YOUTH Theater Game Workshops in Los Angeles

It is the process of solving a problem that releases intelligence, talent and genius.
— Viola Spolin

B & W Photos: Viola Spolin with players from her Young Actors Company in Hollywood (1948 - 1954). Color Photos: Kids Theater Game workshop, 2018. Photos by Melanie Chapman, Tiphead Pictures.


Generations of kids and adults have played Viola Spolin's improvisational theater games, among them Oscar and Tony-Award winning actors and directors. Spolin's meditative yet playful method helps students develop the ability to focus and allows each child's unique gifts to flourish. Students of all experience levels are welcome, including aspiring actors and those who just wish to play! 

Players will be introduced to acting fundamentals through a series of games and exercises designed to unleash creativity through spontaneity, focus, and play. Theater games help develop the sensory awareness and communication skills needed onstage and in daily life in an non-competitive and joyful environment. Workshops culminate in an improvised demonstration for friends and family, allowing players to gain onstage experience while having fun. 

5-Week Improvisation Workshop for Ages 5 - 8

We'll meet: 5 Saturday mornings, Sept 15 through Oct 20, from 10 am - 12 pm. We will not meet on Oct 6.

The class for 5 - 8 year olds will be sidecoached by Max Schafer with assistance from Aretha Sills. The emphasis is on traditional children's games (including singing, speech, and movement games) and Spolin's sensory awareness exercises to develop social and emotional intelligence and communication skills. 

Tuition: $200. Payment in full is required to hold your child's space, though payment plans are an option if needed. A few sliding-scale spaces are available. Please email with questions. Refund Policy: Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by August 15. 

5-Week Improvisation Workshop for Ages 9 - 13

We'll meet: 5 Saturday afternoons, Sept 15 through Oct 20, from 12:30 pm - 3 pm. We will not meet on Oct 6.

The class for 9 to 13 year olds will be sidecoached by Aretha Sills with assistance from Ron Jarvis. The emphasis is on theater games for actor training, communication, creativity and problem solving. 

Tuition: $225. Payment in full is required to hold your child's space, though payment plans are an option if needed. A few sliding-scale spaces are available. Please email with questions. Refund Policy: Tuition is refundable minus a $50 registration fee if you cancel by August 15.


Classes are held at The Fellowship Hall at the Unitarian Universalist Church Of Studio City, 12355 Moorpark St, Studio City, CA 91604. There is a parking lot and street parking. Parents who wish to wait on site during class are welcome to use the church's meditation garden and private playground.

Theater Games have benefits that reach far beyond acting class:

  • They help students develop communication and problem-solving skills organically--through group interaction and play. 
  • Students build social and emotional intelligence, confidence, and an awareness of self and others. 
  • Theater games inspire both physical and mental agility. 
  • The workshop process encourages focus and mindfulness, which helps lessen the isolation and anxiety caused by over-scheduling and screen time. 
  • Spontaneity is our goal, not comedy. Problem-solving games allow for true creativity, without placing limits on where it will lead.
  • Children learn through play, and group games teach them how to work with others. Viola Spolin's method was inspired by legendary Progressive-era social workers and philosophers Jane Addams and Neva Boyd, who believed that democracy requires what Addams termed social ethics, i.e., for people of different backgrounds to come together and learn from each other. Neva Boyd wrote, "Play involves social values, as does no other behavior. The spirit of play develops social adaptability, ethics, mental and emotional control, and imagination." Spolin's method fosters a sense of community, ensemble, and responsibility to the group, while honoring each player's unique role within it. 
  • Viola Spolin developed her revolutionary approach to actor training while working with children. It's since gone on to influence almost every major educational and therapeutic field. You can read more about the remarkable history of her work here


Aretha Sills has played Spolin theater games since she was a child. She is the granddaughter of Viola Spolin and she studied improvisation with her father, legendary director Paul Sills (creator/director of The Second City and Story Theater). She has worked with Tony- and Emmy-Award winning actors and has conducted workshops and master classes for Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Art of Acting Studio, Stockholm International School, Sarah Lawrence College, and Northwestern University. She has trained educators from The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, LAUSD, and many other schools and universities. Aretha was the keynote speaker at the California Educational Theatre Association conference. She is the mother of a five year old. You can read quotes about her workshops for adult players here.

Max Schafer is a certificated classroom teacher who currently teaches kindergarten in Los Angeles. He has been studying improvisation and running workshops all over the world for over 40 years. He has studied with Viola Spolin, Paul Sills, and Aretha Sills. He developed the multimedia CD for “Viola Spolin’s Theater Games for the Classroom.” He is on the board of the California Educational Theater Association. He is also an inventor and programmer.

On a whim Ron Jarvis attended an open audition for the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey CircusClown College. That impulsive move led to a lifetime working in the performing arts. After attending Clown College, Ron spent three years touring as a ‘knockabout’ clown with the Ringling Red Unit. That was followed by a stint in Chicago at The Second City where Ron performed for another three years. Ron returned to California where he worked in film and television as an actor and as a freelance television writer. Ron recently finished up a career at UCLA’s Royce Hall working as a stage technician and theater manager. He's studied and performed theater games for many years.

Feel free to email with questions.