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Every director needs some firsthand experience of acting, and you can learn the basics most enjoyably by playing “improv” theater games—the subject of this chap-ter. For books, try John Hodgson and Ernest Richards’ Improvisation (Grove Press,1974) and Viola Spolin’s Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques, 3rd ed. (Northwestern University Press, 1999). The lat-ter text was integral to the founding of Second City, the Chicago improvisational school that spawned many actors, comedians, and directors.

Some film directors—notably Ingmar Bergman, John Cassavetes, Ken Loach, and Mike Leigh—use improvisation as a source for drama. Don’t assume that this is any ...

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