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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“The audience is the most revered member of the theater. Without an audience there is no theater. Every technique learned by the actor, every curtain, every flat on the stage, every careful analysis by the director, every coordinated scene, is for the enjoyment of the audience. They are our guests, our evaluators, and the last spoke in the wheel which can then begin to roll. They make the performance meaningful.”
—Viola Spolin (b. 1911)