "Penetrating" a SINGLE "point of focus".

So...in terms of this problem- Focus/Penetration....this tutorial is designed to give the Improviser the tools to experience the "What to do's" to keep the journey focused...and intuitive.

Oh...and here is another pertinent quote from Viola Spolin's book "Improvisation for the Theatre" Publisher: Northwestern University Press. Just Click the book to get there:)

If you want to go ahead to exercises BEYOND the rules.

The link above will take you to you to a page where we begin working with adding the voice to Improvisation. 

Gee. As of this date 11/3/98 I noticed it is getting difficult to surf through all these pages...SO the slates below are added to help get from one place in this tutorial to another:)