Take a class with Viola Spolin with this video

You may have never had the chance to take a class with Viola Spolin but now you can ...do the next best thing. Watch this short video from Joel Veenstra and Marc Warzecha and get a glimpse of the creation of theater games and their impact.

Learn about the Follow the Follower concept.

Valerie Harper describes why Viola came up with Touch Talk, the game where actors must be in physical contact with each other in order to speak.

Take look at the Space Walk activity.

Hear how Side Coaching came into the work and how it's used to help teach the improvisers how to succeed.

And the paradox?  She changed so many lives in a deeply personal way yet didn't want to be seen as a guru.

"Don't thank me. Don't thank me, it's not me, it's the work. It's the work.  Don't make me your guru.  Get out."  ~Viola Spolin via Gary Schwartz




"Creativity is not the clever rearranging of the known. "  ~Viola Spolin via Gary Schwartz

"Keep Going"  ~Viola Spolin



If you want more (yes..and...) order a DVD of Viola teaching a class in 1987 and a recording of The Space Walk HERE.

The site is run by Gary Schwartz.  Thanks Gary.

I ordered them both as soon as I knew they existed.

21st Century Business Skills


I'm sitting the of office of Troje, in Amsterdam, where I just had lunch with Henk, Alieke, and Liselotte - all "van Troje".  All of us have used improv with organizations for years in several ways - from Role-play to corporate performance to workshops on change, communication, collaboration, innovation and everything in between. Improv is a growing buzzword in the business lexicon these days and is being adopted around the world, although Europe has a few years head start on the US right now in our experience. But more articles are showing up in business press including the recent article on CNN.

In education 21st Century Skills are teaching children four primary areas - Creativity and Innovation, Critical Thinking and Problem Solving, Communication, and Collaboration.

These 21st Century principles, mindset, and skills are required for improv and are useful in many places and are the key to the business world as we move into the 21st century. These 21st Century Business Skills have been "discovered" by software developers in the Agile and SCRUM movements, by designers in Design Thinking being used by the Stanford d.school and IDEO to name just a few.

Applied Improv is a rich toolkit for teaching the principles and mindset and give the opportunity to practice the lessons and skills.

8 RULES FOR CLOWN GAGS: Paraphrased from Kurt Vonnegut


When I saw these 8 ideas, I immediately thought that they apply to the work that improvisers do every time they step on stage.  I think they would make the basis of a good improv workshop.  What do you think of them?  ~William Hall

  1. Use the time of a total stranger in such a way that he or she will not feel the time was wasted.
  2. Give the audience at least one character he or she can root for.
  3. Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.
  4. Every moment must do one of two things—reveal character or advance the action.
  5. Start as close to the end as possible.
  6. Be a Sadist. No matter how sweet and innocent your character, make awful things happen to them—in order that the audience may see what they are made of.
  7. Perform to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your clowning will get pneumonia.
  8. Give your audience as much information as possible as soon as possible. Your audience should have a complete understanding of what is going on.

8 Rules for Clown Gags:  Paraphrased from Kurt Vonnegut by Pat Cashin. [re-posted from Pat’s fun site:  http://www.clownalley.net]

Applied Improv Principles: Celebrate Failure

Celebrate Failure (make mistakes boldly)

In the article What is Applied Improv? I discussed seven principles of improv that apply in the work environment. Here I expand on the concept of "Celebrate Failure and Survivable Risk".

Improv and collaboration require constantly taking risks of varying degrees. Mistakes and failure are inevitable as we engage in taking risks and it is our reaction to those failures that define the collaborative environment. In improv, we celebrate the risk-taking and embrace the failure which is counter to our natural tendency. This means that we are free to move forward boldly and without hesitation, censorship of ideas, and critique of ourselves or others. Celebrating failure unlocks creativity and gives us the freedom to explore alternatives and find elegance that might have been otherwise discarded.

Survivable Risk

The idea of celebrating failure seems to be counter to success or, worse, endorse thoughtless, careless or reckless behavior. The key principle is that we deal with survivable risks - failure as a result of dedicated effort with the intention of success. The idea is celebrating the risks involved with innovation. The nature of risk taking in any group or organization can range from personal risks of sharing your ideas and building relationships to trying new products or processes. It can be easy to discount, out of hand, the principle of celebrating failure with examples of reckless behavior such as betting all of the corporate assets on a game of roulette. Quick reactionary decisions without due care in the process may not be survivable risk for a company, leader or individual and therefore are not the intention behind this principle.

Applied Improv Principles: Yes, And...

In the article What is Applied Improv? I discussed seven principles of improv that apply in the work environment. Here I expand on the concept of "Yes, And..." Yes, And... is as simple as the using the phrase “Yes, and...” in responding to others as a way to build on their ideas and expand them. It is also the term used to describe the concept of accepting what other say and enhancing, expanding, and building on that idea to move things forward. This is in contrast to “Yes, But” and “No” which stop collaboration and forward momentum.

Yes, And makes you more positive. It can filter into all aspects of your life. This is talked about extensively in the book Improv Wisdom * by Patricia Ryan Madson. She offers this experiment in the first chapter on Yes:

For one day say yes to everything that's offered. Set your own preferences aside. Notice the results. See how often it may not be convenient or easy to do this. Obviously, use common sense in executing this rule. If you are a diabetic and are offered a big piece of pie, you'll need to find a way to protect your health. Perhaps you can say boldly, "Yes, I'd love to have this pie to take home to my son who adores cherries."

It's good for everyone including to yourself. It can be surprising how often we tell ourselves NO once you become aware of it. Take notice of for the rest today how many times you say yes to yourself vs. how many times you say no.

* Madson, Patricia Ryan 2001. improv wisdom: Don’t Prepare, Just Show Up