In 1994, Titanic was founded in response to the improvisation climate on the Northwestern University campus. That year, over 200 people auditioned for the only long standing comedy troupe on campus. Founded by Mike Abdelsayed, Titanic's goal was to provide more opportunity for improvisation. The audition that year was simple: Abdelsayed asked if anyone on the fourth floor of his dorm wanted to be in an improv troupe. With the dorm's sponsorship, The Titanic Players started performing short from improvisation that year.
Short form improvisation is a series of 5 minute games each with its own little twist or gimmick.
In 1995, Titanic held their first audition. Some members of that year's cast, including Mike Abdelsayed, Macarthur Antigua, Eric Lindberg, David Asher, Lauren Bishop, Carrie Layne, and Liz Cackowski would graduate and establish successful careers at ImprovOlympic, Boom Chicago, Comedy Sportz, and Second City, in addition to careers writing for Saturday Night Live and Community. Titanic owes a debt of gratitude to this cast for establishing improv as a legitimate need on campus.
In the 1995-1996 school year, we had the pleasure of having Liz Cackowski's brother, Craig Cackowski, come in and try to teach us ImprovOlympic's signature long form piece, the Harold - in a single day. Despite being one of the most respected improvisers in Chicago at the time (who would later continue his career on MadTV and Community among other successes), Craig accepted the impossible task. We didn't learn the Harold that day, but we were all bitten by the long form bug.
Despite being one of the most respected improvisers in Chicago at the time (who would later continue his career on MadTV and Community among other successes), Craig accepted the impossible task. We didn't learn the Harold that day, but we were all bitten by the long form bug.
Long form improvisation is taking a single suggestion and doing at least 30 minutes of continuous, improvised scenes based on that suggestion.
In 1996, some members began training at ImprovOlympic, learning ImprovOlympic's signature piece, The Harold. Training under the infamous Del Close (God jest his soul), Liz Allen, and with the 6-year House Team Valhalla, Abdelsayed brought back long form improvisation and Titanic was never the same.
In 1997, to help Titanic ease into long form, a group of the 1996 cast performed on campus with members of ImprovOlympic, coached by EJ Peters.
In 1998, Titanic auditioned for their first long form group. Together for two years, and picking up a piano player mid-way through their career together, this cast formed a special bond that lasted far beyond their college careers and showed in their cohesive and endearing pieces on stage. They set the standard for all groups to follow. They were the first to perform long form on campus and the first to establish a national tour. Little known fact: They were the only Titanic team to be an improvOlympic team as a complete cast bearing the Titanic name! Titanic owes this cast a debt of gratitude for establishing Titanic as a long form group of superior quality on campus and beyond.
In 2000, Titanic auditioned for a new cast, a cast of extraordinary energy and flavor. Under the first new director since the group's inception, Justin Koh, this team was more quick witted, and introduced the elements of speed in a piece. In their second year together, under the direction of Gary Ashwal, and as the first House Team in Titanic history, they brought to campus the long form Musical. It was this year that Titanic shifted to two teams on campus: a learning Incubator team and an experienced House team. Titanic owes a debt of gratitude to Justin Koh for helping to conceive of the multiple group structure on campuses.
In 2001, the group exploded to include 3 teams and 25 people on campus. That year's incubator team, Big Texas, was responsible for establishing a strong foundation for Titanic to last on campus far into the future. Behind Peter McNerney, they established the current system of developing directors and assistant directors under the tutelage of professional improvisers. They also established the tradition of naming each new team in Titanic. Titanic owes a debt of gratitude to the cast of this year for bringing a structure to Titanic that included checks and balances, for uniting the 3 groups as if they were one, and for bringing The Tour back to Titanic.
In 2002, Abdelsayed returned to coach the newest incubator team. Dr. Flux. Taking free form to a new level, this group introduced Titanic to new performance techniques and new forms. With 4 groups on campus, an established training center, a system of training directors, and established connection to our alumni, it was this year that Titanic established itself as the 4 leveled organization we see today on every campus we exist.
In 2005, under the direction of our first Executive Producer, Lee Stark, Titanic formed their first Executive Board. Along with the help of senior directors Matt Sax and Kevin Kearney, Titanic established itself as an organized, respected institution on campus as well as off.
In 2007, Titanic expanded outside of the Northwestern University boundaries to start a sister group at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Titanic at Madison owes a lot of gratitude to Leah Cowen, who founded the Madison chapter. Only with her ambition was Titanic capable of expanding its vision to a national organization.
Also in 2007, Titanic's resident team from Northwestern University, team Old Tom Jar, won the CIF College Comedy Championship in a 4 round tournament! Pitted against the best teams in the nation and judged by professionals in the industry, Dan Foster, Katherine Palardy and Britt Lower, took home the trophy in front of a nationally-televised audience.
In 2008, we established Titanic at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana. Titanic owes a great debt to Eric Siegel, Eric Roth, Paul Casperson, and Zev Steinberg. With their help, Titanic was able to solidify their existence on campus.
In 2010, we took the first steps to expanding to the University of Minnesota, Indiana University, University of Illinois (Chicago), University of Florida, and University of California.
We have the most successful post graduate success rate in the industry. Our alumni have continued successful careers at CBS, NBC, The Office, Saturday Night Live, Reno 911!, Arrested Development, Community as well as national and international improv theatres, The Annoyance Theater, Boom! Chicago, ComedySportz, ImprovBoston, ImprovOlympic, The Magnet Theater, The SecondCity, Theater Sports, and Upright Citizen's Brigade Theater.
Of course, the best part is there is more to be written!