Pioneers of Theatre Improvisation

What is Improv?

There are different forms of Improv. Improv is usually a session where a group of people engage with each other, in moments of spontaneity. Usually a story that is created as the session occurs (Viola Spolin’s Improv), or a story that creates the underlying theme for the session (Keith Johnstone’s Improv). These forms differ in intentions of the Improv, for entertainment or slight competition; the rules that differentiated one form from another; and the subjective or objective nature of it.

Who were Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone?


Viola Spolin was a big believer in learning through experience. Her philosophy behind improvisation established a momentum in America and the world, calling it Theatre Games, today we recognise it as Improv. Students learning her methods, would find themselves disengaged from self-expected norms, and encouraged to immerse into the original concepts of themselves, others and the circumstances provided. The outcome of an Improv was simply to friendly engage the flow of it as genuinely as possible, without judgement of self and others, thereby creating the story.

Spolin saw Improv as a journey that fostered new discovery, concepts and self-dedication. Through creating an environment that allowed people from different backgrounds and life experiences to collaborate and produce an outcome together.


Keith Johnstone’s form of Improv was known as Theatre Sports. His method in contrast to Spolin’s, was that of a competition-type of Improv, in teams and there were qualifying rules. Here the audience would decide the better Improv team, as the winner. And the process would require students to engage in slight objectivity, analysing and deciding the direction of the Improv’s outcome. A prior theme would be suggested before the session; the story unfolds within the the theme.

Check out upcoming Improvisation workshop here.


The difference between Spolin Games and Popular Improv. (2012). Schwartz, G. From: http://spolin.com/?p=1236

Why Improvisation Skills Are Important – And Beneficial for Kids. (2016). Giantleaps.co. From: http://www.giantleaps.co.nz/blog/676560

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