Second City Toronto's Education Company has been bringing the power of improv and comedy to students everywhere. Check out this article in Intelligencer on a recent visit to Bayside Secondary Schoold.
Tuesday, April 30, 2013
Friday, April 26, 2013
The Second City has been giving walking tours of Chicago's historic Old Town neighborhood for five years. When Margaret Hicks returned to Chicago from New York in 2001, she told herself "I will never take Chicago for granted again." She started as a docent for the Chicago Architecture Foundation and now uses her improv skills to give tours with her company Chicago Elevated. We talked to Margaret about comedy in Chicago, her tour and her connection with The Second City.
Tell us about the process of writing your book Chicago Comedy: A Fairly Serious History.
That was a process. It's funny, when we think of comedy in Chicago, for a lot of us improvisers, it usually starts with Second City. So my want was to go all the way back, to the beginning. When I give Second City tours I always ask myself and the tourees, "Why Chicago?" What is it about this city that was a perfect womb for The Second City? So I started there. I started with what entertainment and comedy looked like in 1837. Then through Vaudeville and radio and TV and that Chicago naturalness, it's always there, even in the beginning.
Tell us about some of the highlights of your Second City Neighborhood Tour.
So the highlights of the walking tour are varied, which is why it's such a neat tour. Old Town is one of our most historic neighborhoods. There are these houses that are from right after the fire. So there's this really historic feeling with St. Michael's church and the balloon-frame houses, but then there's Old Town Ale House and the gentrification of Wells Street. And everyone at Second City has been so great, so I have some really great gossip I let fly.
Are you doing any writing/acting/improvising right now?
I am writing a show with my friend Sabrina Harper! She's the Second City box office manager and my best friend! We're writing Sweetie Maude - it's an all-lesbian version of Sweeney Todd. It will go up in September. I'm really excited about that! And I'm constantly writing new tours and learning new information about the city and trying to figure out new ways to connect the information.
What plans do you have for the summer in Chicago?
My plans are to work. It's a busy season which I think is excellent. My winters tend to be sort of quiet and introspective, so it's fun to get out and work in the summer.
What are some of your other hobbies?
I go to the movies a lot. I like the movies. I read. I ride my bike and run a little. Hang out. Dinner. I'm really big on dinner.
Who are some of your biggest comedic influences?
My comedic influences were definitely all of Whose Line. That's when I thought "I can do that." Honestly? My high school friends. Stand-ups like Dennis Miller. Oh man, back in the day he was so good! Almost more the people around me, my family and friends were so funny, they sharpened my brain as I grew up.
What you’re not acting, writing or walking, what are you doing?
I'm probably at home with my pup and my husband. Probably eating dinner.
By Pamela Birchard
Wednesday, April 24, 2013
The Second City is proud to announce the return of "The Second City's Neighborhood Tour." This humorous and historic walking tour of Chicago's beautiful Old Town neighborhood will begin on Sunday, May 26th, 2013 at 10:30am and will continue every Sunday and Wednesday through Wednesday, October 30th, 2013.
Written by Margaret Hicks, an experienced Chicago tour guide and author of Chicago Comedy: A Fairly Serious History, "The Second City's Neighborhood Tour" both entertains and informs while highlighting the architecture, history and development of Old Town as well as various Second City alumni haunts and the stories that go with them.
The walking tour begins outside The Second City theatre on North Wells Street and winds its way through the historic Old Town neighborhood. The tour ends inside The Second City theatre and gives guests a chance to view the lobby photo display documenting over 53 years of comedy at The Second City.
Tickets for "The Second City's Neighborhood Tour" are $15.00 per person. They may be purchased directly from The Second City Box Office by phone at 312-337-3992 or online here. Tours can have up to fifteen guests and advanced reservations are recommended. The tours are every Sunday at 10:30am and Wednesday at 4:00pm and last from one hour and 30 minutes to two hours. The walking pace is suitable for all ages.
Additional days/times are available for groups -- call Group Sales at 312-664-4032 for more information or to request a special reservation for larger groups.
Tuesday, April 23, 2013
Andrew Thorp interviews Meg on her last day of a 2+ year internship before she goes off to get her Masters. Listen in for some of Meg's weirdest and most fun moments while interning and taking classes at The Second City Training Center. Stay tuned to see her 2-person show with fellow intern Katie Hughes!
