Playwrights Theatre Club

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Playwrights Theatre Club
GenreSketch comedy
Date of premiere1953
LocationChicago, Illinois, United States
Creative team
Co-founderPaul Sills
Co-founderDavid Shepherd
Co-founderEugene Troobnick

The Playwright's Theatre Club was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1953 by Paul Sills, David Shepherd and Eugene Troobnick. The theatre was noted for its original treatment and productions of classic plays as well as premiering original works, and was accredited for the creation of The Compass Players and The Second City.[1]


Sills, Shepherd, and Troobnick[edit]

In 1953 Paul Sills, David Shepherd, and Eugene Troobnick founded the Playwrights Theatre Club in Chicago.[2] The theatre was noted for its bohemian treatment of classic plays as well as presenting and premiering original works.[3]

The theatre's first known production was Bertolt Brecht's "The Caucasian Chalk Circle." In only two years, the company presented close to 30 full productions. During the rehearsal period, the company members engaged in numerous improvisational theater games that were originally created by Sills' mother, Viola Spolin.[4]

The Playwright's Theatre Club led to the creation of the Compass Players and later The Second City.[1][3][4]

Compass Players[edit]

In 1955, the Playwrights Theatre Club was later renamed the Compass Players, concentrating on improvisational theater. Also founded by Shepherd and Sills, the Compass Players was the forerunner of The Second City.[5] Compass launched the careers of Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Jerry Stiller, Alan Alda, Alan Arkin, Barbara Harris, and Shelley Berman (to name a few) and started a revolution in the entertainment industry.[6][7]

Famous alum[edit]

Other members and participants of the Playwrights Theatre Club included Elaine May, Sheldon Patinkin, Rolf Forsberg, Mike Nichols, Joyce Piven, Josephine Forsberg, Ed Asner,[8] Barbara Harris, among others.[3]


  1. ^ a b Adler, Tony. "Hyde Park & Kenwood Issue: The Cradle of Chicago-Style Theater | Performing Arts Feature". Chicago Reader. Retrieved 2013-10-13.
  2. ^ The Second City Celebrates Playwrights Theatre Club’s 60th Anniversary, Second City, May 22, 2013.Retrieved February 8, 2019.
  3. ^ a b c Spiselman, Anne (June 17, 2020). "Hyde Park and the Chicago theater movement". Hyde Park Herald. No. Arts & Entertainment. Hyde Park Herald. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  4. ^ a b Doug, George (May 22, 2013). "Reunion for 60th birthday of Playwrights Theatre Club". Chicago Tribune. No. Entertainment. Tribune Company. Retrieved 21 February 2022.
  5. ^ The 50th anniversary of the founding of The Compass Players was celebrated in 2005 by a re-enactment of a Compess-like show by a group of students at the University of Chicago; see
  6. ^ See Stephen Kercher's book "Rebel With A Cause: Liberal Satire in Postwar America", University of Chicago Press, 2006. See also a review of this book by Warren Leming at
  7. ^ This formative time in the history of American improvisational theater is the subject matter of a 2011 documentary "Compass Cabaret '55; see and
  8. ^ Staff Writer (August 30, 2021). "Ed Asner, the early years". Chicago Tribune. No. Entertainment. Tribune. Retrieved 21 February 2022.