A list of improvisational theatre (and related) books, arranged alphabetically by author.
Some notes on this bibliography:
--Artifical Intelligence. Tony n' Tina's Wedding
A full-scale script for an environmental interactive show. [Wirth] Samuel French. ISBN 0573694729.
--Atkins, Greg. Improv! A Handbook for the Actor
As the title implies, this book is aimed at the actor who wishes to improve his or her improv skills for use in straight theatre. However, it is also very useful for workshop leaders and directors as it has sections outlining a complete improv workshop series and suggestions for exercises to use to combat specific problems improv groups may be having. [Gerdes] Heinemann, Portsmouth, New Hampshire, 1995. ISBN 0-435-08627-8.
--Barker, Clive. Theatre Games: a new approach to drama training
As far as I know, this Clive Barker is not the same one that writes horror novels and films.[Roehl] Methuen, 1978. ISBN 0-413-45380-4.
--Belt, Lynda and Rebecca Stockley. Improvisation Through Theatre Sports
(AKA Acting Through Improv: Improv Through Theatresports?) Very good collection of performance games. [Roehl] Thespis Productions, 2010-12th Ave SE, Puyallup, Washington. ISBN 0-9620799-1-X.
--Belt, Lynda. Improv Game Book II
A followup to Improvisation Through Theatre Sports, it's just a collection (albeit a good one) of performance games. [Gerdes] Thespis Productions, 2010-12th Ave SE, Puyallup, Washington. ISBN 0-9620799-6-O.
--Bergren, Mark, Molly Cox, and Jim Detmar. Improvise This! How to Think On Your Feet So You Don't Fall On Your Face
Improv techniques applied to business and life skills. Hyperion, 2002. ISBN 0786867744.
--Bernard, Jill. Jill Bernard's Small Cute Book of Improv
Everything you need to know about improv in a very small cute book. Available from YESand Publishing.
--Bernardi, Philip. Improvisation Starters: A Collection of 900 Improvisation Situations for the Theater
Betterway, 1992. ISBN 1558702334.
--Boal, Augusto. Games for Actors and Non-Actors
The practical application (exercises, games, and structures) of Boal's system. [Gerdes] Routledge, London, 1992. ISBN 0-415-06155-5.
--Boal, Augusto. Legislative Theatre : Using Performance to Make Politics
Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0415182417.
--Boal, Augusto. The Rainbow of Desire: The Boal Method of Theatre and Therapy
Routledge, 1995. ISBN 0415103495.
--Boal, Augusto. Theatre of the Oppressed
The theory of Boal's system of interactive, empowering form of theatre. [Gerdes] Theatre Communications Group, New York, 1985. ISBN 0-930452-49-6.
--Book, Stephen. Book on Acting: Improvisation Technique for the Professional Actor in Film, Theater, and Television
Uusing improvisation techniques for actors who will be speaking scripted and memorized lines. Silman-James Press, 2002. ISBN: 1879505606.
--Boyd, Neva. Handbook of Recreational Games
Viola Spolin studied under this Northwestern University sociology professor and used many of her theories when developing her own games. Dover, 1990. ISBN 0486232042.
--Brandes, Donna and Howard Phillips. Gamester's Handbook , Book 1: Hundreds of Games for Teachers and Group Leaders
Good collection of workshop games. [Roehl] Hutchison, London, UK, 1989. ISBN 0-09-1364213.
Carrane, Jimmy and Liz Allen. Improvising Better: A Guide for the Working Improviser
Evolved out of their workshop for experienced improvisors, this book explores the blindspots and bad habits improvisors develop and how to correct them. Heinemann Drama, 2006. ISBN 0325009422.
--Caruso, Sandra and Paul Clemens. The Actor's Book of Improvisation
Penguin USA, 1992. ISBN 014015440X.
--Caruso, Sandra andSusan Kosoff. The Young Actor's Book of Improvisation: Dramatic Situations from Shakespeare to Spielberg: Ages 7-11
Heinemann, 1998. ISBN 0325000484.
--Cassady, Marsh. Acting Games-Improvisations and Exercises
A textbook of theatre games and improvisations. [Halpern] Meriwether, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1993. ISBN 0916260925.
--Clements, Paul. The Improvised Play: The Work of Mike Leigh
A description of the work of Mike Leigh, who uses improvisational techniques to create scripted theatre. [Roehl] Methuen. ISBN 0-413-50440-9.
--Coleman, Janet. The Compass: The Improvisational Theatre That Revolutionized American Comedy
A more detailed examination of one of the earliest improv troupes, The Compass. Provides interesting insights into the group's dynamics, as well as the discoveries they made about the craft.[Roehl] Hardcover published by Knopf, New York, ISBN 0-394-52545-0. University of Chicago Press, 1991, ISBN 0-226-11345-0.
