Spolin Improvisation Workshops at the Jane Addams Hull-House Museum in Chicago

Aretha Sills led two three-hour introductory workshops exploring the improvisational theater games of Viola Spolin at the Jane Addams Hull House Museum in May and June. The workshops focused on the groundbreaking exercises and concepts found in Spolin’s seminal book, Improvisation for the Theater.

Originator of theater games and mother of the modern improvisational theater movement, Viola Spolin’s legacy began at Hull-House. Born in Chicago, Spolin studied to be a social worker at Neva Boyd's Recreational Training School, and later created innovative theater games to teach drama to immigrants and children. Boyd’s theory of play and Progressive-era philosophies greatly influenced Spolin's work, which inspired her son Paul Sills, who was the founding director of the first improvisational theater companies in the United States, including Compass and The Second City. Chicago’s long tradition of ensemble work and community-centered theater can be traced directly back to Spolin and her legacy. 

This program is a part of the current exhibition Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change. The exhibition explores the social reformers influence on visual and performing arts in Chicago through historical and contemporary practices: bookbinding, art therapy, ceramics, and theatre and performance. On view through July 28, 2019. 

Image credits: Jane Addams Hull-House Museum/Sarah Larson