Listen to the Podcast!
Congratulations to this year's Outer Critics Circle Nominations! Nominees include Second City alumni Andrea Martin for Featured Actress in a Musical in "Pippin" and Richard Kind for Featured Actor in a Play in "The Big Knife." Also, "Grace," directed by alum Dexter Bullard, has been nominated for Best Play. The winners will be announced May 13, and the annual awards ceremony will be held on May 23. Click here for more information.
Friday, April 19, 2013
Rachael Mason started improvising the second she could talk. She's been doing it for so long that it almost seems natural to her. She recently started as the The Second City Training Center's Head of Advanced Improvisation and loves teaching longer, more grounded improv. We talked with Rachael about Improv All-Stars, teaching and the training center.
When did you first start improvising?
Officially, In college in 1993. I was part of the Skidmore Ad-Liberal Artists and performed in The National College Comedy Festival. Both of which were founded by David Miner.
You're the official Head of Advanced Improvisation at the Second City Training Center. How'd you get that title?
I've worked tirelessly to hone my craft and voice. I ran the iO Training Center for 8 years writing curriculum and training teachers. At Second City I toured, wrote, and taught and helped to created the Advanced Improv curriculum under Jim Carlson. When he left I was thrilled to be interviewed for the position and even more excited to get the job.
Tell us about some of the classes/workshops you teach here.
I teach classes in Improv A-E, Writing 1-6, Musical Conservatory, and Advanced Improv. My most favorite classes to teach are Scenic Improv and Dramatic Improv, both of which deal with a more grounded type of scene work.
What's your favorite part about teaching?
I love watching someone get it. Comedy is such an abstract thing to try and convey so when someone gets a light bulb over their head it turns me on too. Gross.
How is Improv All-Stars at UP Comedy Club different from some other performances you've done?
The running order was masterfully crafted by Mick Napier. Its challenging to this old timer in the best way. There's fast and funny as well as long and grounded. There's music and games and scenes. I freakin' love it.
What's one piece of advice you could give any potential future student?
Don't beat yourself up over the last crappy scene you were in. It's already gone.
Who are some of your biggest comedic influences?
My parents, Lenny Bruce, Monty Python, George Carlin, Carol Burnett, Del Close, Mick Napier, Susan Messing.
When you're not performing or teaching, what are you doing?
I am playing with my young son... so I'm never not performing or teaching.
By Pamela Birchard
Thursday, April 18, 2013
Thursday, April 11, 2013
Sarah Shook has been all over The Second City this past year, performing as an understudy in Touring Company and holiday shows, and at UP Comedy Club in Improv Extravaganza Explosion and Four Girls (And A Guy). She's now a full-fledged member of the Touring Company, and is slated for a summer show at UP. We talked with Sarah about understudying, her love for pies and her biggest female influences.
What have you worked on with Second City, and what’s next for you?
The first things I really did for Second City were Twisty and BenchCo and then got hired to understudy the Touring Company. Understudying was awesome 'cause I got to do so many different shows and work with seasoned Second City folks as well as the up-and-comers like me. I ended up going in for two weeks once. And then a month later, I had to learn 3 different shows in one week. Understudying can be super stressful, but it's totally worth it.
You're a transplant of Maryland. How did you get into acting and improvising?
Oh man, I really had no intention of coming to Chicago. I wanted to move to New York with my best friend from home and she was the one that mentioned Chicago. I hated the idea. But I did theatre in college and I remember a girl in my class talking about Second City. And then one of my professors suggested I move here. I still wasn't convinced but the seed had been planted. I knew no one. I had never done improv and didn't even really know what Second City was. I've been here just over 3 years and I love it.
What are some of your hobbies?
Pie! I love baking pies, thinking of new recipes, reading about them. I'm a pie nerd. I used to bake a different pie every week and bring it to my conservatory class. I even have a website: crosspied.weebly.com. I'll move onto another hobby before I start to sound too pie-thetic. And there we go...
What movies, TV shows, etc. influence your comedic style?
Oh man, I don't really know. I have movies that I love, like What About Bob and Waitress.
