About Story Theatre

Story Theatre is a different kind of play. Which makes sense, because what it inspired is a different kind of art form.

It may surprise you to know that Paul Sills' Story Theatre is responsible for the birth of what we know as Improv Comedy. Once you know that, you know why I have wanted to direct this play for years. Sills was one of the co-founders of Second City, the epicenter of comedy in the United States for over half a century. Their list of alumni is filled with all the people that bring us laughter: Gilda Radner, Martin Short, Joan Rivers, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis, Keegan Michael-Key, Chris Farley, Eugene Levy, and Alan Arkin.

The list literally goes on for decades. The light and joy that Second City has brought to all of our lives is immeasurable. To paraphrase a sign on every AirBNB wall: without Laughter, how can we Live and Love?

Sills also had a very special weapon when developing Story Theatre: his mom, the great Viola Spolin. This is where the birth of improv comedy comes in. Spolin is one of the greatest theatre directors and educators in the 3,000 year history of the art form. Her book Theatre Games revolutionized children's theatre and brought about the world of improv comedy. While rehearsing Story Theatre, Sills used his mother's techniques to train his actors, eventually leading to a Tony Award-winning performance and the birth of a new genre of theatre, also called Story Theatre.

The concept is fairly simple. Take a story, in the case of our production, a Grimm Brothers’ tale or a fable from Aesop, and have the actors play both narrator and character. We break the fourth-wall throughout, because story-telling is an inherently intimate experience. We are talking to you. We are bringing you into our story at every turn. Your reaction is part of our story. I tell all of my students that the very definition of the word “theatre” is audience-based. It comes from the Greek word for “a place of seeing,” meaning you, the audience, are the foundation on which we build this entire art form. It makes sense to me to perform a play like Story Theatre as the very first play I direct at Tusculum University, because I want to build my new foundation on you, the audience.

We have a lot to be grateful for here at Tusculum. The Tusculum Young Actors Studio is, as far as I can tell, the longest-running college-hosted free children's theatre program in the country, and this year we have over 60 participants, ages 8-18, meeting every Monday to learn about theatre. We have active theatre majors who get to act, direct, stage manage, and even write plays. And most importantly, we have you. I am honored to be the new Arts Outreach Director here at Tusculum University. I know the great responsibilities and traditions I take on with that title, and I hope you all will join me as we celebrate the world of stories and theatre.

Tusculum University

Theatre-at-Tusculum aims to provide professional-quality theatre events at affordable prices. Our productions are presented by professional theatre artists, students studying the art, and talented members from our community. The 2023-2024 season includes The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, Story Theatre by Paul Sills, & Newsies by Bob Tzudiker and Noni White. Click here for dates & ticket prices.