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date: 20 October 2019

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter focuses on the recent work of the improvisation collective Improv Everywhere, assessing in particular how their numerous “pranks,” as they call them, have intervened in public space. By enlisting pedestrians in discrete one-time events that challenge protocols of public contact and that expand our understanding of public flexibility and empathy, Improv Everywhere offers an antidote to mainstream, hegemonic formulations of spectacle, virtuosity, and generalized expectations concerning the purpose of performance. The chapter looks specifically at their integration of trained and untrained performers, the kinds of space and sociality that they create, and the connections between their live and web presences in order to fathom what their work reveals about contemporary understandings of intimacy and the social fabric.

Keywords: improvisation, Improv Everywhere, spectacle, virtuosity, expectation, performance, pranks, empathy, intimacy

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