Improv Wisdom: Spring Online Class 2018

There are people who prefer to say “Yes,” and there are people who prefer to say “No.” Those who say “Yes” are rewarded by the adventures they have, and those who say “No” are rewarded by the safety they attain. There are far more “No” sayers around than “Yes” sayers, but you can train one type to behave like the other.

–Keith Johnstone, author of Impro: Improvisation and the Theatre

Dear Friends,

Itching to say “yes” to something, but you’re not sure what?
Looking to be a part of a community of challenge, exuberance and encouragement?
Sensing an inner or an outer possibility for your life?

I invite you to consider joining us for an online course I am facilitating this spring, based on the book by Patricia Ryan Madson, Improv Wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up.

In the prologue to her book, Patricia writes, “Improvisation is a metaphor, a path, and a system; it is a modus operandi that anyone can learn. Imagine a life brimming with spontaneity. See yourself coping effortlessly with a demanding boss, a tired child, a unexpected turn of fate. Hear yourself speaking at a meeting without a script. Feel yourself alive, poised and ready for any adventure. Learn simple techniques used for centuries by actors and musicians, and discover how to apply them to your life. The world of improv is a portal into mindfulness and magic.”

As a class we will be devoted to doing writing practices on and having exchanges about our experiences of the maxims, and trying some of Madson’s exercises as we explore the relevance of improv wisdom at home, work, school, and in our community.

#1: Say yes
#2: Don’t prepare
#3: Just show up
#4: Start anywhere
#5: Be average
#6: Pay attention
#7: Face the facts
#8: Stay on course
#9: Wake up to the gifts
#10: Make mistakes, please
#11: Act now
#12: Take care of each other
#13: Enjoy the ride

We go for ten sessions, from Sunday 25 March to 27 May. Each Sunday I will email participants an agenda to direct reading, writing, and sharing in the week ahead. You’ll need copy of Improv Wisdom and approximately 1 to 2 hours a week, more if you have the energy. It’s not necessary to do an entire agenda in one sitting; feel free to space it out over the week.

As for communal sharing, we will have a course blog to post our questions, insights, poems, photos, travel logs, and experiments. If I see that people are in the same city, I’ll connect you and you can see if you’d like to meet up to write and share together. Also, I will connect kindred spirits to the best of my ability.

I am happy to correspond (via USPS), text, chat, phone, or email you, as you like.
Tuition: $125, check made to Mark Chmiel, or Paypal via
Write me back if you are interested and curious, or pass this on to someone you think might be ready for a class like this.

Present moment, wonderful moment,


Publishers Weekly offered this response to Improv Wisdom: “Drama teacher turned self-help advisor Madson learned the hard way that playing by the rules doesn’t always mean you win–despite doing all the right things, she was denied tenure in the job of her dreams. The acting teacher learned to jettison the script and improvise her life–and she ended up teaching at a much better university: Stanford. If you improvise, she says, you ‘will make more mistakes’ but you’ll also ‘laugh more often, and have some adventures.’ Here she offers 13 maxims to guide the fledgling improviser. ‘Say yes’ with the ecstasy of Molly Bloom: it will open up new worlds. ‘Don’t prepare’: in focusing on the future, you might miss the present. ‘Start anywhere’: take any entry into a problem, and once you get inside you’ll have a better perspective. Madson offers little exercises drawn from improv acting that are easy and eye-opening, such as look at a familiar environment and notice something new in it. Or make a list of important places in your life, put down the book and just go to one of them. Madson’s prose radiates the joy of living, the pleasure she has found in taking things as they come. Most self-help books offer a forced sense of inspiration; Madson is genuinely inspiring. ‘Say yes’ to this book.”

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