A Bibliography of Improvisation Wisdom

This bibliography is American centered and based on my personal reading. It is not intended to be comprehensive, as the nearly daily addition of material in our wonderful exploration into the world of Improvisation would make such a thing virtually impossible. Apologies to any who are unfairly left out.  (Robert Lowe, October 27, 2014)

The first references are listed by their proper names in honor of the baseline contributions made to the art of Improvisation.

Must Read Recommendations

Viola Spolin. Improvisation for the Theater. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1963.

—- Theater Games for Rehearsal. Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1985.

Keith Johnstone. Impro, Improvisation and the Theatre. New York, NY: Theatre Arts Books, 1979.

— Impro for Storytellers: Theatresports and the Art of Making Things Happen. Faber and Faber, London, UK. 1999. (First Edition, Don’t be4 Prepared: Theatresports for Teachers. Alberta, Canada: Loose Moose Theatre Company, 1994)

Augusto Boal. Theatre of the Oppressed: Translators. McBride & McBride: New York, NY: Theatre Communications Group, 1985.

Stephen Nachmanovitch. Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art. New York, NY: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1990.

Charna Halpern, Del Close, and Kim “Howard” Johnson. Truth in Comedy: The Manual of Improvisation. Colorado Springs, CO: Meriweather Publishing, Ltd. 1994.

Daniel Belgrad. The Culture of Spontaneity: Improvisation and the Arts in Postwar America. Chicago & London: The University of Chicago Press, 1998.

Paul Z, Jackson. The Inspirational Trainer: making your training flexible and spontaneous & creative. London, UK: Kogan Page Ltd., Sterling, VA, USA, 1998 (First published as Impro Learning, How to make your training creative, flexible and Spontaneous. Aldershot England and Vermont, USA. Gower Publishing Limited, 1998)

— 58 ½ Ways to Improvise in Training. Carmarthan, Wales: Crown House Publishing, Ltd. 2003.

Robert Lowe. Improvisation, Inc.: Harnessing Spontaneity to Engage People and Groups. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 2000. (Revised Edition due 2015)

Adam Blatner, MD, Ed. with Wiener, Daniel, J. Eds. Interactive and Improvisational Drama: Varieties of Applied Theatre and Performance. (Hannah Fox, et al.) New York, Lincoln, NE, Shanghai: iUniverse, Inc., 2007

Kat Koppett. Training to Imagine: Practical Improvisational Theatre Techniques for Trainers and Managers to Enhance Creativity, Teamwork, Leadership, and Learning. 2nd Ed. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, 2013.

Patricia Ryan Madson. Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up. New York, NY: Bell Tower, imprint of the Crown Publishing Group, division of Random House, 2005.

Historical Perspectives

Pederson, Dagney, and Boyd, Neva L. Folk Games and Gymnastic Play: For Kinderrgarten Primary and Playground. Chicago, IL: Saul Brothers Publishers, 1914. (Purposely out of alphabetical order to keep these historical gems together.)

Boyd, Neva L. and Pederson, Dagney. Folk Games of Denmark and Sweden. Chicago: H.T. FitzSimmons Company, 1915.

Boyd, Neva L. Handbook of Recreational Games. New York, NY: Dover Publications, 1945, 1975.

Bridge, William H. Actor in the Making: A Handbook on Improvisation and Other Techniques of Development. Boston: Expression Company, 1936.

Coleman, Janet. The Compass. New York: Alfred Knopf, 1990.

Dudeck, Theresa Robbins, Keith Johnstone: A Critical Biography. London, New Delhi, New York, NY, Sydney: Bloomsbury, 2013.

Duchartre, Pierre Louis. The Italian Comedy: The improvisation Scenarios Lives, Attributes, Portraits and Masks of the Illustrious Characters of the Comedia dell’Arte. London: George G. Harrap & Co., Ltd., 1929.

Golding, Michael, Author. David Shepherd: A Lifetime in Improvisational Theatre. Dir. Mike Fleischaker. With Andrew Duncan, Mark Gordon, Charna Halpern, and Howard Jerome. Canadian Improv Games, 2006.

Hartnoll, Phyllis. The Theatre: A Concise History. London, UK: Thames & Hudson, 1968.

McCrohan, Donna. The Second City. New York: Putnam, 1987.

Newton, Robert G. Acting Improvised. London, Edinburgh, Paris, Melbourne, Toronto, and New York, NY: Thomas Nelson & Sons, Ltd., 1937.

