A Life in Theater (II)

After being kicked out of my Shakespeare class for moonlighting in improvisation, I enjoyed my time with The Groundlings, and later, by their new name: Gotham City Improv.  The classes were a lot of fun and the students very talented.

One thing I realized in my improvisation classes and workshops is that I had a negative bent at times: when in an improv once, the instructor stopped me and said that I killed the scene by not saying, “…yes, and…”.  She said it was vital in an improv scene that one almost always answer in the affirmative to keep the scene rolling forward.

After The Groundlings and Gotham City Improv, I was privileged to take a class from Paul Sills.  Mr. Sills was one of the founders of Chicago’s famed Second City theater company, and his mom, Viola Spolin, was an innovator who wrote a book called Theater Games that helped a lot of actors re-learn the childlike ability to play; and thereby act more effectively.

I got to interview with Mr. Sills when he was about 60 and I about 22.  He was very enigmatic and very creative.  At times the class seemed a bit “Emperors New Clothes” in that the teaching was unclear at times, but in fact, he stretched our imaginations and sparked our creative consciousness; he did not want to spoon feed us technique, but to get us to do on our own.

At the time I started the acting studies, I also began to work out at a Jack La Lanne health club in Manhattan, do pull-ups on building scaffolding’s, and to do Alexander Technique, a method developed originally to help an actor recover his voice, but now a way of improving one’s movement and awareness.

(end of part two)


(Paul Sills; 1927-2008)


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