--Creative Educational Systems. The New Playmaking: The Latest in the Integration of the Arts in Education
Dovehaven Pr Ltd, 1993. ISBN 094234510X.
--Davis, R.G. The San Francisco Mime Troupe: The First Ten Years
A history of the San Francisco theatre company who performed improvised and Commedia-style works. [Gerdes] Ramparts Pr., 1975. ISBN 0878670599.
--Diggles, Dan. Improv for Actors
Allworth Press, 2004. ISBN 1581153252.
--Eldredge, Sears A. Mask Improvisation for Actor Training & Performance: The Compelling Image
Northwestern University Press, 1996. ISBN 0810113651.
--Fo, Dario. Tricks of the Trade
Commedia and clowning from the 1997 Nobel Prize winner. [Gerdes] Routledge, 1991. ISBN 0878300082.
--Fox, Jonathan. Acts of service: spontaneity, commitment, tradition in the nonscripted theatre
Tusitala Publishing. ISBN 0964235005.
--Frost, Anthony and Ralph Yarrow. Improvisation in Drama (New Directions in Theatre)
Tremendous book giving an overview of improvisation from ancient times to now. Contains a great comparison between Johnstone and Spolin and the "New York School" vs the "Chicago School". [Schwartz] St. Martins Press, 1989, ISBN 0-312-04746-0.
--Gesell, Izzy. Playing Along: 37 Group Learning Activities Borrowed from Improvisational Theater
Terrific for improv troupes who teach corporate workshops. [Berrong] Whole Person Associates (1-800-247-6789), 1997. ISBN 157025141X.
--Goldberg, Andy. Improv Comedy
Good treatment of the elements of improvisation. One of the few books that actually discusses the practicalities of assembling a troupe, structuring a show, getting suggestions from an audience, lighting and music. Also presents a good list of workshop games and exercises. Andy Goldberg is a director and performer with Off the Wall, a Los Angeles-based improv troupe. [Roehl] Samuel French, Hollywood. ISBN 0-780573-606083.
--Gordon, Mel. Lazzi: The Comic Routines of the Commedia Dell'Arte
Paj Pubn., 1983. ISBN 0933826699.
--Gravel, Robert and Jean-Marc Lavergne. Impro, Reflexion et Analyse
Written in French. [Roehl] Lemeac, Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
--Griggs, Jeff. Guru: My Days with Del Close
A biography of Del Close and a memoir of his last few years by Jeff Griggs, who was his student and assisstant. Ivan R. Dee, 2005. ISBN 1566636140.
--Gwinn, Peter and Charna Halpern. Group Improvisation: The Manual of Ensemble Improv Games
Meriwether Publishing, 2003. ISBN 156608086X.
--Hall, William. The Playbook: Improv Games for Performers
370 improv games, edited by one of the founders of BATS Improv. Self-published.
--Halpern, Charna. Art by Committee: A Guide to Advanced Improvisation
Includes a DVD. Meriwether Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1566081122.
--Halpern, Charna, Del Close and Kim "Howard" Johnson. Truth in Comedy
I'm not a big fan of this book. However, it's one of the few (only?) books that deals with long form improv. Also, Del Close is one of the founders of modern improv. [Gerdes] Meriwether Publishing, 1994. ISBN 1-56608-003-7.
--Heinig, Ruth Beall. Improvisation with Favorite Tales: Integrating Drama into the Reading/Writing Classroom
Heinemann, 1993. ISBN 043508609X.
--Hendra, Tony. Going Too Far: the Rise and Demise of Sick, Gross, Black, Sophomoric, Weirdo, Pinko, Anarchist, Underground, Anti-Establishment Humor
Dolphin Books, 1987. ISBN: 0385232233.
--Hodgson, John and Ernest Richards. Improvisation
Excellent book that takes Improv from the theatre side and doesn't worry about the funny. Lots of different thoeries, or ways of looking at topics, than mainstream Spolin, Johnstone, or Close. [Himmerick] Grove Press, New York, 1979. ISBN 0-394-17099-7.
--Horn, Delton T. Comedy Improvisation: Exercises and Technique for Young Actors
Solid discussion of the basic principles of improv; also has a brief overview of forming a troupe and staging a show. [Roehl] Meriwether Publishing, Colorado Springs, Colorado. ISBN 0-916260-69-0.
--Izzo, Gary. Acting Interactive Theatre: A Handbook
A companion book to The Art of Play. Heinemann (Trd), 1998. ISBN 043507038X.
