Put Viola Spolin into Chicago's American Writers Museum

  • by: Jeffrey Sweet
  • recipient: American Writers Museum, 180 N. Michigan Ave, Chicago, IL, 60601
The American Writers Museum, a new attraction on Chicago's Michigan Avenue, includes a section saluting Chicago writers, each honored Chicago writer being represented by a banner and a biography. Most of the worthy names are there. Del Close (though he was known primarily as a director and performer, not a writer) is there for his work in improv. Viola Spolin is not. This is a dismaying omission. DEL would say it is a dismaying omission. He once said to me (with characteristic grumpiness), "Viola got there before any of the rest of us." Spolin was the author of several books, the most famous of which, IMPROVISATION FOR THE THEATER (published by Northwestern University in the early 1960s), has gone through several dozen printings. It is not an exaggeration to say that it is one of the most important and influential books of the American theatre, laying out the theoretical foundation of the improvisational theatre movement. Second City --
which was founded by Spolin's son, Paul Sills -- is the most notable of the companies that exist because of Spolin and her work. Other Chicago theatres based on Spolin include i/O and the Annoyance Theatre, and such other celebrated companies as the Upright Citizens Brigade and the Groundlings also owe deep debts to Spolin. Add to this the THOUSANDS of other improv companies in the United States and around the world that can trace their beginnings to Spolin's work, and you're talking about a text whose impact on world theatre can only be guessed at. These are more than sufficient reasons to give Viola Spolin her due in the American Writers Museum, and we the undersigned so urge the Museum.
Update #5about a year ago
OK< we're at 652. Almost 2/3 of the way there. Again, if you can pass the link along to others in the community ...
Update #4about a year ago
This morning, we're more than halfway there. If everybody who has signed gets just one more person to sign, we'll be over the top. Passing along the URL and urging others in the community to join us will get this done. If it happens, maybe we can get them to throw a party in honor of her installation in Chicago and a lot of us can see each other.
Update #3about a year ago
We're now at 478. If more people shared the URL, I think we could zip home to 1000 in a few days. Your help would be much appreciated!
Update #2about a year ago
We're at 320, which is swell, but not quite a third of our target -- 1000. I know that this country is FILLED with improvisers, people whose lives have been enriched by work that began with Viola. It's not like I'm trying to raise money to build a statue or something. So, if you can share the link ... It should be that the more people who sign, the fast the word goes out. If everybody who has signed can get two other people to sign, we're in shouting distance of the goal!
Update #1about a year ago
We're up to 152 signers. I'd like to get to 1000 and send this on to the Museum. So please encourage friends to sign. Maybe, if the Museum gives way, we can get them to do a ceremony for the installation of the banner and turn out the improv community to celebrate. Good for our community, good for a museum I otherwise admire.
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