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November 07

Viola Spolin

The tools Viola Spolin created to help actors perform improvisational theater—storytelling, dancing, skits, and more—came to be known as "theater games," which were later published for all to try.

Chicago Public Library, Special Collections and Preservations Division

1906: Play Acting
Viola Spolin is born in Chicago, Illinois
As an actress, director, and drama teacher, Viola Spolin used simple skits and other exercises to train actors to perform in believable ways. Her methodology formed the core of what we call “improv” today. Improv wasn’t originally focused on comedy, but evolved over time and today is generally defined as comic skits made up on the spur of the moment.

Watch a performance by acclaimed Chicago-based theater group, Second City, and see improv in rapid-fire action. Spolin, the “Grandmother of Improv,” helped devise ways for actors to warm up, focus, play, and make the connections needed to be spontaneous and hilarious.
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