What other comedians inspire you?
Oh geez, so many! Growing up I watched I Love Lucy like it was my job. I was a huge Nick at Nite nerd. So I love the classics Lucille Ball, Lily Tomlin, Gilda Radner. More recently, Jet Eveleth. I remember my conservatory teacher telling me to go watch her because she plays strong female characters. I think Jet is the only person in Chicago whose bits on stage have made me cry laughing. And of course the girls I play with. My friends who are out there just gettin' it done! Punam Patel, Claire Mulaney, Blair Beeken, Lily Sullivan. Seeing those girls work hard and kill it and knowing I work with them is inspiring.
When you're not acting, improvising or writing, what are you doing?
Probably talking to my cats. Or sitting on the couch with my roommate talking about my cats. I also like french films a lot or just good movies, ones that make you feel something. I LOVE being outside too. It's getting warm out, so you know I'll be trying to hit the beach for some beach volleyball. I just got a new bike. Trying new ice cream flavors. Baking pies. I like beers too, and karaoke!
By Pamela Birchard
Tuesday, April 9, 2013
The Second City Training Center will offer three levels of Viewpoints during upcoming Summer Immersion sessions. Used in rehearsal processes at Steppenwolf and The Gift Theatre, The Viewpoints are a physical approach towards listening and responsiveness in the moment and a method for creating original works of theatre. Each session is taught by Michael Patrick Thornton (TV's Private Practice) and Norm Holly (Conservatory Program Head), available from 10am-5pm; $550 each session.
• Viewpoints 1--This class is an introduction to the Viewpoints, a physical approach to performance/theatre-creation which fosters high responsiveness in the moment. Students will discover and utilize these alternative approaches to performance in order to become more active, listening, and contributory scene partners and artists.Available in Session 1. Prerequisite: Previous acting or improvisation experience is highly recommended.
• Viewpoints 2--"Compositional work": Using The Viewpoints to create both individual and group works of original theatre. Compositions will be created both in and outside the classroom with a focus on intentionality with regard to the use of space, time, and source material. Available in Session 2. Prerequisite: Viewpoints 1 or instructor approval.
• Viewpoints 3--Viewpoints in performance: The ensemble will create a group composition in class and then perform it in front of an audience. Act One of the performance consists of that group composition. Before intermission, the ensemble will conduct a Second City-style “pad set” with the audience in order to generate an ingredients list for a new composition. Intermission will be spent devising that composition based on the audience’s suggestions and then performing it for Act Two. Act Two’s composition will be discussed at the next class, re-performed, mashed-up with Act One, and re-performed as the new Act One in front of an audience, etc., etc., in order to create an ever-evolving work of art. Available in Session 3. Prerequisite: Viewpoints 2 or instructor approval.
Specialty Immersions are courses in a particular topic often with special guest instructors. The Specialty Immersions run concurrently with our regular Improv and Writing Immersions. These are available as half-day or full-day sessions depending on the course.
Specialty Immersions Tuition: Each course is priced individually. Check the course details for pricing.
Prerequisites: Each Specialty Immersion will have its own prerequisites or acceptance can be given by permission of the program head. Previous training will be considered toward the prerequisites. Contact Adult Program Coordinator Stephanie Gruender at firstname.lastname@example.org or call the Training Center at 312-664-3959 to obtain permission.
The Second City and The Onion, two of America's finest comedic institutions, have partnered to present a completely new writing program at The Second City Training Center's Chicago campus (1608 N. Wells, 4th Floor of Piper's Alley).
The first course offering, "Basic Writing with The Onion," a one-of-a-kind writing course taught by founding editor of The Onion, Scott Dikkers, which outlines The Onion's unique system of generating comedy ideas and stories, sold out in 30 minutes.
"The assets required of writers at The Second City and The Onion are very compatible - they need to be smart, funny and satirical," states Andrew Alexander, CEO/Executive Producer of The Second City. "While our writers take these assets and use improvisation as a tool to create content, The Onion has crafted their own unique system to produce ideas and stories. This system is a perfect complement to the core curriculum of our writing program."
