16th to 18th centuryImprovisations were first performed in the streets of Italy but was later used as a teaching tool in acting training and rehearsal. In the seventeenth century much of Europe was in a period of political and military strife, with the art of the stage in a precarious condition. People were quickly becoming less interested in the stage and the new art of opera, which had developed with surprising rapidity, was the most powerful rival of all.
Regular comedy in Italy was apparently about to become less popular when Carlo Goldoni appeared to bring it back to life. He wrote one hundred and sixty comedies, twenty of which rhyme. He is said to have written as many as sixteen pieces in one year. 20th centuryFrom the 18th to the beginning of the 20th century, improvisational theatre became less and less popular until two people re-energized and re-invented it into the art it is today-Viola Spolin and Keith Johnstone.
In the 1940s, 50s, and 60s,Viola Spolin developed improvisation exercises, explained in her book Improvisation For The Theater. This was the first book that gave specific techniques for learning to perform and teach improvisational theater. Many of the current “rules” of comedic improvisation were first actualized in Chicago in the late 1950s and early 1960s, first among The Compass Players group, which was directed by Paul Sills.
From most accounts, David Shepherd had the abstract view of the Compass Players, while Elaine May was most interested in the development of the establishment for its improvisations. Mike Nichols, Ted Flicker, and Del Close were her most frequent collaborators in this regard. When The Second City opened on December 16, 1959, directed by Paul Sills, his mother Viola Spolin began training new improvisers through a series of classes and exercises which became the most important of modern improvisation training. By the mid-1960s, Viola Spolin’s classes were handed over to her most skilled student, Jo Forsberg, who further developed Spolin’s methods into a one-year course, which eventually evolved into The Players Workshop, the first official school of improvisation in the USA. In this time, Forsberg trained many of the performers who went on to star on The Second City stage. Modern improvisational comedy, as it is practiced, falls mostly into two categories: short-form and long-form.
Short-form improv consists of short scenes usually constructed from a agreed game, structure, or idea driven by a suggestion. Many short-form games were first created by Viola Spolin based on her training from Neva Boyd. The short-form improv comedy television series Whose Line Is It Anyway? has made American and British viewers familiar with short-form.
Long-form improv performers create shows in which short scenes are often all related by story, characters, or themes. Long-form shows may take the form of an already existing type of theatre, for example a full-length play or Broadway-style musical such as Spontaneous Broadway. Long-form improvisation is especially performed in Chicago, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and The Harold, developed by ImprovOlympic, or IO, co-founder Del Close. Many long-form structures exist now.
Improv has improved over the years, to a point where it is now enjoyed all over the world. There are many improv comedy clubs in the US and Canada. It seems improv will always stay relevant because it is heavily influenced by popular culture, current events, and trends.
Improvisation has been proven to help people with disabilities learn better and easier.