An amazing concept – it doesn’t seem as if the world of improvisational comedy would have anything to offer to those seeking help for life improvement, but this book is dynamic, funny, creative and moving in turn. It may seem unbelievable, yet the theories and methods that Katie Goodman espouses in Improvisation for the Spirit will work, providing you with a sound, albeit amusing, base for the recreation of self.
Katie is an improvisational actor, co-writing with husband Soren Kisiel the sketch comedy show “Broad Comedy.” She believes in sound principals of inner collaboration, and her methods, while quirky and unusual, provide a wonderful diving platform for self-discovery. Each of the book’s twelve chapters takes an improvisational model and expands it to day-to-day life. Chapter One, for example, is entitled “The Spontaneous Life,” Chapter Six is “Surrender and Non-Attachment,” and Chapter 11 is on “Authenticity”. Each demonstrates easily how the techniques of improvisational comedy can apply to the genuine life the reader seeks. Katie has definitely “been there done that,” and she has a authentic interest in making this novel approach work for her readers by providing worksheets in each chapter, as well as anecdotes from her years of comedy and her own life’s journey.
She starts the reader off with the First Four Skills of Improv, including Don’t Negate. Each chapter offers an exercise or thought as a guideline for that section, which she suggests you work with for a week or so. The techniques include journaling, meditation, rock projection, alphabetting, braiding and improvisational dance. Curious about some of these modi operandi? You’ll have to read the book! Her tools can be used by individuals seeking a better understanding of their own habits, parents attempting to communicate with children, and couples struggling to get away from their cyclic battle patterns.
She encourages an open mind, a willingness to deviate from your normal responses and behaviors, and an enthusiasm for the ridiculous. Some of the workbook does require a willingness to attempt the bizarre and the unfamiliar, but it is this very element of improv that makes the book so fun to read, and so practical, at the same time. For example, in her section on “affirm and add” she provides the following exercise: (the reviewer paraphrases...)
Take a beginning opening line in a routine. Respond with whatever pops into your mind. Try to provide five responses to each line. One line might be “What are you hiding behind your back?” You could respond “a llama,” “my mother’s ashes,” “an apple core,” “my dentures,” or “a thing.” The key is that the answer you provide must leave your partner open to providing additional responses. You cannot answer with a response that stops the routine, or the conversation.
In this approach, Katie suggests you develop your spontaneity and provide an ongoing dialogue, so that you can open yourself up to more possibilities of interaction. Many of us fear being spontaneous, wanting our lives and our conversations scripted beforehand. Katie teaches us how to break out of that mold and into a new world of affirmation and availability.
The book provides delightful insight to life on the improv stage as well; Goodman gives us a look at what it like to be under the lights and pressures of improvisational theater. She is not asking her reader to take on any task she has not tried herself, and she coaches us every step of the way in getting to that inventive unstructured place. Each chapter includes appropriate quotes and helps the reader to envision what could be possible if expectations are chucked out the window, and we opened ourselves to breaking established patterns, and beliefs.
Some of the exercises and journaling create positive affirmations, some create an ability to go within for in-depth contemplation, and still others put us in touch with our humorous selves. We learn about projection, practicing awareness, backsliding and making choices. Each technique, viewpoint, idea or implementation helps create in us a willingness to trust ourselves, trust our inner voice, and more importantly, not to take ourselves TOO seriously. In taking such an unusual approach, Goodman has created a way to gain personal strength, understand absurdity and the funny bone, and truly reinvent ourselves as viable, imaginative and piquant “human beans.”
Life: none of us get out of it alive, so isn’t it worth it to find ways to be ourselves, and enrich our lives at the same time? Katie wants us involved in the process and in Improvisation for the Spirit gives us the tools to construct the authentic self. An excellent read and resource.