"Aside from being America's Finest News Source, The Onion is the most literate, most entertaining, most influential and most profitable publication in the United States of America, including Texas," said Steve Hannah, CEO of The Onion. "Partnering with the Second City, we will--for the first time in recorded history--share the mysterious creative secrets that have made The Onion a three-time Nobel Prize winner.
"Plus, upon completion of the course, you will be much smarter, much cooler, more attractive to members of the opposite sex and immensely more interesting at parties. That alone is worth the price of tuition."
Additional levels will be added to this writing program including Intermediate and Advanced writing as well as a Master Class. The next term at The Second City Training Center is scheduled for June 24 - August 25. Early registration begins Friday, May 24, 2013. Visit www.SecondCity.com for more information.
Since its humble beginnings as a Madison, WI student-run newspaper in the late-'80s, The Onion has become the America's most recognizable and prominent source of satirical commentary. With daily coverage of politics, technology, sports, business, entertainment and more, theonion.com welcomes over 8 million unique monthly visitors.
The Second City
The Second City is the leading brand in improv-based sketch comedy. With theatres in Chicago and Toronto, Training Centers in those cities as well as Hollywood, 11 full time touring ensembles, thriving corporate communications and theatricals divisions as well as television and film operations, The Second City has been called "A Comedy Empire" by The New York Times.
Monday, April 8, 2013
The new show at The Second City's Mainstage Theater, "Let Them Eat Chaos" opened to rave reviews from the critics and earned a prestigious Jeff Recommendation.
Chris Jones of the Chicago Tribune gives "Let Them Eat Chaos" three stars (out of four) and says, "...very funny...This cast is excellent." Hedy Weiss of the Chicago Sun Times Recommends this production and states, "stylistic experimentation...infused with music and projections and literary conceits."
The designation of "Jeff Recommended" is given to a production when, after the opening night of its run, at least ONE ELEMENT of the show was deemed excellent by the opening night judges of the Joseph Jefferson Committee. The entire production is then eligible for nomination for awards at the end of the season.
Tuesday, April 2, 2013
Celebrating their 15th anniversary, this year's Festival is their largest yet with more than 150 teams in over 90 shows on 20 different stages. The Second City is excited to host 3 great shows from the Chicago Improv Festival starting this week.
Tuesday, April 2, 8pm
Headliners: Lucas Neff & Craig Cackowski
Opening Act - Virgin Daiquiri
Second City e.t.c stage
Wednesday, April 3, 8pm
Headliners: Scott Adsit & Jet Eveleth
Opening Act - Cook County Social Club
Second City e.t.c. stage
Sunday, April 7, 8pm
Headliners: 30 Rock show with Scott Adsitt, John Lutz & Kay Cannon
Opening Act - Improvised Shakespeare Co.
UP Comedy Club
Tickets to all shows can be purchased by calling 312-337-3392 or online at secondcity.com
One of the perks of being on The Second City Touring Company is travelling all over the country. Chelsea Devantez hates travelling. She says she gets severe panic attacks on flights. But somehow she makes it work. Because she loves being on the road with Second City. She tours for the satisfaction of those two hours spent on stage. And of course, her castmates. "Every single person on my company is just the best. They are all such good people, who are smart, collected and hilarious. I feel really lucky to tour with them," she says. We talked to Chelsea about how she got into comedy, what inspires her and of course, her best friend.
How is performing Improv All-Stars at UP Comedy Club different for you than a Touring Company show?
Well our TourCo shows are 90-percent scripted and we always perform with the same close knit cast, while the All-Stars are completely improvised and the cast is rotating. But some of my favorite improvised pieces ever are in the All-Stars show: a slow, patient 7-minute improv scene and an improvised musical.
Tell us about your new pilot, Stupid Bitch Syndrome.
We just launched it two weeks ago! Here’s the basic pitch: Blue Ivy Carter, daughter of Beyonce and Jay-Z, travels from the future to change the ways of two emotionally destructive, busted best friends in order to save the world. Tawny Newsome, who is on The Second City mainstage, plays Blue Ivy and she's incredible in it. There are dozens of moments in the series that came from our actual lives.
How has going through the Chicago improv world with your best friend helped you succeed?
