She influenced the first generation of improvisational actors at the Second City in Chicago in the late 1950s, through her son, Paul Sills, who was one of Second City's co-founders. Spolin developed new games that focused upon creativity, adapting and focusing the concept of play to unlock the individual's capacity for creative self-expression. Viola Spolin's use of recreational games in theatre came from her background with the Works Progress Administration during the Great Depression where she studied with Neva Boyd.
Spolin is the author of a number of texts on improvisation, her most famous being published by Northwestern University Press, which has since become the "bible of the movement."
While serving as drama supervisor for the Chicago branch of the Works Progress Administration's Recreational Project (1939-1941), Spolin perceived a need for an easily grasped system of theater training that could cross the cultural and ethnic barriers within the WPA Project. According to Spolin, Boyd's teachings provided "an extraordinary training in the use of games, story-telling, folk dance and dramatics as tools for stimulating creative expression in both children and adults, through self discovery and personal experiencing." Building upon the experience of Boyd's work, she responded by developing new games that focused upon individual creativity, adapting and focusing the concept of play to unlock the individual's capacity for creative self-expression. These techniques were later to be formalized under the rubric "Theater Games.
In 1965, with Sills and others, Spolin co-founded the Game Theater in Chicago, and around the same time organized a small cooperative elementary school (called Playroom School and later Parents School) with Sills and other area families. The theater and the school's classes sought to have audiences participate directly in Theater Games, thus effectively eliminating the conventional separation between improvisational actors and audiences. The theater experiment achieved limited success, and it closed after only a few months, but the school continued to use the techniques, alongside a regular elementary curriculum, well into the 1970s.
In November 1975, the publication of "The Theater Game File" made her unique approaches to teaching and learning more readily available to classroom teachers; in 1976, she established the Spolin Theater Game Center in Hollywood, serving as its artistic director. In 1979 she was awarded an honorary doctorate by Eastern Michigan University, and until the 1990s she continued to teach at the Theater Game Center. In 1985 her new book, Theater Games for Rehearsal: A Director's Handbook, was published.
Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become "stageworthy."We learn through experience and experiencing, and no one teaches anyone anything. This is as true for the infant moving from kicking and crawling to walking as it is for the scientist with his equations.If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever he chooses to learn; and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach him everything it has to teach. "Talent" or "lack of talent" has little to do with it.''
Celebrating Viola Spolin, "High Priestess of Improv" Spolin's Lasting Contributions to Entertainment Are Subject of Library Exhibition
Mar 13, 2013; EVANSTON, IL -- The following information was released by Northwestern University: by Wendy Leopold Viola Spolin -- known in...
Actress Valerie Harper Honors a Mentor Tv's 'Rhoda' Narrates Audio Tour about Legendary Theater Teacher Viola Spolin
Apr 04, 2013; EVANSTON, IL -- The following information was released by Northwestern University: by Wendy Leopold LISTEN: Valerie Harper...