--Izzo, Gary. The Art of Play: The New Genre of Interactive Theatre
A very solid coverage of the "Renaissance fair"-type of interactive theatre experience. Izzo steps through the process of conceiving, designing, and producing an interactive theatre production. His notions of "play" and its application to theatre are very interesting. [Gerdes] Heinemann (Trd), 1997. ISBN 0435070363.
--Jackson, Paul Z. Impro Learning: How to Make Your Training Creative, Flexible and Spontaneous
Gower Pub Co, 1998. ISBN: 0566079283.
--James, Ronald and Peter Williams. A Guide to Improvisation: a handbook for teachers
Fairly solid collection of games, oriented towards teaching theatre rather than performing.[Roehl] Kemble Press, Oxon, UK. ISBN 0-906836-05-4.
--Johnstone, Keith. Don't Be Prepared
Described as a Theatresports manual for teachers and improvisors, but it actually contains a lot of insight into the craft of improv. Also contains a list of various games and some of the theories behind them. [Roehl] Loose Moose Theatre Company (1229 - 9 Ave. S. E., Calgary, Alberta, T2G 0S9, Canada; (403) 269-1444). ISBN 0-9698382-0-4.
--Johnstone, Keith. Impro
An excellent book for someone just starting out in improv, and worthwhile reading for people who've been doing it for a while. Discusses a lot of basic theory, and explores the nature of spontaneity. Keith Johnstone is best known as the the inventor of Theatresports. [Roehl] Also available in Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Spanish, and Swedish. Methuen. ISBN 0-413-46430-X.
--Johnstone, Keith. Impro for Storytellers
The title of this book is a bit misleading. While he does deal with storytelling, the main focus here is Theatresports. And perhaps it should have a subtitle: "What I've been working on for the last 20 years", as the book contains much of what Johnstone has been working on since he published Impro in 1979 (some of the material in this book was previously available in Don't Be Prepared and the Theatresports newsletters, but as neither of those was ever widely available, this will be many people's first chance to see his new ideas).
So, has the last twenty years been productive for Keith Johnstone? Judging from this book, yes. This is a much more "How-To" book than Impro, but still filled with Johnstone's very definite opinions and theories. And this book has Johnstone's procedures, rules, and suggestions for running a real Theatresports(TM) match.
I believe this is the same book that is available in Danish (Improvisation og Teatersport) from DRAMA and German (Spontaneität und Theater) from Alexander-Verlag. [Gerdes] Routledge, 1999. ISBN 0878301054.
--Johnstone, Keith. Theatresports & Lifegame Newsletter
Six Issues, 1987-1994. Available from Loose Moose Theatre Company (1229 - 9 Ave. S. E., Calgary, Alberta, T2G 0S9, Canada; (403) 269-1444).
--Jones, Brie. Improve With Improv!: A Guide to Improvisation and Character Development
A guide to improvisation and character development. [Halpern] Meriwether, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1993. ISBN 0916260984.
--Keller, Betty. Improvisations in Creative Drama: A Program of Workshops and Dramatic Sketches for Student
Meriwether, 1988. ISBN 0916260518.
--Kozlowski, Rob. The Actor's Guide to the Internet
This book is not strictly for improvisors at all. But Rob Kozlowski is an improvisor, so I'm letting it slide. [Gerdes] Heinemann, 1999. ISBN 0325001626.
--Kozlowski, Rob. The Art of Chicago Improv : Short Cuts to Long-Form Improvisation
Not actually a guide to performing long-form improvisation, but a history of the development of long-form in Chicago. 2002. ISBN: 032500384X
--Libera, Anne. The Second City Almanac of Improvisation
2004. ISBN: 0810118017
--Lowe, Robert. Improvisation, Inc.: Harnessing Spontaneity to Engage People and Groups
Improv as a communications and business tool. [Gerdes] Jossey-Bass, 2000. ISBN: 0787951420
--Mamet, David. True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor
I disagree with 75% of everything Mamet says in this book. The other 25% was well worth my time, however. This is Mamet's attack on the Method and his theories about acting. There's much here useful for the improvisational performer. [Gerdes] Pantheon Books, 1997. ISBN 0679442499.
--Martini, Clem and Kathleen Foreman. Something Like a Drug: An Unauthorized Oral History of Theatresports
Red Deer College Press, Calgary. ISBN 0-88995-122-5.
--McCrohan, Donna. Second City: A Backstage History of Comedy's Hottest Troupe
Putnam, 1987. ISBN 0399513396.
