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Join us for TWO celebrations for 50 years of Mee-Ow. A mini-reunion on Saturday, October 7, 2023 at the Norris University Center and Deering Library in Evanston, Illinois. And a BIG reunion in April 2024. (Dates TBA). A big book of the complete history of the Mee-Ow Show is planned to be available in October, 2024! ore on the release later. The Mee-Ow Show was founded at Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois in 1974 by student creators & producers Paul Warshauer and Josh Lazar. The first original Mee-Ow Show, "Just in Time," was the first performance in the newly constructed McCormick Auditorium in Norris University Center. The show has been a staple of the Northwestern theatre and comedy scene ever since, still using some form of the cat as a logo each year.
According to Creator/Producer Paul Warshauer, he was approached by Josh Lazar in a hallway in the Foster Walker Dormitory in the fall of 1973 to assist him producing a new show on campus. Lazar had submitted material to the Waa-Mu Show and in his opinion, "they butchered it."
The original logo art was created by Rob Maciunas in 1973. Northwestern's mascot is a Wildcat so the logo was a tribute to the school's feline roots.
Lazar purchased a display ad entitled, "Had Enough of Waa-Mu?" in the October 8th, 1973 issue of The Daily Northwestern asking students to call Lazar or Warshauer for more information. The October 12th issue ran an announcement urging "All Those Creatively Inclined" to attend an informational meeting on October 17. After a few initial meetings, the group was recognized as a student organization by the Northwestern Student Government early in 1974.[ Additional funding was supplied by Patrick Goldstein then Chairman of the arts organization known as "Orgy of the Arts." With official recognition, an office, and a storage locker in the Norris Student Center, the group grew to include a set designer, Chris Rusch, a marketing and promotion Director, Terri Blum, a music director, George Lisle, a Surrealist-in-Residence, Joseph Radding, and the show’s first Director, Jeff Wilson. After the show ended, Mee-Ow was given a small garage off campus to store platforms and scenery to be used by other student organizations.
"Mee-Ow" was created in reaction to the "closed door policies" of the venerable Waa-Mu Show, Northwestern's long running annual musical revue. A new open door policy, based on the philosophy of Henry Miller, that "Everyman is an Artist." Submission of material began immediately and included poetry, original songs, comedy sketches and dance routines. These were reviewed by the producers and the director. An overarching theme of traveling through time was put in place based on the material submitted. The show featured traditional song and dance numbers, poetry, and sketch comedy. The cast and crew numbered 50 on stage and behind the scenes. The orchestra, consisting of 13 performers was placed on stage left and was directed by George Lisle. The first Mee-Ow Show ran April 12, 13 & 14, 1974. With a large cast and orchestra, the show ran over three hours but set the stage for what would become one of the longest running student created improvisational shows in history.
In 1975, after mixed reviews and political & financial issues, the Mee-Ow Show was re-conceived and directed by two of its cast members, Bill Nuss (class of 1976) and Eugene "Dusty" Kay (Class of 1976), as a musical comedy review with a smaller cast, taking its inspiration from Chicago's The Second City, Kentucky Fried Theatre and Monty Python. The dance numbers were choreographed by Wendy Taucher and Karen Pepper served as Music Director. Richard Kotrba served as "Comedy Coordinator," thus beginning the long legacy of comedy and improvisation as the basis for future shows.
The name of the show was almost changed to Improv '75, but instead the name and cat logo for Mee-Ow was maintained. Kay and Nuss co-directed the '75 and '76 versions.
According to cast member Jeff Lupetin, the first time audience suggestions were taken from the audience was 1977. Music has been a part of the show since 1974 in one form or another either with a show band, keyboardist or combo. According to cast member Rush Pearson, Mee-Ow featured "And The and the And Thes," the first ROCK band in 1982. Although performances were limited at first to the two venues in Norris University Center, (McCormick Auditorium and the Louis Room), additional performances started at Shanley Hall in 1982.
Mee-Ow grows more popular and music and the "band" become central to the core of the show.
The motto 1/3 sketch, 1/3 improv games. and 1/3 music takes hold. The shows now have TWO sets of performances. One in Shanley Hall and one in McCormick Auditorium in the Norris University Center.
The new millennia finds Mee-Ow more popular than ever. Record numbers of students audition Shows now occur in Shanley. the McCormick Auditorium and in the Louis Room on the second floor of the Norris University Center.
Mee-Ow cast continue the amazing traditions and some cast travel to LA, New Orleans and participate in improv "contests" against Yale and UCLA,. Trips by the cast to Los Angeles, the Bahamas and Europe become legendary!
A book, "Mee-Ow at 50" (working title) is approved by the Northwestern University Press! Authors Paul Warshauer and Joseph Radding are undertaking the massive task of writing the book featuring interviews, articles, programs, photos and other memorabilia from the show, The book is due to be published in fall of 2024 concluding a year filled with Mee-Ow celebrations.
A great number of Mee-Ow alumni have gone on to professional entertainment careers in film, television and to perform / teach improv at many of the country's top improv venues, such as Chicago's The Second City, Improv Olympic and the Annoyance Theater, New York's Magnet Theater, The P.I.T., The Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre, LA's Groundlings, iO WEST, and UCB West. Mee-Ow alumni also founded Boom Chicago in Amsterdam and created the popular TV series "Whose Line is it Anyway?"
Events at Norris University include meet and greet with members of cast from 1974- present. Joe Radding will present a retrospective of Mee=...
All day events including panel discussions, a restrospective onf Mee-Ow, and a start studded performance in McCormick Auditorium.
Roll out and book release party for Mee-Ow at 50! (working title). Authors Paul Warshauer and Joseph Radding and other celebrities available...
Visit the Northwestern University Archives in the Deering Library for a retrospective of items, scripts, and other memorabilia from 50 years...
An extensive archive of the Mee-Ow Show from its first show to the present is maintained in the Northwestern Archives in the Deering Library in Evanston, IL. A Exhibit begins in September 2023 and continues through the end of the year...
From the very beginning, the production teams have created posters and programs that were clever and played on "cat themes"
From the very beginning, the production teams have created posters and programs that were clever and utilized social or political themes.
Articles from various newspapers and media are kept in the archives.
For inquiries about this website or its contents, contact Paul Warshauer by sending a message below.
Arts Alliance and Mee-Ow Show share offices in the Norris University Center, 1999 Campus Dr, Evanston, Illinois 60201, United States