“Everyone can act. Everyone can improvise. Anyone who wishes to can play in the theater and learn to become stageworthy.”
― Viola Spolin, Improvisation for the Theater
Funny. Made up on the spot. Connecting. Playing. These words are often what we think of when Improv comes to mind. However, improv is so much more. In the early 20th century a woman named Viola Spolin began to work in Jane Addams’ Hull House. Built to help immigrants get on their feet, Viola Spolin and her teaching partner , Neva Boyd found that the biggest influence in getting immigrants, especially immigrant children to communicate across cultures and assimilate was through play. Play to these women was much more than a break, it was essential for human development. Games such as storytelling built collaboration, allowed everyone to be listened to and contribute. These games were not meant to be won or lost, they were designed to help develop interaction and for everyone to be recognised as being capable of equal importance. Not long after her time at Hull House, Viola took these games and incorporated them into theater. Improv was born.
Fast forward to the present day and Improv has seeped into many areas beyond theater. Our world has become highly globalized, and much like the immigrants in the Jane Addams Hull House, collaboration and communication across countries and cultures has become important. Companies, businesses and schools are finding that improv has become an essential tool in achieving these goals. Improv equips all people with the social emotional and learning skills to be successful in so many areas. Yes, improv is fun. Yes, improv is play. And it is so much more.
Stories of how improv has helped with learning and social emotional skills:
My son was diagnosed with Autism and was also selectively mute. We just wanted him to speak with classmates. After his teacher used improv and built a community of trust, he finally did. -A.T. mother of 5 year old
It’s Fun! I like when our class gets faster at Pass the Clap. -Max, kindergarten student.