American Writers Museum
Viola Spolin and The Second City
February 10, 2020 at 6:30pm
I have fond memories of my first theatre improvisation class in high school, based on Viola Spolin's work, and discovering the joys of her improv games. I later employed her techniques in college, when I founded Miami University's first troupe, Tower Players Improv, in Oxford, Ohio. The troupe remained in existence over 20 years and won nationwide competitions. I later taught improv classes through the park district in Oxford and The Discovery Center in Cincinnati and Chicago, so she has been an influence of mine for decades. I still see her techniques pop up today in exercises both of my teens have done in numerous theatre productions, camps, and After School Matters programs. Her contributions and influence on theatre arts have been invaluable.
Join the American Writers Museum as they honor the work of Viola Spolin, author and “mother” of improvisational theater. Ms. Spolin’s groundbreaking work and codification of her theater games into a training method and philosophy eventually led to the creation of The Second City.
The evening will include cocktails at 6:30 PM following by programming that will include opening remarks by museum president Carey Cranston, the unveiling of Ms. Spolin’s ceremonial bookmark to be permanently displayed at the museum, and words by writer and teacher of improvisational theater Aretha Amelia Sills, the granddaughter of Ms. Spolin and daughter of Second City co-founder Paul Sills.
In addition, the event will celebrate The Second City’s 60th anniversary and the release of The Second City: The Essentially Accurate History with an improvised discussion by moderator Mark Bazer (The Interview Show, WTTW) and talent from The Second City. Book signing to follow.
This event is open to the public; however, capacity is limited to 150 attendees. Please RSVP in advance here.
Monday, February 10, 2020
6:30 - 8:30 PM
American Writers Museum
180 N. Michigan Ave., 2nd Floor
About Viola Spolin:
There would be no Second City if it were not for the work of Viola Spolin, who created and developed a system of actor training that evolved to become the modern art form of improvisation. Born in 1906, actress, social worker, and educator Viola Spolin became drama supervisor for the Works Progress Administration Recreation Project in Chicago, where she invented a series of games designed to teach dramatics to children and recent immigrants. Formalized under the rubric of “Theater Games,” the exercises gave the children hands-on experience at behaving collaboratively and empathetically.
In the early 1950s, Spolin taught those games to actors working with her son, Paul Sills, at the University of Chicago, where their true potential to develop material and entertain audiences was uncovered. Sills used the new techniques in productions for the Playwrights Theater Club and with the Compass Players, the first improvisational theatre in America. In 1960, Spolin began running improvisation workshops for the cast of The Second City, a still-new theater company Sills co-founded with Bernie Sahlins and Howard Alk.
Spolin remained an active teacher, artist, and writer until her death in 1994. Her 1963 book Improvisation for the Theater remains a classic reference text for teachers of acting and improvisation, as well as across a variety of other fields. The book defends the position that “it is highly possible that what is called talented behavior is simply a greater individual capacity for experiencing.” For more, visit www.violaspolin.org
About The Second City
Since opening its doors as a small cabaret theater in 1959, The Second City has grown into an entertainment empire. With sold-out shows playing 7 days a week on stages in Chicago and Toronto, Second City’s Touring and Theatrical companies entertain an additional 1 million theatergoers a year around the globe. The Second City Training Center is the largest school of improvisation-based arts on the planet, with locations in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles that serve 11,000 students annually. In 2016, the Harold Ramis Film launched, becoming the world’s only film school dedicated to comedy. Second City Works, the B2B side of Second City, has brought award-winning improvisation and audience-driven techniques to over 600 Fortune 1000 companies, challenging businesses seeking a more collaborative culture to innovate through development programs, original digital and video content, campaign consultation, private events, and more. Second City Entertainment’s foray into television and media continues to produce new content and programming, including two-time Emmy winner SCTV and the upcoming Martin Scorsese-helmed Netflix documentary exploring the iconic series’ enduring legacy.