--Mellon, Nancy. Storytelling & the Art of Imagination
Element, 1992. ISBN 1852303395.
--Napier, Mick. Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out
Heinemann, 2004. ISBN 032500630X.
--Newton, Brad. Improvisation: Serious Fun for the Classroom A.K.A. the Urge to Diverge
Gifted Psychology Press, 1996. ISBN: 0910707219
--Novelly, Maria C. Theatre Games for Young Performers
Meriwether Publishing, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1985. ISBN 0-916260-31-3.
--Patinkin, Sheldon. The Second City: Backstage at the World's Greatest Comedy Theater
A coffeetable book about the Second City filled with history, interviews, and actors' bios. Comes with 2 CDs of sketches. [Gerdes] Sourcebooks, 2000. ISBN 1570715610.
--Patterson, Dan and Mark Leveson. Whose Line is it Anyway?
A fun little book based on the popular British TV series (seen on PBS in the States). Very light reading, features many photos from the series along with descriptions of some of the most popular games (as well as hints about how how to play them). [Roehl] Century, with Channel Four Productions, London, UK. ISBN 0-7126-3577-7.
--Pickering, Kenneth. Drama Improvised: A Source Book for Teachers and Therapists
Theatre Arts Books, 1997. ISBN: 087830066X.
--Pierse, Lyn. Theatresports Down Under: A Guide for Coaches and Players
Improcorp Australia and ish group, distributed by ish group pty ld, 11 Power Ave, Alexandria 2015 NSW Australia phone +61 2 9699 1999, fax +61 2 9310 5744, email email@example.com. ISBN 0-646-23861-2.
--Pollock, Michael. Musical Improv Comedy: Creating Songs in the Moment
Includes a CD with examples and exercises. SCB Distributors, January 2004. ISBN: 0974742732.
--Pollock, Michael. Music Direction for Improv and Sketch Comedy
Includes a CD with examples and exercises. Masteryear Publishing, May 2005. ISBN 0974742740.
--Polsky, Milton E. Let's Improvise: Becoming Creative, Expressive and Spontaneous Through Drama
Prentice-Hall, 1997. ISBN 0-13-532051-8.
--Poulter, Christine. Playing the Game
A great source for warmup games. [Berrong] Players Press (PO Box 1132, Studio City, CA 91614-0132), 1991. ISBN 0887346111.
--Stevie Ray. Stevie Ray's Medium-Sized Book of Comedy: What We Laugh at... and Why
Classic and modern theories of humor combined with the author's own experience as a perfomer. Available directly from Stevie Ray. Punchline Publications, 1999. ISBN 0-9671786-0-6.
--Ronen, Asaf. Directing Improv: Show the Way by Getting Out of the Way
Techniques and advice for coaches, teachers, and directors of improvised ensembles and shows. Besides Ronen's personal views, there are also tips and anecdotes from improv directors like Armando Diaz, Michael Gellman, Kevin Mullaney, Mick Napier, Shira Piven, and Mark Sutton. YESand Publishing, 2006. ISBN 0-9770339-0-2.
--Rudlin, John. Commedia dell'Arte: An Actor's Handbook
Includes a short history of the Commedia form, a guide to playing each of the stock characters, and possible applications for twentieth century theatre. [Gerdes] Routledge, London, 1994. ISBN 0415-047706.
--SAK Comedy Theatre Lab. SAK Comedy Theatre Lab Playbook
My favorite collection of short form games. Dozens of games, with short descriptions of each. [Gerdes] Available directly from SAK for $18 plus $5 shipping and handling: SAK Comedy Lab, 29 S Orange Ave, Orlando, FL 32801. Phone: 407-648-0001.
--Salas, Jo. Improvising Real Life: Personal Story in Playback Theatre
Presents the history, techniques, and principles of the interactive form, Playback Theatre, developed by Jonathan Fox, in which stories told by the audience are "played back" by improvisational performers. Includes chapters on ritual, use of music, and conducting. [Wirth] Kendall/Hunt, 1993. ISBN 0787220272.
--Salerno, Henry F. Scenarios of the Commedia dell'Arte
A collection of fifty complete plots from the commedia dell'arte, presented in scenario form. This book can be used as a model for understanding scenario-driven, rather than script-driven, performances. [Wirth] Limelight Editions, 1990. ISBN 0879101334.
--Sahlins, Bernard. Days and Nights at the Second City
A memoir by one of the founders of the Second City. The book also includes a guide to mounting a review, Second City-style. [Gerdes] Ivan R. Dee, 2001. ISBN:1566633753.
