Theresa Robbins Dudeck and Caitlin McClure


This collection of Applied Improvisation (AI) stories and strategies draws back the curtain on an exciting, innovative, growing field of practice and research that is changing the way people lead, create, and collaborate. The authors in this anthology are professional AI facilitators working in all corners of the world.They come from disciplines as diverse as business, social science, theatre,education, law, and government. All have experienced the power of improvisation, have a driving need to share those experiences, and are united in the belief that improvisation can positively transform just about all human activity.


“Applied Improvisation” is the umbrella term widely used to denote the application of theatre improvisation (theories, tenets, games, techniques, and exercises) beyond conventional theatre spaces to foster the growth and/or development of flexible structures, new mind-sets, and a range of inter- and intrapersonal skills required in today’s VUCA (volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguous) world.1 Top business schools everywhere are now offering AI courses for developing interactive teams, emotionally intelligent and expressive leaders, and innovative ideas. In science and health, the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science based at Stony Brook University, New York, is helping scientists and physicians better communicate their ideas and messages to audiences and patients using improvisation. Even law schools and firms are adopting AI curricula to give new and seasoned lawyers the power of flexibility and spontaneous decision-making skills. And hundreds of organizations ranging from large Fortune 500 corporations to governmental agencies to nonprofits are increasingly hiring AI facilitators to train their management and workforce to do offstage what the best improvisers do onstage.2


So, what do the best improvisers do really well onstage? They work collaboratively and spontaneously in the moment, generate endless ideas quickly, remain flexible, find and solve problems, multitask, motivate others, practice active listening, take risks, graciously accept failure as part of the process, and engage authentically with and effectively deliver stories to audiences. Every night, professional improvisers fearlessly go onstage, without a script, and put into practice all the above for audiences worldwide. But as this book of case studies will reveal, anyone willing to practice the techniques and embrace the principles of improvisation can learn to adeptly function like an improviser in front of and in collaboration with their own “audiences.”