Keith Johnstone's Search for the Ideal Classroom: A Critical Biography

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Title: Keith Johnstone's Search for the Ideal Classroom: A Critical Biography
Author: Dudeck, Theresa Robbins
Abstract: Keith Johnstone has spent almost fifty years teaching and developing improvisational theatre methods for the classroom and for performance. His Impro System (i.e., the term used by the author to designate Johnstone's theories, pedagogy, techniques, exercises, games, and terminology) encourages spontaneous, collaborative creation using the intuitive, uncensored imaginative responses of the participants. The Impro System has influenced theatre education worldwide and is applied to fields as diverse as corporate training, creative therapy, animation, and Zen Buddhism. Yet this is the first comprehensive critical study on Johnstone's life and career. Until now, Johnstone's story has been told primarily from a third person perspective, in passing, and without a critical lens. Utilizing personal interviews with Johnstone and with many of his colleagues and students, archival resources, and the author's observations from six international Johnstone workshops, contextualization is possible in this investigation. Moreover, theories of pedagogy such as Paulo Freire's "problem-posing" pedagogy give this document a structural and conceptual frame. This study is a journey through the corporeal spaces that have served as Johnstone's transformative "classrooms" but also into the conceptual spaces which inform Johnstone's own radical pedagogy and approach to artistic work. The chapters take the reader from Johnstone's less-than-ideal childhood through his exciting ten-year residency at The Royal Court Theatre in London; into the classrooms and onto the stages of Europe with his celebrated impro troupe, The Theatre Machine; off to Canada and into his laboratory-like classrooms at the University of Calgary; and inside the theatre-as-classroom environment of Johnstone's avant-garde, impro-based Loose Moose Theatre Company, the company that launched Johnstone's Theatresports. Finally, the concluding chapter reveals how Johnstone and his Impro System continue to influence various artists worldwide and how Johnstone's pedagogy has evolved to accommodate not only the students in his workshops but his notion of the ideal classroom. This study makes a strong argument for Johnstone's inclusion as an innovative teacher into the canon of contemporary theatre practice.
Description: xii, 266 p.
Date: 2011-12

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