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Daughter of Improv's First Family Launches Youth Theater Program in Studio City
Sills has been teaching Viola Spolin's improvisational theater method to actors, directors, and educators for almost twenty years but only recently decided to start a kids program. "My grandmother's theater games teach acting through play, and most kids aren't getting enough play and group interaction these days. Play helps them learn to work together, it teaches them about community, and the focus on problem solving helps children focus off stage as well. As my grandmother Viola said, 'Play is democratic!' Children need this right now. Plus, I have a five-year-old, and I want her to be raised playing theater games like I was."
The program offers two five-week children's classes, one for ages five to eight, and one for ages nine to thirteen. Classes start September 15 in Studio City. In the future, Sills hopes to offer teen classes and a variety of arts education classes.
Sills was brought up in the theater, attending rehearsals and workshops run by her father Paul, whose mother Viola created theater games and wrote the seminal acting text "Improvisation for the Theater" that launched the American improvisational theater movement. Paul Sills went on to found the first improvisational theater companies in the U.S., including Chicago's famed Second City. He created and directed the Tony-Award winning Broadway show Paul Sills' Story Theatre. "My father used to call improvisation the family business." says Aretha.
Aretha Sills had led workshops at Northwestern University, Stella Adler Studio of Acting, Sarah Lawrence College, and at institutions and festivals around the world. She has trained faculty from The Second City, The Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science (a program created by Alan Alda to teach scientists communications skills through improvisation and based on the work of Viola Spolin), Northwestern, DePaul Goodman, LAUSD, and many other schools. She gives talks about how improvisational theater emerged out of Progressive-
Information about the upcoming youth improvisation program can be found at https://www.violaspolin.org/
Interviews, quotes, and photos available on request.
Associate Director, Sills/Spolin Theater Work