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Author, teacher, and improviser Michael J. Gellman was given a mission by Del Close himself: ""[T]o create improvised one-act plays of literary quality from scratch."" Already steeped in the world of improvisation, he took it upon himself to do this, in the form of a class for other improvisers in which they would build the skills necessary to execute such a seemingly tall order. Scruggs and Gellman's book, modeled after Stanislavski's timeless ""An Actor Prepares"", follows a fictional young actor taking Gellman's real-life class.Scruggs and Gellman introduce readers to Geoff, who has just moved to Chicago to pursue acting. He undergoes the standard trials of audition and rejection before he takes the advice of a fellow actor and turns to improve classes at Second City. At first, Geoff thinks improvisation is about laughs and loosening up, but he so on learns that it is a powerful tool as well as an end in itself.Through Geoff's eyes, the book introduces readers to key tenets of improvisation: concentration, visualization, focus, object work, being in the moment, and the crucial ""yes, and."" His experiences with the basics of improvisation do serve to get him a few roles, but his real breakthrough comes when he signs up for an improvised one-act class with Michael J. Gellman. He and his classmates arrive unprepared for the challenge, but with Gellman's prompts and advice, they slowly move through process to performance over the course of three seasons in Chicago. The class culminates with their final project: a completely improvised one-act play performed in front of a live audience.
Mary Scruggs is an actress, director, playwright, and educator. She is currently the head of writing and education programs at The Second City Training Center in Chicago, where she lives with her husband and son. Michael J. Gellman is the head of The Second City New York program. He was a resident company member of The Second City Chicago for three years and he has directed at The Second City since 1980. In addition to The Second City Training Center, Gellman has taught at Columbia College, Northern Illinois University, and Artistic New Directions.