Reviews and Interviews
"The premise of Patricia Madson's book is astonishing: to practice the basic rules of improvisational theater is to walk a path toward a spiritually satisfying life. Her underlying claim is simple and sound: if you are willing to be completely present, making full use of whatever happens, you will find goodness in any situation. This is a lucid, wise, and free-spirited book."
–Norman Fischer, founder and teacher of the Everyday Zen Foundation
Read Jesse Kornbluth’s review of IMPROV WISDOM in HEADBUTLER.COM is a must read. You’ll enjoy his candid and compelling reviews of current books, films and music.
"A marvelous guide to freedom and delight. Improv has become a wisdom tradition of its own and Patricia shows how its lessons can bring out the best in us."
–John Tarrant, author of Bring Me the Rhinoceros
"I have witnessed Patricia Madson's magic touch in both her classes and her performances. Her students often describe her as a 'goddess'‚ but that may be an understatement. I rejoice that her wisdom is now available to new audiences."
–Philip G. Zimbardo, author of Psychology and Life and Shyness
Stanford Designers rave about the book in the Stanford Design Review Magazine, Ambidextrous titled: “Where Theater and Design Intersect: How Improv Wisdom can be a tool for designers”
Starred review: 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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
From: Spirituality and Health Named " 50 BEST Spiritual Books of 2005,"
Book Review by Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
All of us are making up our lives as we go along. We improvise in our daily conversations, our parenting, our work. Whether making a meal or fixing a tire, we do the best with what we have. Patricia Ryan Madson has taught drama at Stanford for three decades, worked as a creativity consultant to corporations, and served as a private counselor. She and her husband, Ronald, direct the California Center for Constructive Living, based on the work in Japanese psychotherapies of David K. Reynolds.
Madson writes: "A good improviser is someone who is awake, not entirely self-focused, and moved by a desire to do something useful and give something back and who acts upon this impulse." We live in times when people are desperately seeking security and a life of as few risks as possible. This is precisely the time, says the author, to savor the pleasures and delights of an improvised life. She has come up with thirteen laws of improvisation along with exercises for each. They include: say yes, don't prepare, just show up, pay attention, face the facts, act now, take care of each other, and enjoy the ride. Together these laws spell out a flexible and spontaneous spiritual practice of play. For Madson winging it is not terrifying; it is a pathway to adventure. Try these exercises, and you will find that paying attention, being present, using your imagination, and acting joyfully will come more easily.
From: Library Journal May 15, 2005
Madson, a Stanford University drama teacher and professional improviser, puts a different spin on living the good life. Partly based on Eastern psychology, the art of improvisation, and personal experience, her 13 maxims for saying "yes" to life refreshingly encourage readers to be average, expect insecurity, and make mistakes. Her exercises are easy: thank people for thankless jobs, drive a new way home, and create a new habit. It's a great little book that will get people thinking, and the somewhat unusual title will generate interest and circulation. Recommended for most public libraries. by Deborah Bigelow
Press and Media
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