imprology, improvisation based training

Improviser of the month        May 2008

Garry Schwartz
What is your name?
Gary Schwartz
Where do you live and work?
North Bend, WA USA
What is your day job?
Director/Coach at Intuitive Learning Systems.
How did you discover improvisation?
Moved to LA in 1976 and wanted to develop my skills after having been a mime for 14 years earlier.
A friend of mine asked me to research Viola Spolin (living in LA) as he was writing a paper on her. (I had no idea who she was and was in comedy improv company – not enjoying the fierce competition for laughs). A more detailed explanation is at
How do you practice improvisation?
I continually teach young kids, as well as older players. Kids show you exactly what they need and it's easy diagnosing what games and sidecoaches to use. I play occasionally and miss sometimes playing with the support of a good side-coach.
How did you learn?
I sat next to Viola Spolin for six years while she taught Theater Games. I played, was coached by her and listened to her asides as she coached others. I absorbed the philosophy like that – it seeped into my bones over the years. Teaching is also learning. Every time I teach, I remember Viola telling me teaching should be cleansing. I had no idea what that meant for a long time. It means (to me) enter into the new space each time and don't teach from memory.
Any advice for beginners?
Don't judge your work and avoid using the word failure. Nothing is failure - only the attempt to solve the problem. Read what you can about play. Meditate and read the literature of great philosophers and spiritual teachers that that talk about the now. Buddha, Tolle, Flow by Czicksentmihaly. Avoid “How To” books and don't seek the approval of your teachers. Just remember what worked for you on stage and see if you are transformed by the experience. If you are not transformed, but the audience still enjoys it means they have had a "here and now" experience and you have not. Transformation is the essence of Improvisation.
What is your favourite improvisation quote?
“Creativity is NOT the clever rearranging of the known.” Viola Spolin.
What is the most satisfying story or scene you ever improvised in?
Several come to mind. I did a “Stage Whisper” scene where we were two kids hiding in the classroom closet to sneak a smoke. We truly saw the where as did the audience. Animal Images – when I was assigned Spider the location was a post office and I immediately sorted mail at high speed. It was a spontaneous transformation.

Lastly a Status Scene when I played God and my partner was Adam. We continually switched between high and low status and had a wonderful conversation about the universe, god and being human.
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