Visionary instructor Josephine Forsberg brought improvisation to the masses through her school, Players Workshop (founded 1970)—the original independent school of Improvisation—teaching all comers the tenets of the art form as a better to way to create teams, communicate ideas, and live life.
Jo was a Shakespearean actress when she became an understudy with The Second City in its second year. She quickly became an indispensable part of the company, helping out with everything from accounting to assistant stage direction to starting the Touring Company and Children’s Theater. Like all Second City performers, Jo was placed in Viola Spolin’s improvisation classes and in time became her assistant.
“I believe that the skills of improvisation will improve a life.”
When Viola left, Jo took over teaching responsibilities for Second City and became an expert in improvisational theater techniques. This led to her opening Players Workshop, an official school of improvisation. Jo hired 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 your creative goal was Second City, Jo's school quickly became the place to study. Well-known alumni of her Players Workshop include Bill and Brian-Doyle Murray, Bonnie Hunt, Harold Ramis, Betty Thomas, Shelley Long, George Wendt, David Mamet, David Pasquesi, Robert Townsend, Amy Sedaris, and many more.
Jo continued to study new ideas and apply them to her classes. She studied philosophy and psychology, and became a group therapist. As Jo added expanded her curriculum, the workshops attracted people from all walks of life who wanted to experience Improvisation in a safe, non-judgmental learning environment. Lawyers and accountants, engineers and sales people, teachers and homemakers—they all found ways to use improvisation to inform their outlooks and improve their careers and lives.
In 1993, Forsberg retired from teaching, leaving Players Workshop to Linnea Forsberg. Meanwhile, Martin de Maat (Jo's nephew) was named creative director of the Second City Training Center, which grew by leaps and bounds and became a strong competitor to Players. By 2003, Players Workshop closed its doors.
In 2007, her old friend and student Bill Murray asked Jo to teach improv to the New York Giants—in hopes of giving them a competitive edge. At 86 years old and 14 years into retirement, Jo did just that. The NY Giants won the Super Bowl. Jo returned to teach the team again in 2008. [Wikipedia]
This new iteration of Players Workshop is dedicated to the memory of Jo Forsberg and her vision that improvisation is not just a theatrical exercise but a meaningful set of tools to be used throughout one's life
to bring discovery, creativity and positive support to the world.