Saturday, July 19, 2014

My Director's show...

I've been doing the Directing Program for Second City for this past year.

We just wrapped up a years worth of classes.  Anne Libera has been our instructor and it's been awesome working with her.  I've learned a lot from her about directing and Second City.

Here's everyone in this year's program.
Anna, Stephanie, Jesse, Monica, Danny and myself.

Class is finished, but we're in the middle of presenting our final projects.  Our shows are every Friday and Saturday in the DeMaat Theater at Second City.

This is my show:

We've been rehearsing the show for since late April.

I have a wonderful cast who are fabulously talented.

We've done two shows and they've gone extremely well.  We have 3 more left on Fridays at 9pm in the DeMaat Theater.


Friday, July 18, 2014


I haven't written much lately because I haven't gone anywhere and I haven't had much of anything to say.

Well today, I guess,  I have something to say.

iO Theater is shuttering it's doors and moving to a new location. I've seen the new space and it's really magnificent. It's going to be a lot of fun to play there.

People have asked me if I'm sad iO is moving and I've said, "no, I'm not sentimental about things like that."

Today, for some reason, the sentimental feelings hit me.
If you're reading this blog, you probably know I wrote a book about my early days at iO (back when it was officially known as ImprovOlympic).  Besides being the place where I met my wife (the most important thing that ever happened to me), iO has had a colossal impact on my life.

If you I moved to Chicago in 1996 and lived on Southport and Irving Park because it was walking distance to iO.

I've been performing there for 18 years. My first team was Monkey Rocket. I was put on that team while I was in Level 2. My 5b team was Spoo.
Spoo ran for over a year in the Del Close Theater. Monkey Rocket didn't last as long. I think we were only together for 6 to 8 months.  That team was cut and I was placed on Deep Schwa.
 I've now been on Deep Schwa for 17 years.  This is our most recent picture:
My teachers at IO were Charna for Level 1, Kevin Mullaney for Level 2, Miles Stroth for Level 3 and 4, and then Del Close for Level 5 and 5b.  I was in Del's class 3 more times after that.  Later, I also took Level 2 again so I could take it with Susan Messing and had Liz Allen for another level.

Along the way, I also performed with a few other groups and a few other shows.  Shows like Sex Wars, Vader 66, Improv Fantasy League, Dinner For Six, several Jam teams, a few Halloween shows, a Christmas show I directed, a modern day Charlie Brown show, The Bruise, Pong,  Meta Five, Aphasia and a terrible poker show where we played poker and improvised at the same time.

I coached some wonderful teams.  Honeyslide was my first and I loved them dearly.  Ralphie's Rug produced some of the funniest people and funniest scenes I've ever seen.  Sturgis used to make me laugh so hard that I'd get headaches after rehearsal.  The Bruise was inspiring.  Uncle Elaine and Basic 8 were not iO teams, but were made up of students I taught at iO and both teams constantly produced awesome shows.  Chuckle Sandwich was astonishingly hilarious and would bring me pancakes in a ziplock bag.  Cook County Social Club was revolutionary and brilliant.  And, Switch Committee is boundlessly hysterical.

I began teaching at iO in 1998 and that responsibility allowed me to meet hundreds of people that cycled through the Training Center.  I also spent six years working at iO as the bookkeeper/house manager and during that time was "the guy who helped Charna make the iO schedule".

17 out of the 18 years that I've lived in Chicago, I've lived within walking distance to iO (That one brief year was spent in the Little Italy area by UIC) .

In those 18 years, I've seen hundreds upon hundreds of shows.  Met hundreds (probably thousands) of improvisors.  Performed in hundreds of shows.  And, most importantly, laughed at least a million times.

When I moved to Chicago, I had three friends.  1 of them moved to LA and is still one of my best friends.  The other two were kinda nuts and fell to the wayside.  I made new friends.  Lots of new friends.  I made enemies (especially when I made the iO schedule).  I had relationships.  I met my wife.  I produced.  I directed.  I performed.

It wasn't always rainbows and roses, but I'd prefer to think about the good things that the theater provided me.

When I was new and lonely, I walked to iO to watch shows and to make friends.  When I was tired from work, I still gathered up the energy to walk to iO.  When I was broken hearted, I walked to iO to laugh to forget about my sadness.  When I was happy, I walked to iO and shared any good news I had.  When there were blizzards, I bundled up and walked to iO.  When the heat hit 108 and knocked the power out in Wrigleyville, I walked to iO (where the power was still on for some reason).  When the Cubs lost in the playoffs in 1998, I walked to iO.  (same thing in 2007, 2008 and most crushingly, 2003. Also, the Bears in 2006.)   When I got married, after the ceremony, we walked to iO.  When I finished running the marathon, we walked to iO (slowly).  Back when I had no money and knew my student ID would allow me to get in to the show for free, I walked to iO. When terrorist brought down the World Trade Center in 2001, I walked to iO. When Del died, I walked to iO.

Good times or bad, iO's always been close by so I could go commiserate or celebrate with all the people inside.

Tonight, after finishing up some other work I had to do, I walked over to watch a show at iO on Clark and Addison for what might be my last time.  I was there early enough to grab something to eat next door at Salt n Pepper.  Like I have hundreds of times before, I ordered a cheeseburger with tater tots and a peanut butter milkshake.
Since I was by the window, I smiled and waved as all the improvisors walked by, on their way to classes or shows.

Not surprisingly, as my burger arrived, the person I've known the longest at iO walked by.  How many meals have Jason Chin and I eaten at Salt n Pepper before shows?
We talked and laughed for awhile and then went in and saw a stupendous show by The Improvised Shakespeare.  After it was over, I chatted with some folks and then walked home.

I have one more class to teach at 3541 this week and then start teaching at the new place on Monday.

It'll be thrilling to be at the new place and I'm excited to teach and perform there.  Deep Schwa will still be on Sunday nights and Aphasia is going to be doing a run with Switch Committee on Thursday late nights.

It's just a building and just an address and for an improvisor, home is where you make your next sweep edit, tag out or walk on...

...but it's a little sad to see the old place go.

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