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Theater Workshop at Hull-House with Aretha Sills

Aretha Sills will lead a three-hour introductory workshop exploring the improvisational theater games of Viola Spolin. The workshop will focus on the groundbreaking exercises and concepts found in Spolin’s seminal book, Improvisation for the Theater. All are invited, and museum and theater educators are strongly encouraged to join and play.

Improvisational and Theater Games
No experience is necessary
9:00 AM Check-in with refreshments

Originator of theater games and mother of the modern improvisational theater movement, Viola Spolin’s legacy began at Hull-House. Born in Chicago, Spolin studied to be a social worker at Neva Boyd's Recreational Training School, and later created innovative theater games to teach drama to immigrants and children. Boyd’s theory of play and Progressive-era philosophies greatly influenced Spolin's work, which inspired her son Paul Sills, who was the founding director of the first improvisational theater companies in the United States, including Compass and The Second City. Chicago’s long tradition of ensemble work and community-centered theater can be traced directly back to Spolin and her legacy.


Aretha Sills is the granddaughter of Viola Spolin. She studied theater games for many years with her father, 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 and many other institutions and schools. She is the Associate Director of Sills/Spolin Theater Works and she directs The Predicament Players.

This program is a part of Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change (September 6, 2018 to July 28, 2019), a multidisciplinary exhibition that explores the Hull-House Social Settlement's influence on visual and performing arts in Chicago and beyond. Through historical and contemporary practices the exhibition explores: bookbinding, the origins of art therapy, ceramics, theater and performance. The exhibition features artworks and artifacts from the Museum and the Special Collections at the University of Illinois at Chicago—many of which have rarely, if ever, been publicly displayed. Participatory Arts is a part of Art Design Chicago, a city-wide initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art.

Participatory Arts: Crafting Social Change is part of Art Design Chicago, an initiative of the Terra Foundation for American Art exploring Chicago’s art and design legacy, with presenting partner The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation. Participatory Arts is funded by the Terra Foundation for American Art and The Richard H. Driehaus Foundation.

The Chicago Community Trust has also provided generous support.

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