November 7, 1906 to November 22, 1994
Viola Spolin was an actress, educator, director, author, and the creator of theater games, a system of actor training that uses games she devised to organically teach the formal rules of the theater. Her groundbreaking book Improvisation for the Theater transformed American theater and revolutionized the way acting is taught. Originally published in 1963 by Northwestern University Press, it remains an essential theater text. Her son director Paul Sills, who is credited with popularizing her work, used her theater games when he co-founded Compass, Playwrights Theater Club, The Second City, and created Story Theater. The modern improvisational theater movement is a direct outgrowth of Spolin’s methods, discoveries, and writings.