Theodore J. Flicker, R.I.P.

…Not many people who are improvising today know of the importance of Theodore J. Flicker, which is a shame. In fact, among his other many accomplishments, he was the director of the St. Louis Compass Players, directing Del Close, Mike Nichols, Elaine May, Nancy Ponder, and the rest of the cast.

How important was he? Well, it was he and Elaine May who devised what are now known as the legendary Westminster Place Kitchen Rules, developed separately from Viola Spolin’s improv rules but just as important and influential.

After each performance of the St. Louis Compass, Ted and Elaine would sit down to analyze what worked, what didn’t, and how it could be improved. Then the group would rehearse and put the rules into action each night in front of an audience. The rules that Del taught, from “Yes and…” on down, all came about from the work of Ted and Elaine.

The list of his credits is very long (he co-created Barney Miller, for one). If you have a minute, imdb him and be impressed.

And now Theodore J. Flicker (as Del always referred to him) is gone. If you improvise, you owe him more than you probably know.