Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lauren Ash to leave Mainstage

Lauren Ash has tentatively set April 13th as her last night on Second City Mainstage.

It comes just a few short days after Brad Morris bid farewell on the stage.

She will be missed.

Friday, March 26, 2010

In the news....

Second City producer Kelly Leonard had a piece featured in the Chicago Tribune.
Here's another matter I could use your help on: My TiVo is convinced that my season passes for "30 Rock" and "Frontline" must mean that I would enjoy Spanish language reruns of "The Real Housewives of Orange County." It doesn't matter how many thumbs down I press, when I come home tonight, my suggestion list will be dominated by shows I never watch in a language I don't speak. If you could pop on the phone with the folks from TiVo, I'd appreciate it. Every time I call, I'm on hold for two hours.

Lastly, baseball's Opening Day is less than two weeks away. I try not to care. Really, I try. But I and millions of others are about to have their summers ruined when the Cubs decide to collapse and give us another year of utter futility. Can you please make the Cubs win the World Series this year? I'm pretty sure you would have broad bipartisan support on this one.
Go read the full article. It's hilarious.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Second City opens new Laguna show

This past weekend, Second City opened a new show in Laguna where they skewer Orange County. The name of the customized revue is The Second City: Can You Be More Pacific. It's playing at The Laguna Playhouse until April 11, 2010.

Here's excerpts from a review.
Thanks to the fictional O.C. as well as the addictive scandaliciousness of The Real Housewives and MTV's Laguna Beach franchises, Orange County was put on the map as a breeding ground for privileged excess (oh, the drama!). While CAN YOU BE MORE PACIFIC? does touch on a few things specific to Laguna Beach life itself, they more or less point a funny, endearingly judgmental finger on the county as a whole that used to be the home of millions of orange groves before Walt came in up north, and the upwardly mobile staked their claim parts Southward. (Don't worry, the not-so-rich enclaves of Fullerton and Santa Ana are made fun of too).

The Chicago-based six-member troupe in this particular show—comprised of (in alphabetical order) Frank Caeti, Craig Cackowski, Molly Erdman, Brian Gallivan, Niki Lindgren, and Claudia Michelle Wallace—are not only amusing with wit, brashness and charm, they are also quite wonderful stage actors/singers (although, poor alto Wallace is not served consistently well by the collective troupe's song keys). This remarkable feat from comics is not too much of a bombshell considering their training ground produced some of the most well-known, well-trained stage and TV performers around. Everyone from Bill Murray, Rick Moranis and Dan Aykroyd, to Catharine O'Hara, Amy Sedaris, and Bonnie Hunt have honed their skills here, and almost every player on Saturday Night Live (including Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, arguably two of the funniest women today) got their start here.[...]

The central idea here is to let a few out-of-towners shine a light in the silly little things that make O.C. a unique place. Thanks to Marc Warzecha's direction of a script he co-wrote with Andy Cobb, and six brilliant improv hams, this "outsider's" look into life in the O.C. isn't so much a parody but a reverently humorous tribute.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Morris' last night

Brad Morris has set this upcoming Sunday, March 21, 2010, as his last night on mainstage.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Katie Rich talks improv

Katie Rich was interviewed by the Daily Cardinal. In addition to being a member of BlueCo (Second City Touring Company), Katie can be seen at IO on Wednesday nights, performing the Harold with Carl and the Passions.
“I think Second City’s staying power is that it finds a way to reinvent itself while still staying true to its roots,” explains Katie Rich, a member of Second City’s touring company.

“Our shows are organic, always in flux and we’re willing to change so much, it’s never going to get old.”[...]

Although the comedy of Second City draws in fans from all age groups, Rich is confident college students will be particularly attracted to the show. Because they are familiar with and fond of the humor in shows like “The Colbert Report” and “The Daily Show,” she expects students to enjoy Second City’s similar satire on political and social issues.

“Having grown up with The Onion and Jon Stewart, I think college kids are so very well versed in satire and irony. [Our] style itself is perfect for college kids,” said Rich.[...]

“We actually have a scene from the first ever Second City review that Alan Arkin was in,” Rich said. “It’s all archived material.”

This is not to say, however, that the show does not make room for some improv. Weaved throughout the archived sketches are chances for the cast to improvise, something Rich describes as providing “more fun for us.”

Traditional shows put on at Second City’s Chicago main stage often include humor meant specifically to amuse the city’s natives, whether this means mocking Cubs fans or taking a jab at a lowly Chicago suburb. However, the touring show has been adapted to appease its national audience. But as Rich explains, it cannot fully avoid mentioning its hometown.

“We’re so proud of it,” said Rich. “There’s always going to be some nod to our roots.”

But regardless of whether you live in the birthplace of Second City, the Badger State or anywhere else, everyone could use a laugh these days. Comedy, specifically this Friday’s Second City performance, can help to supply this much-needed laughter.

“I think in some ways with everything that’s going on sometimes laughing is the only thing that makes sense,” explains Rich. “Sometimes comedy is the best way to make heads or tails of a situation.”

Dana Quercioli on living the dream

Dana Quercioli talks about living her dream with Second City.
After getting her start in Cleveland, including acting at Lakeland Community Theatre, as well as with Cabaret Dada and the now-defunct The Second City Cleveland, Quercioli moved to Chicago in 2003 where she eventually joined the famed comedy troupe. In fact, she’ll be on stage when The Second City 50th Anniversary Tour comes through Cleveland for a Saturday show at the Ohio Theatre.

