2nd Edition

The Physical Actor Contact Improvisation from Studio to Stage

By Annie Loui Copyright 2019
    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    246 Pages
    by Routledge

    The Physical Actor is a comprehensive book of exercises for actors. It is carefully designed for the development of a strong and flexible physical body able to move with ease through space and interact instinctively on-stage. Annie Loui draws on her training with Etienne Decroux, Carolyn Carlson, and Jerzy Grotowski to bring Contact Improvisation into the theatrical sphere. She explains how it can be used to develop alert and embodied listening skills in the actor, and how to apply it to working with texts on stage.

    This book will guide the reader through a full course of movement skills, including:

    • Partnering skills
    • Spatial awareness for groups and individuals
    • Fine motor control through mime
    • Heightened co-ordination and sustained motion

    New for this edition are additional partnering exercises, in-depth applications of contact improvisation to monologues and scenes, and a chapter on devising physical theatre performances.





    What we do and how we approach it

    Warm-up sequence

    2. SPACE

    Spatial exercises

    3. MIME



    Direct application: improvisation

    Mime illusions: articulated action

    Slow motion


    The arc and the exercises

    group 1: weight and counterbalance

    group 2: weight support (skeleton)

    group 3: floor support

    group 4: lifts

    5. CONTACT IMPROVISATION: practice and scene study

    Preliminary improvisation

    Contact improvisation

    Contact improvisation with text

    Contact Improvisation with a scene


    Contemporary comedy in contact

    Contemporary comedy: out of contact into realism

    Monologues in contact

    Monologues: out of contact into realism


    Movement theater creation

    Preliminary Exercises

    Structural elements

    The guidelines


    Devising with a group- CounterBalance Theater examples



    Annie Loui works as a director/choreographer, and is the Artistic Director of Counter-Balance Theater. Her original physical theater pieces have been seen in France, Monaco, West Germany, Italy, and the United States. She runs the Movement Program for MFA Actor Training at the University of California, Irvine.

    The Physical Actor might well be titled "Actor as Dancer," so choreographically honed are its descriptions and analyses. At once manual and survey, the book is an engaging and inclusive overview of body techniques and their emotional connotations. In its specificity and precision, The Physical Actor is an essential resource for anyone who aspires to act or move.

    Yvonne Rainer (choreographer)


    Annie Loui’s remarkable new book not only offers a unique step-by-step approach for integrating movement training with an actor’s text, it also teaches actors how to live a deep moment-to-moment life with their scene partners physically. By clearly detailing a technique that connects impulse-driven contact improvisation with scene work in styles ranging from Shakespeare to Chekhov, Loui shows actors something new; how to listen with their bodies. An indispensable book.

    Richard Brestoff (actor and author,
    The Camera Smart Actor)


    Without Annie Loui, I would not have had the guts to work with Twyla Tharp. But I did. With no formal dance training, armed only with three years of movement education under Ms. Loui’s guidance, I was cast as the lead of the Twyla Tharp/Bob Dylan musical The Times, They Are A-Changin’. Not unlike Twyla, Annie Loui understands that spatial awareness, partnering tools, an active imagination, and a courageous heart are all one needs to enhance her natural capacity to trust her instincts and, subsequently, create a vocabulary of movement that is deeply connected. This gem of a book is a must-have for actors who are searching for the right tools to unlock their body’s full potential.

    Jen Colella (actress)


    When I got a callback for Angels in America revival on Broadway the first person I told was Annie Loui. The re-imagining of the Angel in this production was intensely physical utilizing all my contact improv and devising skills as well as puppetry and the ability to integrate all of this with text. It’s as if Annie knew one day I’d be asked to wear all of these hats at once and systematically prepared me for that moment in time. I wrote to her again to tell her I’d booked the job and to thank her for the care she put into our time together and for the courage her work continues to inspire in mine. 

    Beth Malone (Tony award nominee)


    Annie Loui is the real deal. I love her insights into the craft and her reminders of why we do this and why the physical work is important to the actor. Physical awareness is one of the elements of the craft that you must experience in order to recognize its importance and power in your work. When we watch artists who understand their bodies and physicality we are drawn to the story and that actor in particular. The physical actor completes the image, the story, the moment. While I am no longer a performer, I continue to use the training and awareness that I learned from working with Annie Loui every day.

    Elliot Fox (Co-Director of the Fordham/Primary Stages MFA in Playwriting)