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Presenter Spotlight: Patricia Ryan Madson

Patricia Ryan Madson is a Professor Emerita at Standford University. She introduced improvisation into the curriculum at Stanford University in 1990 and founded the Stanford Improvisers and the Creativity Initiative. Her book, IMPROV WISDOM: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up, was published in 2005 and is now in its 19th printing and also available as an Ebook and Audiobook. It has been translated into 9 languages and is used as a text in courses ranging from Drama, Design Thinking, Christian Ministry, Teacher Training, and Alzheimer’s Caregiver Training.

What is the most memorable moment in your career?

Receiving the Lloyd W. Dinkelspiel Award for excellence and innovation in Teaching at Stanford University. Also, the day my book was published gave me great pride.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

“If you truly pay attention to life you will observe that you are receiving more than you are giving. Look around and notice the gifts that sustain you all the time.”

How do you incorporate the skills you have gained through improvisation to your daily life?

I use YES as a default and need a good reason to say no. In addition I have found that “taking care of my partner” is a good way to sustain a relationship.

What are your favorite rituals, warm-ups, or exercises in your work?

I love the simple game of “Sound Ball” and “Word Ball” and I can find ways to use this game to teach virtually all of the skills of improv.

How do you make your work accessible to audiences (non-improvisational or an international audience or inexperienced)?

My work is rarely about the performance aspect of improv. To make it accessible I use the language and vocabulary of the client or student. Whenever possible I try to normalize and demythologize the work from “something special” to “something ordinary.”

What aspect of your work scares you the most and how do you deal with that?

When the situation calls for a prepared speech I am commonly filled with dread. I look for ways to be able to improvise instead of recite a prepared speech.

We look forward to meeting Madson at the GlI Symposium! She will be teaching a workshop called "Improv for Humans" for the Coup de Comedy Festival on Thursday, May 11 (UC Irvine), and moderating the panel "Teaching Values and Ethics in the Improvisation Classroom" for the symposium on Friday, May 12th!

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