“My focus was always I wanted to be an actor, but also I wanted to be a comedian, so Second City has given me both, which is amazing,” said Quercioli, a 1998 West Geauga High School graduate.

“I’m really grateful for that. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to be working in television. I auditioned for ‘Saturday Night Live’ last year, and I’m hoping it’s something I get to do again. I want to write for television and movies. Actually, Tina Fey’s career path is pretty ideal starting off as a writer on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ becoming head writer, building up a solid reputation and finally getting her own show [‘30 Rock’] and acting on that show.”[...]

But what exactly is happening on The Second City 50th Anniversary Tour?

“We do sketch and improvisation,” Quercioli said. “Some of the scenes are original to our company, some are from the archives and some of them are improvised. Right now, they want us to do mostly archival scenes from the 50th anniversary because it’s such a momentous thing for us. So we’ll be doing stuff that’s been written by Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch and Dan Castellaneta, the voice of Homer Simpson. There are so many amazing scenes to pull from. It’s like shooting fish in a barrel.”

For some people attending The Second City show, the expectation may be similar to seeing an episode of “Saturday Night Live,” sans live music. Quercioli points out that’s not the case.

“Here’s the thing about ‘Saturday Night Live’: The stuff they put up they have a week to write, and it’s 50/50,” Quercioli said. “You never know what you’ll get. I know because I have friends who write for that show. But with Second City, the material we’re doing is tried and true. This is stuff that has been done by some of the greatest comedians of our time. And, really, it’s a high success ratio as far as the material is concerned. One of the things that Second City is known for is Midwestern sensibilities. So it’s not snooty; it’s not overly pretentious. It speaks to a lot of people.”

TJ Shanoff talks improv

TJ Shanoff spoke to the Plain Dealer last week before Second City's TourCo performed this past weekend.
"You'd have to be a real idiot to argue against the point that there'd be no 'Saturday Night Live' without Second City," said T.J. Shanoff.

Of course, Shanoff might be a little biased. He's been with the seminal comedic company since 1997 and is the director behind "The Second City 50th Anniversary Tour," which stops at PlayhouseSquare's Ohio Theatre at 8 p.m. Saturday.

The director culled 50 years of SC sketches to put together Saturday's show, which features two acts of semiscripted material and a final totally improvised third act.

"Second City over the last 25 years really extended its reach and touches almost every form of comedy," Shanoff said in a call to his Chicagoland home.

"Improv used to be a theatrical exercise, and Second City has helped make [it] a viable form for performers. Chicago has many improv theaters, Cleveland had a Second City for a while. There are comedy and improv groups in almost every college around the country, and I don't believe it's presumptuous or misleading to say that none of that would have occurred without Second City leading the way.

"It's not just a famous comedy theater. It's laid the groundwork for making sketch comedy and improv acceptable," he insisted.[...]

"If you look at what's going on with NBC right now, with shows like '30 Rock' and 'Parks and Recreation' and the American 'Office,' these are either created or written by or have performers who got their start at Second City," Shanoff said.

Shanoff points to "30 Rock" star Tina Fey as an example. He calls her the quintessential Second City performer. She was part of the 1996 Chicago Mainstage troupe.

The key there is "part of the troupe." In Second City thinking, the company, not the individual actor, is primary.

"She knew she was great. Everyone there knew she was great. But she 'quote-unquote' knew that she was just part of the ensemble. She was no better or no worse than any other actor," Shanoff said.

"Now that Tina has gone on to have great success in film and television, she's brought along an incredible number of Second City people with her for the ride," Shanoff said.

It's called respect for yourself, for the theater and for your peers. And it's one reason why you won't see in the tour a lot of the more famous Second City sketches created over the years, such as the "Matt Foley, Motivational Speaker" character created by Chris Farley while he was at Second City.

"As the director, I don't want to saddle an actor with a Chris Farley part everyone's known for 20 years," Shanoff said.

Tim Stoltenberg talks improv

Here are excerpts form a Denver Post article from a BlueCo visit to Colorado early last month.
The company is that rare combination of first love and lifelong partner, jumping-off point and career track. And thanks to its ever-changing nature, it's still going strong.

"That's the great thing about improv," said Tim Stoltenberg, a Second City ensemble member. "Second City doesn't just write comedy. We do satire, too, and that's a reflection of our society, which has a deeper meaning than just laughs.

"It puts an idea in your head to look at things a little differently, and it has a stronger impact on the audience by keeping them more engaged."[...]

"We had the opportunity to go back through all the archives and find scenes we felt really demonstrated the company," said the 31-year-old Stoltenberg, who was born when many of Second City's most famous alumni were gracing "Saturday Night Live."

"One in particular we do is from the first year Second City was really in existence, and it's incredible because it's still funny and plays to audiences today," he said. "We also talk about how so-and-so was in this original scene and where some of it came from."[...]

"Doing the show last summer, some of the cast members were saying to each other, 'Does it ever get old?' But it doesn't because every night is new for us," Stoltenberg said. "It's a great tool for an actor because we have the benefit of an audience who keeps it new each time."[...]

"We use the audience as our editors when we put something on stage," Stoltenberg said. "That immediate response is great when it hits — but it's also fleeting, and it's gone. We have to build the bridge as we go across it."