Acting techniques Viola Spolin

The acting techniques Viola Spolin developed have been and still are of great influence in acting. The power of her tools, are not just for acting, they are tools for life.

Although this acting method came from the theater, film actors will also find it useful to solve specific problems they’re having with a role or character.

“Through spontaneity we are re-formed into ourselves.”

Viola Spolin focusses on the spontaneity, intuitive knowing and reacting as such. The acting techniques Viola Spolin lays strong emphasis on the intuitive aspect of learning, in addition to the intellectual and physical. According to her the key to acting is learning through intuitive experiences.

In her range of acting techniques Viola Spolin 's intuitive learning is not a mystical elusive attitude, but it's completely open to the moment, reacting, in total directly here-and-now. And there is the central concept of spontaneity.

With her acting techniques Viola Spolin creates spontaneity, which is the big engine behind a fully automatically and of natural developing creative process. A spontaneous reaction is the reaction of a total person.

Exercize "seeing a sport"

Here is one of the exercizes Viola Spolin wrote in her book, including her directions. Her book is full of such detailed description. We recommend this book for anyone who wants to use improvisation in a way that it helps people a step further, as an actor and as a human.

Two teams. Players divide by counting off in twos. This is the

first random team grouping and is most important.

By group agreement, the team decides what sport they are going to watch. When group agreement has been reached, the team goes on stage. Players themselves are to call "Curtain!" when they are ready.


SIDE COACHING: See with your feet! See with your neck! See

with your whole body! See it 100 times larger! Show us, don't

tell us! See with your ears!


1. Tell the students beforehand that the event they are going to watch is taking place some distance away from them ( so they must concentrate on watching closely). This is the first step in getting them out into the environment. If distance is not stressed, they will sit with their eyes cast downward, never venturing away from their immediate surroundings.

2. While the group is watching, side-coach frequently. If a stu- dent looks at you wonderingly when you first call out, tell him to hear your voice but to keep his concentration on watching. If the POC (seeing) is sustained (as in the counting of the boards during EXPOSURE), tension will be released, fear will be well on the way out.

3. The individuals on a team are not to have any interplay dur- ing the "seeing" but are to individually watch the event. This is a simple way of getting single or individual work from them while they are still within the security of a group.


Full group.

All sit quietly and think of a time when they were seeing a sport, whether ten years ago or last week.

POINT OF CONCENTRATION: on the whole scene seeing the colors, hearing the sounds, watching the people, following the move- ment, etc.

A sample exercize


Most of the games are done in groups so there is a strong sense of ensemble.

Divide the class in half, setting half on the designated stage and half in the audience. The task of each member of each group is to observe the other group. “You watch us. We’ll watch you.” Those who giggle and discuss are to be reminded of the directions.

When each member of the stage group has shown some level of discomfort, give the group a task. Counting the floorboards is recommended. Counting the ceiling tiles or tying their shoes may be another. When every member seems to have regained (or gained) some level of stage comfort, switch the groups.

The must-have book.

Get a copy of Viola Spolin’s book, Improvisation for the Theater, and you’ll likely find an exercise to address any acting issue you’re having.

"When student-actors see people and the way they behave when together, see the color of the sky, hear the sounds in the air, feel the ground beneath them and the wind on their faces, they get a wider view of their personal world and development in the theater is quickened. The world provides the material for the theater and artistic growth develops hand-in-hand with one's recognition of it and one's self within it."

- Viola Spolin