Viola Spolin (November 7, 1906 — November 22, 1994) was an important innovator of the American theater in the 20th century. She created directorial techniques to help actors to be focused in the present moment and to find choices improvisationally, as if in real life. These acting exercises she later called Theater Games and formed the first body of work that enabled other directors and actors to create improvisational theater. Her book, “Improvisation for the Theater,” which published these techniques, includes her philosophy, as well as her teaching and coaching methods and is considered the “bible of improvisational theater.” Spolin’s contributions were seminal to the improvisational theater movement in the U.S. She is considered to be the mother of Improvisational theater. Her work has influenced American theater, television and film by providing new tools and techniques that are now used by actors, directors and writers.
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“We learn through experience and experiencing, and no one teaches anyone anything. This is as true for the infant moving from kicking to crawling to walking as it is for the scientist with his equations. If the environment permits it, anyone can learn whatever he chooses to learn; and if the individual permits it, the environment will teach him everything it has to teach.”
—Viola Spolin (b. 1911)