The Magic of Viola Spolin

Written by Hal Peller

37 Years and a Home Run Every Time!

No Advanced; Intermediate or Beginner… just Improvisation for all of the People!

I have been associated with Spolin Improvisation for over 37 years and I learn something wonderful during every single workshop.

One main philosophy, I gleaned from Viola Spolin, is that improvisation was designed so that anyone can do it. This is a very democratic process and regardless of age, sex, race, politics, or experience level, anyone should be able to play the games with anyone else. At one point in time I had my 13 year old son improvising with a 70 year old and two seasoned actors and everyone had a great experience. During one scene, my son Ryan, 13, came into the scene with 3-4 ‘adults’ loading beer into a lake cabin. Ryan played a police officer and instantly made everyone else in the scene underage drinkers! The reaction of the ‘adults’ was very honest and stunned. The scene was hilarious.

When I hear, “… I can’t improvise with a beginner because I’m more advanced than the others …,” I get annoyed because that, to me, goes against the spirit of improvisation. If one is truly experienced, one should be able to play with anyone, and if you are good, you should be able to follow the number one rule and make the other player look great! The fact that you have more experience should mean it would be easier for you to accomplish this task.

I did a one day Spolin intensive improvisation workshop in Atlanta some time ago and was fortunate to have several players from the local improvisation theater, Whole World Improv, which has been in existence since 1994.

I thanked the Whole World Improv players for willing to play with the others in the group which consisted of about a third of players that had no experience, about a third of the players having some experience; and one union actor.

The day was a win-win for everyone and I found everyone learned from everyone else…. There were many ‘aha’ moments for every single workshop participant. Spolin worked her magic again just by everyone playing the games and trusting each other.

I understand why the main improvisation schools, such as UCB, the PIT, or the Magnet have beginner, intermediate and advanced classes. They are running a business and need to pay for fixed ongoing expenses.

I don’t have those expenses and I don’t do it for the money, I do it because I love improvisation and I love the whole process. This is why my workshops are unique in New York City. I facilitate the greatest, life changing experience anyone can imagine for over 37 years and I love my job!

Visit to register for upcoming Spolin workshops and for more information.


Watch this video introducing IMPROVISATION TO BUILD LEADERSHIP AND A HIGH-PERFORMANCE TEAM workshop, a flagship product of Boway Business Theatre (BBT).

Posted by Boway Business Theatre on Friday, December 27, 2013

Video excerpts of two day Applied Improvisation for  Leadership and High Impact Teams for Boway in

Kuala Lumpur,  Malaysia