Who is Viola Spolin?
To understand where the acting techniques Viola Spolin created derived from it is good to know more about her.
She was born in Chicago, on november 7, 1906. Describing her would be:
Theater educator, director, and actress, was recognized internationally for her "Theater Games" system of actor training.
Viola Spolin was raised in a tradition of family theater amusements, operas, and charades. She started out as trainee to become a settlement worker, studying at Neva Boyd's Group Work School in Chicago. Here she learned about Boyd's innovative teaching in the areas of group leadership, recreation, and social group work. She learned how traditional game structures affected social behaviour in inner-city and immigrant children, This strongly influenced Mrs Spolin in her work, developing her techniques.
The acting techniques Viola developed, a range of games actually, go beyond the visible fun that playing games causes. The games heighten sensitivity, increase self-awareness and creativity. By “just playing” there was a huge effect on group and interpersonal communication. And working with actors her games have proven their value. And they are also used in self-awareness programs, encountering techniques, and nonverbal communication studies. During her time as a teacher Viola Spolin worked with such thinkers as Fritz Perls, creator of Gestalt therapy. A combination that enriched the technique. Nowadays the acting techniques in Viola Spolin's systems are in use throughout the world. You can find the system in university, community and professional theater training programs. And not just theatre. The richness of the acting techniques Viola Spolin developed is used in countless other curricula concerned with educational interest.
Together with her son, Paul Sills, she worked as workshop director for Second City Company from 1960 to 1965. Many wellknown acters were part of this world famous improvisational theatre, including Alan Arkin, Ed Asner, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Dan Aykroyd, John and Jim Belushi, David Steinberg, Valerie Harper and many others. While working wit these talents she continued to teach and develop her Spolin Games theory. Her work is the result of what happened on the floor.
In 1966 she was rewarded with the New England Theatre Conference Award, which meant a broad recognition of her work. It cited contributions to theater, education, mental health, speech therapy, and religion. Eleven years later, in 1976 she was awarded by the Secondary School Theater Association of its highest honor: the Founders Award. For her contribution to American Theatre and Education she got commendations by President Ronald Reagan, and Gov. George Deukmejian of California.
She retired in 1980. Viola Spolin authorized Gary Schwartz, Director of Intuitive Learning Systems and the Spolin Center to continue her work. She says of Mr. Schwartz , "Gary Schwartz is a gifted player/coach. He has a thorough understanding of my work."
The acting techniques Viola Spolin initiated are still a worldwide phenomenon.