notes / home
21 Apr 2022

Johnstone // Impro

Keith Johnstone’s Impro has been on my reading list for years. I think I first heard about it via .

I was flipping through my kindle library the other day for something to read and decided to open this up.

Some of my favorite bits…


A theme I’ve been thinking about is “un-learning” the moral compromises we are indoctrinated with as we become alerts. cf. Johnstone views adults as “atrophied children.”

When I considered the difference between myself, and other people, I thought of myself as a late developer. Most people lose their talent at puberty. I lost mine in my early twenties. I began to think of children not as immature adults, but of adults as atrophied children. But when I said this to educationalists, they became angry.


I love the urgency of this reaction, “all the flowers are beautiful!”

I’m remembering her now because of an interaction she had with a very gentle, motherly schoolteacher. I had to leave for a few minutes, so I gave the teenager my watch and said she could use it to see I was away only a very short time, and that the schoolteacher would look after her. We were in a beautiful garden (where the teenager had just seen God) and the teacher picked a flower and said: ‘Look at the pretty flower, Betty.’ Betty, filled with spiritual radiance, said, ‘All the flowers are beautiful.’

‘Ah,’ said the teacher, blocking her, ‘but this flower is especially beautiful.’ Betty rolled on the ground screaming, and it took a while to calm her. Nobody seemed to notice that she was screaming ‘Can’t you see? Can’t you see!’

In the gentlest possible way, this teacher had been very violent. She was insisting on categorising, and on selecting. Actually it is crazy to insist that one flower is especially beautiful in a whole garden of flowers, but the teacher is allowed to do this, and is not perceived by sane people as violent. Grown-ups are expected to distort the perceptions of the child in this way. Since then I’ve noticed such behaviour constantly, but it took the mad girl to open my eyes to it.



Tweet Like andrew.kortina@gmail.com