Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Compass

David Shepherd came from east Coast money, and frustrated with his bourgeois upbringing moved to Chicago where he yearned to break the shackles of "European-dominated" theater. Teaming up with Paul Sills, they formed a cabaret revue in the back room of a bar near the University of Chicago. Sills, mentoring under his mother Viola Spolin (one of the few notable mother-son working relationships in the history of, well, history) developed a series of improvised theater games, which became the cornerstone of the production.

Shepherd wanted to present a modern version of The Living Newspaper, creating scenarios about every life from the paper and fleshing them out on stage utilizing improv techniques. In order to pad the show, however, the young performers of what became know as The Compass (1955-1958) began taking audience suggestions and winging it, creating wildly inventive scenes using the same techniques.

Original memebers included Elaine May, Mike Nichols, Severn Darden, Shelly Berman and Barbara Harris, among others. More on this soon.

Source: Wikipedia


  1. I look forward to reading more! A quick correction, Spolin developed the theater games but Sills certainly explored and some would say popularized them. He also encouraged his mother to put her discoveries in a book.

  2. You know, I meant that she developed the games and he utilized them in this work, but it came out wrong in my final edit. Thanks for clearing that up!