Compass Cabaret 55
The years was 1955. Joseph McCarthy and his House Committee on UnAmerican Activities. And a small group of students at the University of Chicago known as The Compass was creating what would eventually become modern improvisational theater. Compass helped spawn Chicago’s premiere improv venue, The Second City, preceding it by half a decade, as well as Saturday Night Live, which first aired 20 years after the Hyde Park group’s first performance. The Compass Theater was founded by David Shepherd and Paul Sills in 1955. The University of Chicago did not have a theater department at the time, and Sills was training actors in an improvisational style developed by his mother, Viola Spolin. Spolin created the improvisational games during the Great Depression, while working with poor children in Chicago.