Viola Spolin

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Viola Spolin (7 November 190622 November 1994) was considered the mother of the improvisational theater movement in the United States.


  • Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become 'stage-worthy.' 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' have little to do with it.
    • Improvisation for the Theater (1963), page 3
  • Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves. It creates an explosion that for the moment frees us from handed-down frames of reference, memory choked with old facts and information and undigested theories and techniques of other people's findings. Spontaneity is the moment of personal freedom when we are faced with reality, and see it, explore it and act accordingly. In this reality the bits and pieces of ourselves function as an organic whole. It is the time of discovery, of experiencing, of creative expression.
    • Improvisation for the Theater 1963), page 4
  • Games develop personal techniques and skills necessary for the game itself, through playing. Skills are developed at the very moment a person is having all the fun and excitement playing a game has to offer--this is the exact time one is truly open to receive them.
    • Improvisation for the Theater 1963), page 4
  • That which is not yet known comes out of that which is not yet here.
    • Improvisation for the Theater 3rd Edition (1999), Paul Sills' Sayings of Viola Spolin, page xiii
  • Don't initiate! Follow the initiator! Follow the follower.
    • Improvisation for the Theater 3rd Edition (1999), Paul Sills' Sayings of Viola Spolin, page xiii
  • Yhe most significant change in the games themselves is the addition of 'Follow the Folower' (p 62), a variation on the 'Mirror' game in which no one initiates and all reflect. This game quiets the mind and frees players to enter a time, space, a moment intertwined with one another in a non-physical, non-verbal, non-analytical, nonjudgmental way.
    • Improvisation for the Theater), Viola Spolin's Preface to the Second Edition, 1983 page Iv
  • The theater workshop can become a place where teachers and students meet as fellow players, involved with one another, ready to connect, to communicate, to experience, to respond, and to experiment and discover.
    • Theater Games for the Classroom: A Teacher's Handbook (1986) Northwestern University Press page Two

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