I've been so lucky to go through the comedy scene with Emily Walker. We met in our level 1 improv class, we did our first job for Second City performing on a cruise ship together and then got touring companies within months and now we are roommates. The business is brutal, sometimes in very subtle ways, but Emily and I keep each other strong; we pick each other up when we are failing and ugly-crying, we are front row when the other is succeeding, we're just always at each other's side. The best blackout I wrote this year happened because I told Emily I had an idea that would never work. So she starts acting it out in front of me, and I'd throw out the lines and she'd walk across the kitchen just trying them on, tinkering with it until it was perfect. Our friendship is insane because as humans in the real world we are opposites, but as comedians we are so similar it’s haunting. Watching tape of us improvising you’ll see us make the exact same joke at the same time, we sigh together, laugh at the same time, we both take the stage like tornados. We have other eerie similarities too.
On your blog, you have a lot of videos of you singing. Tell us about some of the songs you write and perform.
I would give anything to play an instrument. Andy Miara in the comedy studies program said something about being a blue collar comedian in the sense of – make it work, find a way. So I started finding free loops online and borrowing unlicensed stuff and piecing music together on Garage Band.
What are some of your hobbies?
Forcing strangers to move past small talk quickly. Seeing really shitty movies drunk. Reading business books -- I love them, they are self help books without the bullshit. And Zumba, I’m a certified instructor and only slightly ashamed.
What comedians inspire you?
I saw Amy Poehler in a lot of Asssssscat shows when I was in school in New York. That show is what got me into comedy. She is so strong onstage and also really playful. She makes really smart, strong moves but is having so much fun at every moment. Stand-up comedian Maria Bamford is my idol.
When you’re not acting, improvising or writing, what are you doing?
I watch shows like Dexter, Downton Abbey or the Bachelor, just ‘cause they are the ones where my brain turns off, there’s no analyzing of structure or jokes. I'll go dancing with friends, brunches, or skype with friends who are far away like my other bestie Jo Feldman. And I often sit with Emily in the kitchen just bullshitting and covering our nails in glitter.
By Pamela Birchard
Monday, April 1, 2013
Check out Andrew Alexander in The Grid talking about pranks and the state of modern comedy. Read it at The Grid.
"Why is this study so important?" this is a question we are asked often at the Training Centre. Whether or not you come to us because you want to be an actor or because you just want to improve your social skills, the importance of improv comes from the philosophy of "Yes and". Everyone fits in here and offers of all kinds are meant to be accepted. It is a happy place where everyone can agree and learn to accept each others offers. As former Second City Chicago Artistic Director Martin De Maat says "Greet everything with 'yes,and...'" "Make statements instead of putting the burden on others with questions." "Stay in the present, as opposed to focusing on the past or future." and "The fun is always on the other side of a yes." People come to The Second City Training Centre to live a more positive lifestyle and we are happy to be a part of it.
The Second City Training Center is Calling Stand-up Comics for April 19th Showcase in Donny's Skybox
Attention all stand-up comics who have ever taken a class (ANY class in ANY program) at The Second City Training Center:
The Second City Training Center is accepting applications to perform at The SCTC Rapid-Fire Stand-Up Showcase.
This one-time event will take place on Friday, April 19th, 2013, at 11pm in the Skybox Theatre. It'll be a short show -- no more than 50 minutes. Tickets will be free.
We are seeking applicants who would like to perform a short set at the show. Set length will likely be 2.5 minutes. (We will also have two headliners -- also SCTC alumni -- who will do 7-minute sets, but they are already booked. You can only apply to do a short set.)
You can apply here. FYI, here's the info that the application form will ask you for:
• Your first and last name
• Your stage name if it is different
• One-paragraph performer's bio and/or one-paragraph description of what you've done stand-up wise
• One-paragraph description of classes/programs you've taken at the SCTC
• (Optional) Link to a video of you doing stand-up. Even if the production quality is not high, if you've got decent video, send it so we can see you doing stand-up.
We are accepting applications now, and will stop accepting applications at 12 noon on Wednesday, April 10th. Note that we only have a small number of slots available. We will e-mail ALL applicants with our decisions, by 12 noon on Friday, April 12th. If you have questions, please email email@example.com. Please use subject line "Rapid-Fire Showcase" in your email.