Many months ago an extraordinary, creative friend recommended Keith Johnstone's 1979 book Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre. Belatedly I bought a copy and yesterday finished reading it. Impro may be one of the most inspirational, liberating books of all time. Johnstone describes how he understands and teaches acting. His book consists of four long essays titled "Status", "Spontaneity", "Narrative Skills", and "Masks and Trance". Quotes and commentary will follow in due course, as I digest; for now, a discussion of Contrariness that echoes Z. A. Melzak's self-description, from Johnstone's "Notes on Myself":
At about the age of nine I decided never to believe anything because it was convenient. I began reversing every statement to see if the opposite was also true. This is so much a habit with me that I hardly notice I'm doing it any more. As soon as you put a 'not' into an assertion, a whole range of other possibilities opens out—especially in drama, where everything is supposition anyway. When I began teaching, it was very natural for me to reverse everything my own teachers had done. I got my actors to make faces, insult each other, always to leap before they looked, to scream and shout and misbehave in all sorts of ingenious ways. It was like having a whole tradition of improvisation teaching behind me. In a normal education everything is designed to suppress spontaneity, but I wanted to develop it.