Free Play Productions
Free Play Productions Stephen Nachmanovitch

The new book, the follow-on to Free Play 25 years later, is finished,
and will be publshed by New World Library in the spring of 2019.
To be notified when it is published, please contact us here

You can preorder the book now from:

Your local independent bookstores
Barnes & Noble

Improvising is Life


Stephen Nachmanovitch’s “The Art of Is” is a philosophical meditation on living, living fully, living in the present. To the author, an improvisation is a co-creation that arises out of listening and mutual attentiveness, out of a universal bond of sharing that connects all humanity. It is a product of the nervous system, bigger than the brain and bigger than the body; it is a once in a lifetime encounter, unprecedented and unrepeatable. Drawing from the wisdom of the ages, “The Art of Is” not only gives the reader an inside view of the states of mind that give rise to improvisation, it is also a celebration of the power of the human spirit that, when exercised with love, immense patience and discipline, is an antidote to hate.

— Yo-Yo Ma, cellist


The Art of Is IS real ART! It is so lucid, grand, kind, easy-going, and deeply helpful, I could not stop reading it, even in time I did not “have!” It is full of surprises, gems, and open ended inspirations. It starts from the fun moment of Mahalia Jackson’s startling outburst to MLK Jr. catapulting his “I have a dream...” speech into the improvisation of a soaring liberation of the spirit that it was. Steve takes us with him on his life-walk of love in music all over the world. He delivers us to a place of a new vitality in our own lives where we more fully recognize the harmonies at hand. This is a lovely guidebook for our own journeys, helping us appreciate ourselves and each other as the precious human beings endowed with liberty and opportunity that we are! 

— Robert Thurman, Jey Tsong Khapa Professor of Buddhist Studies, Columbia University, co-founder of Tibet House US, author, grandfather, citizen.


Nachmanovitch brings forty years of practicing improv to the page and offers a rich trove, hard-won and long-pondered. In graceful prose that reflects not only his talking the talk, but walking the walk, he explores the art of being present. You’ll finish the book enriched by his experiences studying under Zen masters and his mentor the great polymath Gregory Bateson, and teaching aspiring improvisers all over the world. 

 — Randy Fertel, author of A Taste for Chaos: The Art of Literary Improvisation


Nachmanovitch beautifully reveals a world of communication and co-creation that is both new and ancient. To play in this realm of improvisation is to recognize the tenderness with which interdependence knows aloneness, and the way silence defines sound. The stories he tells show us that the complexity and simplicity of life itself is in our interrelationships. These findings are laid out in this book with grace, humor and careful articulation. Stephen makes it clear that the art of being human now is acutely tied into an improvisational way of being. Making sense of ourselves, each other and the natural world in ways that find new offerings within old patterns. It is to feel anew. 

    — Nora Bateson, filmmaker, International Bateson Institute


A beautiful book, full of power, full of life, written from the deep experience of an artist and a wise person. 

  — Joan Jiko Halifax, abbot, Upaya Zen Center