Viola Spolin, Visionary Woman of Play


Chicago Improv Productions presents Viola Spolin: Visionary Woman of Play, an entertaining and unique 45 minute long original theatre performance about the originator of modern improvisational theatre games.

Everyone knows that Chicago is the birthplace and mecca for modern improvisational comedy theatre, but not everyone knows who got it started, and how and why it did. This performance shows Viola Spolin creating the foundation of improvisational theatre while she was in her 20’s working with poverty children at the Hull House on the north side of Chicago.

Viola Spolin: Visionary Woman of Play is an interactive performance that actively does several things including, tell the life story of improv’s belated mother Viola Spolin, give examples of the 100+ games Viola created, demonstrate a Viola Spolin style workshop, give a social-historical background to Chicago during the time period (30’s through the 50’s) when Viola did most of her work, and allows the audience to be part of the play too.

The performance features an all-woman cast of 4 actors, 1 musical director, and 1 moderator. The show begins with the cast on-stage playing the children’s game Kitty Wants A Corner while the musical director and the moderator encourage the audience members to get up and play the game too.

Then the moderator tells the life-story of Viola Spolin, while the cast using Viola’s son Paul Sills Story Theatre techniques acts out Viola’s life from childhood to her death. Viola’s life story is told in three sections, and during those sections, photos of Viola are projected overhead (the photos are from the Spolin/Sills family archives).

In between those three sections, the cast describes, demonstrates, and performs various Viola Spolin games while a rotating cast member sits out to side coach the games (like Viola would have done). After the games are played, the side coach asks the audience what they saw and experienced. Through out the show, a total of 10 different games are performed by the cast.

At the end of the show, the audience knows about Viola Spolin and her place in Chicago theater as the source of all modern improvisational stage work.

The production debuted in 2006 at the Harold Washington Chicago Public Library, and it was part of their Women’s History Month. The show is created and directed by Jonathan Pitts.

To book a Viola Spolin: Visionary Woman of Play performance at your event, please call the Chicago Improv Productions office at (773)875-6616 or email:

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