Patinkin, Sheldon. The Second City. Naperville, IL: Sourcebooks, Inc., 2000.

Partch, Harry. Genesis of a Music, an Account of Creative Work, its Roots, and its Fulfillments. New York, NY: DaCapo Press, 1974.

Quinn, Susan. Furious Improvisation: How the WPA and a Cast of Thousands Made High Art out of Desperate Times. New York, NY: Walker Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.

Seham, Amy E.. Whose Improv is it Anyway: Beyond Second City. Jackson, MI: University Press of Mississippi, 2001.

Stanislavski, Constantin. An Actor Prepares. Trans. Elizabeth Reynolds Hapgood. New York, NY: Routledge/Theatre Arts Books, 1936.

Sweet, Jeffrey. Something Wonderful Right Away. Toronto: New Books, 1978.

Additional Applied Improvisation Reading

Arch, Dave. Showmanship for Presenters: 49 Proven Training Techniques from Professional Performers. Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer, 1995.

Beaudoin, Marie Nathalie, and Sue Walden. Working with Groups to Enhance Relationships. Duluth, MN: Whole Person Associates, Inc., 1998.

Cook, H. Caldwell. The Play Way: An Essay in Educational Method. London: William Heinemann, 1917.

Gesell, Izzy. Playing Along: 37 Group Learning Activities Borrowed from Improvisational Theater. Duluth, MN: Whole Person Associates, 1997.

De Koven, Bernard. The Well-Played Game: A Player’s Philosophy. Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1978.

Darnell, G. Brent. Stress Management, Time Management and Life Balance for Tough Guys. Atlanta, GA: G. Brent Darnell, 2008.

Darnell, G. Brent. The People-Profit Connection: How Emotional Intelligence Can Maximize People Skills and Maximize Your Profits. Atlanta, GA: BDI Publishers, 2011.

Epstein, Robert. The Big Book of Creativity Games: Quick, Fun Activities for Jumpstarting Innovation. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill, 2000.

Frost, Anthony, and Ralph Yarrow. Improvisation in Drama. Houndsmill, Basingstoke, Hampshire, and London: The Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1990

Meyer, Pamela. From Workplace to Playspace: Innovating Learning, and Changing Trough Dynamic Engagement. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, an imprint of Wiley, 2010.

Poynton, Robert. Everything’s an Offer: Ho to do More with Less. Portland, OR: On Your Feet, 2008.

Safran, Lisa. Using Improvisation to Build Literacy: Reading and Writing Come Alive. Lexington, KY: Princess Ellen Publishing, 2010.

Tabaee, Farnaz. Effects of Improvisation Techniques in Leadership Development: A dissertation in partial satisfaction of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education in Organizational Leadership. Ann Arbor, MI: ProQuest, 2013.

Weinstein, Matt, and Joel Goodman. Playfair: Everybody’s Guide to Noncompetitive Play. San Luis Obispo, CA: Impact Publishers, 1980.

Weinstein, Matt, and Luke Barber. Work Like Your Dog: Fifty Ways to Work Less, Play More, and Earn More. New York, NY: Villard Books, a division of Random House, 1999.

Wiener, Daniel J. Rehearsals for Growth: Theater Improvisation for Psychotherapists. New York, NY and London: W.W. Norton Company, 1994.

Zaporah, Ruth. Action Theater: The Improvisation of Presence. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1995.

Additional Improvisational Comedy Theatre Reading

Besser, Matt, Ian Roberts, and Matt Walsh, The Upright Citizens Brigade Comedy Improvisation Manual. New York, NY: Comedy Council of Nicea, LLC, 2013.

Belt, Lynda, and Rebecca Stockley. Improvisation through Theatre Sports. Seattle, WA: Thespis Productions, 1989.

Bernard, Jill. Jill Bernard’s Small Cute Book of Improv. 3rd Edition. Minneapolis, MN: Publishing, 2007.

Barker, Clive. Theatre Games: A New Approach to Drama Training. London: Eyre Methune, 1977.

Robert Barton. Acting, Onstage and Off. 2nd Ed., New York, Harcourt Brace College Publishers, 1993.

Philosophical Foundations

Bandler, Richard. Using Your Brain for a Change. Moab, UT: Real People Press, 1985.

Campbell, Don. The Mozart Effect. New York, NY: Avon Books, 1997.

