TACIT was founded in the mid-1980's, but founding TACIT director Shirley Marneus was with the group since before the beginning. She recalled, "I began doing theater with the students in 1974, about 10 years before the program was officially started. The students learned that I had a degree in directing, that I had been at the studios, and that I had left NBC, and asked me to help." Shirley believed that the overall mission of TACIT is one of education. According to her, "Theater has a didactic purpose as well as an entertainment purpose, and part of that is to familiarize people with essentially 3,000 years of theatrical literature."
Her choice of repertoire for TACIT reflected this core belief. In three consecutive seasons, performances ranged from ancient Greek drama (The Trojan Women) to Shakespeare (Richard III, The Merchant of Venice, Othello) to 20th Century philosophical explorations of Reality and Illusion (Six Characters in Search of an Author).
When asked what she hoped to accomplish with TACIT, Shirley was quick to answer, "I want them to have something that, when they leave, they can do the rest of their lives." She pointed out numerous alumni who have gone on to professional entertainment careers, despite the science and engineering focus of Caltech.
Shirley earned a bachelor's degree from San Jose State University in 1959 and a master's degree from Iowa State University of Iowa in 1962. Before joining the staff at Caltech, she worked for the Pasadena Playhouse and NBC's Jack Benny Show.
Shirley passed away on January 15, 2020.