Type of Article:
New exhibit highlights improvisational theater pioneer Viola Spolin
Referred to in theater circles as the “High Priestess of Improv,” Viola Spolin (1906-1994) shaped a generation of comic performers whose careers in turn shaped the entertainment landscape of today. Her influence is the genetic footprint shared by The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, Blue Man Group and Curb Your Enthusiasm, traceable backwards through Saturday Night Live to the original improv incubator: Chicago’s Second City Theatre.
Viola Spolin: Improvisation & Intuition, a new exhibit at Northwestern University Library opening April 1 (and that’s no joke) celebrates Spolin’s tremendous contribution to the world of theater. Drawing from the extraordinary collection of Spolin’s papers established by her family at Northwestern’s Charles Deering McCormick Library of Special Collections, curators Dan Zellner, Charlotte Cubbage, and Benn Joseph use Spolin’s writings, games, production photos, scripts, video and audio to engage viewers in the world of improvisational games and exploration she created.
The collection spans Viola Spolin’s career, which parallels, in large part, the history of improvisational theater in Chicago. The late Paul Sills, cofounder and early director of The Second City, was Spolin’s son and collaborator. He had grown up with the theater games she developed to help actors tap into their inner genius by not acting. “Were they acting?” went one of her favorite sayings. “Get them to play.”
Opening at the same time as the Chicago Improv Festival
, Viola Spolin: Improvisation & Intuition also includes photos from the early days of improvisational theater in Chicago, Spolin’s notes on her games, some unpublished theater games, and a spotlight on the continuing work of Spolin’s family. The exhibit is free and open to the public April 1 through August 16, 2013, from 8:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturdays at University Library, 1970 Campus Drive in Evanston. Members of the Northwestern community with a valid WildCARD can visit during all open library hours
The Theatre of Viola Spolin and Paul Sills – a lecture by Carol Bleackley Sills
Thursday, April 4 | 7 p.m.
McCormick Tribune Center
Carol Bleackley Sills has been Viola Spolin's editor since 1985. She directs in Story Theater form, having worked alongside husband Paul in the creation and design of his theaters, including The Game Theater, Story Theater, The Body Politic, The Learning Theater, Century Hall and Sills & Co.
Sponsored by Northwestern University Library, The Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities and The Chicago Improv Festival