Find ongoing online Viola Spolin improvisation workshops at

Posted on Sep 8, 2021

Spolin workshops continue online! Find upcoming workshops at

About the workshops:

Viola Spolin’s Theater Games launched the American improvisational theater movement and changed the way acting is taught. Her work has influenced generations of actors and educators. Theater Games release the intuition through focus, spontaneity, and play, opening up new avenues of expression and communication in your creative work and in your daily life.

In the workshops with sidecoach Aretha Sills, we’ll explore the groundbreaking exercises and theatrical concepts found in Spolin’s seminal book Improvisation for the Theater, with an emphasis on the philosophies of legendary improvisation innovators Spolin and Paul Sills, and on applying Spolin’s meditative methods to your work in any artistic discipline. See our Registration page for a complete list of upcoming workshops around the country.

About side-coach Aretha Sills:

All workshops will be sidecoached by Aretha Sills. The granddaughter of Viola Spolin, Aretha studied for many years with her father, director Paul Sills (creator/director of The Second City and Story Theater), and has conducted workshops for Paul Sills’ Wisconsin Theater Game Center, Bard College, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Stockholm International School, Sarah Lawrence College, and Northwestern University. She has worked with Tony- and Emmy-Award winning actors and has trained faculty from Northwestern, DePaul, Columbia College, The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science, LAUSD, CETA, and many other institutions and schools. She is the Associate Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works and she directs The Predicament Players.

Aretha received her MFA from UC Riverside, where she was a Gluck Fellow, the Graduate MFA Fellow, and the Dean’s Distinguished Fellow. She has been a lecturer in creative writing at UCR. Her fiction, non-fiction, and poetry has appeared in the Los Angeles Review of Books, Maybelle, The Utne Reader, Calyx, South Bank Poetry Review, and Qua. Her piece, Muddy Waters and Mozart: Remembering Townes Van Zandt, was featured in LARB’s first print edition. 

To be notified about upcoming workshops, or to inquire about private coaching or workshops for your school or group, please email. 


“We have been improvising and working with Spolin games for over forty years. But whenever Aretha is teaching a workshop, we jump at the chance to take it. She is so steeped in the games that (of course!) she was able to translate them to the Zoom format — and it was if the play became even more focusedwith her sure and gentle guidance. Conronvirus be damned! Theater games still powerfully connect and create extraordinary theatre.” – Deb Lacusta & Dan Castellaneta, The Simpsons, actor & writers

“I have never felt more focused. I thought you were absolutely wonderful and truly supportive.  It made my summer. Your ability to teach on Zoom in spite of the dread of Covid-19 hanging over us was phenomenal.” – Bill Steinkellner, Four-time Emmy award winning show runner; Creator/Director of Instaplay

“Thank you for a wonderful class — for directing us back to the practical and ingenious philosophy and games of Viola Spolin. It has expanded my sense of what is possible in terms of teaching online. Accepting where we are and the reality around us, and also the possibilities has been a health-giving experience. I had fun, and felt invigorated and refreshed after your class, and hope to give some kind of similar experience to my students. Their responses to Spolin’s exercises are full of surprise and excitement. The students allow themselves to be present and at ease.” – Stephanie Hunt, Actor/Director/Theater Lecturer, Stanford University and University of San Francisco

“Phenomenal translation to Zoom. I took at least two of your classes in person and while we all bemoan and miss live, embodied practice, this experience was just as powerful. In a different way. I’d do this kind of work with you every day if I could.” – Marcy Willis, Leadership Coach & Consultant, Actress, Facilitator

“Aretha is dedicated to preserving the pureness of this technique, which from my point of view assists the actor to find the courage to find themself and then to fly. I believe she has, innately and amazingly, all the elements of the technique of both Viola Spolin and Viola’s son, the extraordinary director, Paul Sills. I have studied with Aretha, and believe me, the thrill lives on.” – Paul Sand, Tony award winner, Paul Sills’ Story Theater; Original Second City cast member

“As an educator and instructor of acting and directing, I was eager to learn about the American theater improvisation developed by Viola Spolin and expounded by Paul Sills. Aretha Sills provides an insight into the authentic roots of the system that has been utilized for years by theatre training programs. The workshop will provide you with an excellent opportunity to explore various games and exercises to enrich your view of performance and acting.”  -Norma Saldivar, professor and chair, UNLV Department of Theatre, and executive director of the Nevada Conservatory Theatre

“I have no desire to be an entertainer and still get nervous when I speak to groups. I fear appearing silly. But I knew there was a little door inside of me that needed to be opened. That the shy, quiet, serious child wanted to be free. So nerves and all, I jumped feet first into Aretha Sills’ intensive Spolin workshop. I felt safe. The word “silly” became “playful.”  At the end, I was tired and a little relieved — but oh so proud of myself.  Viola Spolin said, ‘Get out of your head, into the space and await the invisible stranger.’  Thanks to Aretha, I found that stranger and she is me.” -Barbara Meltzer, Barbara Meltzer & Associates Public Relations and Marketing

“Aretha is one of the century’s best improvisation teachers. Like her grandmother before her, she understands people, theater, and improvisation in an intuitive and deep way. As someone who has studied with some of the top teachers in the country and has performed for over 15 years, I can honestly say Aretha’s work opened my eyes. I understood improv on a deeper level. I was refreshed and returned to beginner’s mind.” -David Alger, founder Pan Theater

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