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Shepherd, David, 1924-2018



  • Existence: 1924 - 2018

David Gwynne Shepherd was born October 10, 1924 in New York City to parents William and Cetty. Shepherd attended Phillips Exeter Academy and subsequently matriculated to Harvard University, where he earned an A.B. in English in 1948. During his undergraduate education, he served in the armed forces during the final two years of World War II. Before moving to Chicago, Shepherd earned an M.A. in theater history from Columbia, received a Fulbright scholarship to study in France, and lived in India while teaching English at the University of Bombay. Following his travels, Shepherd arrived in Chicago where he soon met Viola Spolin and her son Paul Sills, with whom he founded the Playwrights Theatre Club in 1953. Shepherd and Sills embraced an improvisational model in their second venture—the Compass Players, founded in 1955. Other notable early members of the Players included Barbara Harris, Elaine May, Jerry Stiller, Shelley Berman, Alan Alda, and Alan Arkin. Subsequent improv ventures include the non-profit Group Creativity Projects and the ImprovOlympic, both founded in 1972. Shepherd continued to teach and develop improv formats such as Life-Play following his move to Massachusetts. He died on December 17, 2018.

Found in 1 Collection or Record:

Viola Spolin Papers

Identifier: MS155
Abstract Viola Spolin has been called the "high priestess of improvisational theatre".  Born in Chicago in 1906, Spolin is best known as the creator of theater games, originally created as a series of exercises to aid students in the study of drama.  In 1955, Spolin conducted workshops for the Playwrights Theater Club, and later at the Compass Theater.  In 1960 she began running improvisation workshops for the cast of Second City.  As an outgrowth of her work with Second City, Spolin published...
Dates: 1925-2003; Other: Date acquired: 03/01/2010