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Our Story

The Power of Piven Theatre Workshop and the Piven Training Technique



For over forty years, Piven Theatre Workshop has helped thousands of students celebrate play while finding their unique creative voice through the study of improvisation, theatre games, scene study, and story theatre. Students at Piven discover the value of improvisational thinking, the training of impulse and instincts, the power of truth and honesty in performance, and the importance of effective communication skills.

These goals are achieved through the Piven Training Technique: a combination of improvisation exercises and theatre games designed to hone the actor’s skills. We like to compare the improvisation we use in an actor’s training to the weights & machines an athlete uses in their training. At Piven, actors are building muscles—creative muscles necessary to succeed once handed a script and put on a stage with other actors. The Piven Training Technique draws heavily on the work of Viola Spolin, the creator of the Theatre Games system as well as Byrne and Joyce Piven’s own work stemming from their collaboration with Paul Sills and the creation of Second City.

The Piven Training Technique also focuses heavily on the value of the ensemble, and the value of artistic collaboration. Learning the value of self-expression while still maintaining a responsibility to the group, each artist develops an understanding of themselves as a unique and valuable part of the greater whole. We have found that this combination of self expression and group responsibility leads to actors who are not only unique human beings, but are also flexible, adventurous, and gracious members of a team.

In the words of Co-Founder and Artistic Director Emeritus Joyce Piven:

“We are deeply indebted to Viola Spolin and Paul Sills for their work in theatre games and story theatre as the jumping-off place for our own practice. We also drew inspiration from the work of Uta Hagen, Etienne Decroux and Mira Rostova, teaching artists [Co-founder Byrne Piven and I] studied with while in New York. Our approach to acting brings together all these various strains – theatre games, story theatre, Mime and the Stanislavski Method.”

Want to learn more about Joyce and Byrne’s creative process and the inspirations behind the birth of the Piven Technique? Read Joyce and long-time instructor Susan Applebaum’s book here.

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