Viola Spolin: Self Extension vs. Audience Approval

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Viola Spolin: Self Extension vs. Audience Approval

Postby Spots » March 8th, 2012, 1:49 pm

This is such a wonderful clip of Viola Spolin. Her techniques were used in the founding of the Compass Players & eventually Second City via her son Paul Sills. She is basically the mother of improv warmups.
By playing the game the players learn the skill, keeping their attention on the focus of the game, rather than falling into self-consciousness or trying to think up good ideas, from an intellectual source. The intention of giving the actor something on which to focus is to help them to be in the present moment, like a mantra in meditation. In this playful, active state the player gets flashes of intuitive, inspired choices that come spontaneously. The focus of the game keeps the mind busy in the moment of creating or playing, rather than being in the mind pre-planning, comparing or judging their choices in the improvisation.


The thing I love about this video is how she reinforces the idea of self extension.

A fuse blew as soon as I heard her say this. Because I've been trying to put my finger on it for months. This is the argument of style that's always eluded me. You can either focus on earning approval --and stunt your growth because you are focused on external approval. Or you can focus on self extension, and let the audience come along for the ride as you grow.

The argument to make here is whether or not focusing on the audience actually earns the audience's approval. I say no it doesn't. That's not a causal relationship. I say give yourself approval & the audience will inherently approve along with you.

Certainly use the audience's approval as a tool to find what you love about the scene. The audience is like a metal detector that beeps when you are close to greatness. They are not however the end all be all. The audience is temporal. Transient. They can't tell you what will make you a better player next week next month or next year. Self extension is the why. Self extension is the end all be all.

"The treasure house of the individual is inexhaustible. Absolutely inexhaustible." Follow the individual to greatness. Follow self.
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