--Sankey, Jay. Zen and the Art of Stand-Up Comedy
This book is, of course, about stand-up comedy, not improv (and it has very little to do with Zen). I list it here because Sankey has some suggestions that are useful for any comedic performer. [Gerdes] Routledge, 1998. ISBN 0878300740.
--Schotz, Amiel. Theatre Games and Beyond: A Creative Approach for Performers
Meriwether Pub. ISBN: 1566080398.
--Schutzman, Mady and Jan Cohen-Cruz, ed. Playing Boal: Theatre, Therapy, Activism
A collection of essays by practitioners of Boal's techniques, exploring variations on and practical experiences with Theatre of the Oppressed. [Gerdes] Routledge, London, 1994. ISBN 0-415-08608-6.
--Seham, Amy E. Whose Improv is It, Anyway: Beyond Second City
A feminist critique of the place and history of women in the improv community. [Gerdes] University Press of Mississippi, 2001. ISBN: 157806340X.
--Shepard, David. ...that movie in your head
A guide to improvising movies. Gere Publishing, 2003. ISBN: 0-9743995-0-7.
--Shurtleff, Michael. Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part
Although, as the title suggests, this book is focused on the audition process, Schurtleff's "guideposts" are aimed at getting the actor into a character and relationship quickly, and so have application to the improvisor. [Gerdes] Bantam Books, 1980. ISBN 0553272950.
--Spolin, Viola. Improvisation for the Theater: A Handbook of Teaching and Directing Techniques
The 3rd Edition of this classic text was published in 1999, edited by Paul Sills and includes new exercises.[Gerdes] Northwestern University Press, 1999. ISBN 081014008X.
--Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for Rehearsal: A Director's Handbook
Northwestern University Press, 1985. ISBN 0810140020.
--Spolin, Viola. Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher's Handbook
Northwestern University Press, 1986. ISBN 0-8101-4004-7.
--Stoate, Graham. Dramastarters
Another collection of games, mostly geared towards teaching drama to children. [Roehl] Thomas Nelson and Sons, Surrey, UK. ISBN 0-17-444115-0.
--Stolzenberg, Mark. How To Be Really Funny
Despite the goofy title (and a cover that makes it look like it's aimed at kids) this is a surprisingly good book with a fresh approach. [Roehl] Sterling Publishing, New York, 1989. ISBN 0-8069-6887-7.
--Sweet, Jeffrey. The Dramatist's Toolkit: The Craft of the Working Playwright
Though it is a book on playwriting, it draws heavily on improv principles and references and has stuff in it that is useful for polishing scenes. [Sweet] Heinemann, 1993. ISBN 0435086294
--Sweet, Jeffrey. Something Wonderful Right Away
An outstanding history of the early days of improvisation in the United States, starting with the roots around the University of Chicago. Comprised almost entirely of interviews with the people who actually shaped the form, including David Shepherd, Paul Sils, Mike Nichols, Del Close, Theodore Flicker, Bernard Sahlins, Paul Sand, Alan Arkin, Alan Alda, David Steinberg, Valerie Harper and Gilda Radner. If you want to know how it all began (and learn something about improvisation, as well) then this is the book to get. [Roehl] Limelight Editions (118 E. 30th St., NYC, NY 10016). ISBN 0-380-01884-5.
--Sweet, Jeffrey. With and Without
The first chunk is the play of that title, which was developed from an improvisational workshop. At the end of the book is a long article on how the play was developed which may be of some use to other people hoping to use improv techniques to develop full-length, finished pieces. [Sweet]
--Taviani, Ferdinando. Il segreto della Commedia dell'Arte
Written in Italian. La Casa Usher, Firenze, 1982.
--Turgeon, Thomas S. Improvising Shakespeare
McGraw Hill Text, 1996. ISBN 0070655227.
--Wiener, Daniel J. Rehearsals for Growth: Theater Improvisation for Psychotherapists
W W Norton & Company, 1994. ISBN: 0393701875.
--Wilkes, Ian. Murder Tonight!: Rehearsed Improvisations on a Theme
Players Pr, 1996. ISBN 0887349048.
--Wirth, Jeff. Interactive Acting: Acting, Improvisation, and Interacting for Audience Participatory Theatre
An excellent primer for both interactive (audience participatory) theatre and improvisational theatre in general. Written in clear, simple language. [Roehl] Fall Creek Press, Fall Creek, Oregon, 1994. ISBN 0-9632374-9-7.
--Yates, Frances Amelia. The Art of Memory
University of Chicago Press, 1974. ISBN 0226950018.
--Zaporah, Ruth. Action Theater: The Improvisation of Presence
North Atlantic Books, 1995. ISBN: 1556431864.