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From Richard Schaal

Sparky,

In the opening chapter of my book in work, “Shadows of Space”, I say:
In 1933, at the age of 5, I entered the Chicago public school system’s kindergarten, and over the next 12 years I learned two (2) things:
 (1) that I was stupid and (2) that I was incapable of learning. 
It wasn’t until 1959 when I joined an improvisational workshop directed by Viola Spolin that I realized I was in the first day of my education. To free the intuitive was and is the goal of “theater games”.  

In "Back to Borneo," you have brought your genius, providing opportunities for all to experience, through a most remarkable performance of transformations. I have rarely felt what I experienced watching your show. I am encouraged that schools are, at long last, embracing the exposure of what this work is about. Thank you for being on the path. Perhaps I’ll see my intention of this truth get into schools everywhere. 

My honorary degree from the psychology dept. at U.S.C. (for two consecutive years) was an acknowledgement of the validity of natural knowledge, observation and experience! I have a notion that a taste of freedom will be all that is required by “Back to Borneo” and that it won’t take a college degree to understand IT !

With health, happiness, love and free self expression,

Dick Schaal
​[Richard Schaal was a key member of the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago in the 1960s. His film roles include appearances in "Slaughterhouse Five", "Once Bitten", and "The Russians Are Coming, The Russians Are Coming." Television credits include "I Dream of Jeannie", "The Rockford Files", and "The Mary Tyler Moore Show."] 
From Mary Ann Brandt

Paul “Sparky” Johnson is steeped in the theater. He is an actor, comedian, playwright, and director. Also, for the past twenty-five years he has been the head of the theater department at the University of Alberta (Augustana Campus) in Canada. 

Beyond the bullets on a resume, however, it is the work of Paul Sills [of Story Theater” fame] and of Sills’ mother, Viola Spolin [called the “mother of improvisational theater”], that guides him and inspires him. Throughout his performances, stage productions, classes, and workshops, Sparky seeks to pass on the legacy of Sills and Spolin and to spark transformation in the work and lives of his students, his audiences, and his fellow players. 

Sparky worked directly with Paul Sills for fifteen years and became his right hand man in Story Theater productions and Spolin theater game workshops. During this long association, Sparky and Sills explored the work of Viola Spolin together and worked to preserve many of her written works. When Sills was unable to run his intensive improvisation workshops in Door County Wisconsin, Sparky was recruited to take Sills’ place. 

It was in one of those Wisconsin intensive week-long workshops that I came to know Paul "Sparky" Johnson. I worked with Viola Spolin for more than twenty years and edited her seminal theater in education book, "Theater Games for the Classroom." In the Wisconsin workshop, I could see the closeness Sparky shared with Paul Sills and can attest to his thorough understanding of Viola Spolin’s work. Since that time I continue to work with Sparky in Spolin theater game workshops and whole-heartedly recommend his skills and deep knowledge of both Sills and Spolin.

This one-man show “Back to Borneo” which brings Paul Sills as the invisible/visible side-coach to events in Sparky’s life promises to be a profound and fascinating theater event. I look forward to being able to see this production when he brings it to the East Coast and hope you will be able to see it as well.

Mary Ann Brandt
​[Mary Ann Brandt, for more than 20 years, was Viola Spolin’s principal protégé for theater games in education.]