“I believe that the skills of improvisation will improve a life.”
Josephine Forsberg was the visionary instructor who brought improvisation to the masses through her school, Players Workshop (founded 1970). It was the original independent school of Improvisation, teaching all comers the tenets of improvisation as a better to way to create teams, communicate ideas, and live life.
Jo starting out as an actress. She became an understudy with The Second City in its second year, quickly becoming an indispensable part of the company — helping out with everything from accounting to assistant stage direction as well as starting the Touring Company and the Children’s Theater. As with all the performers at Second City, Jo was put in Viola Spolin’s improvisation classes and in time became her assistant. When Viola left, Jo took over teaching responsibilities for Second City, and became an expert in improvisational techniques for the theater. This led to the opening of an official school of improvisation called Players Workshop. Jo hired her daughter Linnea Forsberg and nephew Martin de Maat to teach alongside her. Later, Jo's son Eric Forsberg, Lee Houghton, Doug Voegtle, and David Murphy all became highly-regarded teachers at the school.
If you wanted to get into Second City, Players Workshop quickly became the place to study with well-known alumni such as Bill & Brian-Doyle Murray, Bonnie Hunt, Harold Ramis, Betty Thomas, Shelley Long, George Wendt, David Mamet, David Pasquesi, Robert Townsend, and Amy Sedaris.
Throughout her life, Jo was always learning new ideas and applying them to her classes. She studied philosophy and psychology, and eventually became a group therapist. As Jo added ideas to the classes, the workshops attracted people from all walks of life and professional disciplines who wanted to experience Improvisation in a safe, non-judgmental learning environment. Lawyers and accountants, engineers and salespeople, homemakers and teachers all found ways to use improvisation to inform their outlooks and improve their lives.
Forsberg retired from teaching in 1993, leaving Players Workshop to her daughter. Jo's nephew, Martin de Maat became the creative director of the Second City Training Center which was growing in leaps and bounds, offering a tremendous competition to Players Workshop. In 2003, Players Workshop closed its doors. In 2007, Jo was approached by her old friend and student Bill Murray to help teach the New York Giants improvisation, in the hopes of giving them a competitive edge. At 86 years old, and 14 years into retirement, Jo did just that. That year the NY Giants won the Super Bowl. Jo returned to teach the team again in 2008. [Wikipedia]
This new iteration of the Players Workshop is dedicated to the memory of Jo Forsberg and her vision that improvisation is not just a theater exercise but a meaningful set of tools to be used throughout one's life to bring discovery, creativity and positive support to the world.