A new technique for improvising performances with
scripted and memorized lines
The ability to improvise a skilled performance while speaking scripted and memorized lines is of paramount importance to actors working in today’s film and television productions, which often allow very little if any rehearsal time. Through his innovative Improvisation Technique, Stephen Book shows the actor how to create a spontaneous performance by applying improvisation to traditional script-acting for film, theater, and television.
Book on Acting begins with immediate training in how to improvise. Book’s fundamental principle of improvisation is “Acting is doing, and there is always more to do.” The actor learns what to do to keep himself in a spontaneous improvisational state.
This Improvisation Technique is then applied to exercises with scripted lines, developing sophisticated improvisation skills for enhancing character, emotions, conflict, and agreement, as well as improving the actor’s audition process. Also included is a unique process for breaking down scripted scenes into improvisation choices.
Book on Acting contains film and television scenes in which Book-coached actors, used his Improvisation Technique to create their performances. These scenes, showing the actors’ performance choices, demonstrate the use of Improvisation Technique in different genres of acting. Well known theater and film scenes are included, as well as scenes from such TV shows as Melrose Place, Star Trek: Voyager, L.A. Law, Frasier, and The Practice.
Book’s Improvisation Technique extends the work of Viola Spolin (author of Improvisation for the Theater). Book was Spolin’s student, assistant, representative, and her partner in the Spolin Theater Game Center in Hollywood, where he served as executive director and principal teacher in the 1970s.
“Stephen Book manages to articulate a technique that both allows the actor to be specific in silence and active and emotionally affective when speaking. He helps you tap into that endless well which is human.”
“Improvisation is essential to acting and Book is a terrific teacher.”
“Coming as I did from stand-up comedy—and with a movie part in hand I was greatly in need of a teacher and a system which could bring out and begin to develop my natural skills in a short time. Stephen Book and his workshop were just such a combination. I continue working with him to my great benefit.”—George Carlin
“Stephen Book’s Improvisation Technique is creatively explosive! It has heightened my presence with new levels of freedom, authenticity and generosity. Right after completing Stephen’s class I booked Buffy which led to Angel and films.”
“A very intelligent and highly skilled teacher of acting. Actors find him exciting to work with and get a great deal from his particular form of teaching.”
“I commend Stephen Book’s work and highly recommend him to the theater community.”
“I have been intrigued and impressed with Mr. Book’s special abilities. I find his work most valuable.”
“I was a student in Stephen Book’s acting class during the three or so years he was writing this book, so I have experienced its riches first-hand. I know how much I gained, and I witnessed the growth of the other actors in the class. I still remember our first round of scene work and the remarkable transformation of each actor’s work after we did the First-Level Improvisations. It was a startling demonstration of the transforming power of the Improvisation Technique we were learning. And the best was yet to come. I was 75 when I began the class, a professional actor for 50 years. I finished not long after I turned 79, my craft immeasurably enriched and strengthened, with access to emotional resources I did not realize I had within me. As I get ready to start rehearsals for a new play, I have a fresh sense of myself in the work I have been doing my whole professional life. Priceless!”
—William Schallert, President, Screen Actors Guild (1979-81)
Stephen Book is an International author, teacher, director, creative consultant, and heads a professional acting workshop in Hollywood since 1985. His students and clients have won Oscars, Emmys, Tonys, Obies, and Grammys. He is a former long-time faculty member of The Juilliard School and the University of Southern California. He co-designed with Viola Spolin, the Spolin Theater Game Center, and served as its executive director and principal teacher. He has also taught at Stanford, Brown, UCLA, the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College, Globe Shakespeare Center in London, GITIS (the state theater school of Russia) in Moscow, and the Esalen Institute.A theater director, his productions have been seen Off and Off Off Broadway and in Regional and university theaters, including: Circle in the Square, Los Angeles Actors Theater, Washington Theater Club, Stanford Repertory Theater, Equity Library Theater, New Dramatists, Princeton, Brown, Sarah Lawrence College, U.S.C., and the Theater of Dionysus in Athens. He was Creative Consultant: to the director, Vincent Ward, on the Oscar winning film, What Dreams May Come, starring Robin Williams; to Melissa Manchester on her album, Don’t Cry Out Loud, including her Grammy nominated Best Pop Female Vocal Performance for her top 10 hit title song. He is the author of BOOK ON ACTING Improvisation Technique for the Professional Actor in Film, Theater & Television. In 2006, Silman-James Press also published his THE ACTOR TAKES A MEETING How to Interview Successfully with Agents, Managers, Producers, and Casting Directors. In 2007, BOOK ON ACTING was translated and published in Poland as HANDBOOK FOR ACTORS.