Hayakawa, Samuel I. Language in Thought and Action. New York, NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1964.

Heckler, Richard Strozzi, Ed. Aikido and the New Warrior. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1985. Demonstration

Korzybsky, Alfred. Science and Sanity: an Introduction to Non-Aristotelian Systems and General Semantics. Lancaster, PA: Science Press Printing Co., 1933.

Pearce, Joseph Chilton. The Magical Child Matures. New York: Bantam, 1985.

Ray, Sondra. Loving Relationships: The Secrets of a Great Relationship. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts 1980.

Ray, Sondra. Ideal Birth. Berkeley, CA: Celestial Arts, 1985.

Stevens, John. Invincible Warrior: A Pictorial Biography of Morihei Ueshiba, The Founder of Aikido. Boston, MA Shambhala, 1997.

Teilhard de Chardin, Pierre. The Phenomenon of Man. New York, NY: Harper & Row, 1955.

Ueshiba, Kisshomarlu. The Spirit of Aikido. Trans. Taitetsu Unno. Tokyo, New York, and San Francisco, CA: Kodansha International, 1984.

von Oech, Roger. A Whack on the Side of the Head. New York, NY, Warner Books, 1983.

Wilhelm, Richard. The I Ching or Book of Changes. Trans. Cary F. Baynes. Forward by C.G. Jung. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1950.

Management and Human Interaction

Hsieh, Tony. Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion, and Purpose. New York, NY and Boston, MA: Business Plus, 2010.

Mitchell, Donald, Carol Coles, and Robert Metz. The 2,000 percent Solution: Free your Organization from “Stalled” Thinking to Achieve Exponential Success. New York, NY: American Management Association, 1999

Mitchell, Donald, and Carol Coles. The Irresistible Growth Enterprise: Breakthrough Gains from Unstoppable Change. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing, LLC, 2000.

Pike, Bob. The Creative Training Technologies Handbook. Minneapolis, MN: Lakewood Press, 1994. Pompton Plains, NJ: The Career Press, Inc., 2012.

Whitelaw, Ginny, and Betsy Wetzig. Move to Greatness: Focusing the Four Essential Energies of a Whole and Balanced Leader. Boston, MA: Nicholas Brealy Publishing, 2008.

Whitelaw, Ginny. Body Learning. New York, NY: Penguin Putnam, Inc. 1998.

—- The Zen Leader: Ways to go From Barely Managing to Leading Fearlessly. Pompton Plains, NJ: The Career Press, Inc. 2012.

Online Resources    

Applied Improvisation Network –

AIN is a community of practitioners and clients who value the use of improvisation skills in organizations to: improve relationships; increase authenticity; promote spontaneity; foster trust; build communities of practice.

The Spolin Center,

Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS), Bay Area Theatre Sports (BATS)

Sivasailam Thiagarajan. The Thiagi Group, Designing leadership, soft-skills, and technical training for corporate clients.

A few of the many and Growing Numbers of Journal Articles

Balachandra, Lakshmi. “Special Section: Improvisation and Negotiation – An Introduction.” Negotiation Journal 21(4):411-414 (Oct. 2005).

Berk, Ronald A., and Trieber, Rosalind H. “Whose Classroom Is It Anyway? Improvisation as a Teaching Tool.” Journal on Excellence in College Teaching 20(3):29-60 (2009).

Boesen, Kevin P. Herrier, Richard N., Apgar, David A., and Jackowski, Rebekah M., “Innovations in Teaching: Improvisational Exercises to Improve Pharmacy Students’ Professional Communication Skills.” American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education 73(3):1-8 (2009).

Gerardi, Debra. “Using Improvisation to Teach Communication in an Academic Medical Center.” Journal of Alternative Dispute Resolution in Employment 1(1): 46- 52 (June 1999).

Gerardi, Debra, “Using Improvisation to Develop Conflict Resolution Skills,” Oct. 2001, online at,

Gerardi, Debra. “Developing Creativity and Intuition for Resolving Conflicts: The Magic of Improvisation,” Sept. 2001, online at

Haig, Edward. “Rehearsing the Revolution: Language Teaching and the Theatre of the Oppressed.” Journal of Nagoya Women’s University No. 42, Nagoya, Japan March 1996

—- Sudden Speaking: TheatreSports for Language Learners, No. 43, March 1997.