Sunday, December 6, 2015

Interview with Chelsea Devantez

 Chelsea Devantez took some time out of her schedule to speak with Chicago Improv Celebrity News.  Devantez is currently starring in Second City's 104th Mainstage revue, Fool Me Twice, Deja Vu.
(left to right) Rashawn Nadine Scott, Daniel Strauss, Sarah Shook, Jamison Webb, Paul Jurewicz, Chelsea Devantez.  Photo by Todd Roseberg.
Danielle Solzman: Thanks for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News. How are things treating you in Chicago?

Chelsea Devantez: Wonderful, our new mainstage show just opened this week.

Danielle Solzman: How have you been filling your time since the fire knocked Second City’s shows out of commission?

Chelsea Devantez: When the fire took Second City out for a month the cast continued rehearsing for the new show in an office space that was generously donated by the Chicago History Museum. At night I tried to take in as many shows as possible and see all my friends work—something that you can't do on the mainstage schedule. I also spent a lot of time finishing writing some personal projects. On a few occasions thought it was a good idea to hit up a popular restaurant at 7pm which I regretted every time.

Danielle Solzman: Both the Annoyance and iO have opened their doors up to the Mainstage cast to do their free set. What does it say about the Chicago improv community when other theaters have opened up their doors to Second City?

Chelsea Devantez: The comedy community in Chicago is unbelievably supportive; it's one of the things that compelled me to move to Chicago. Every theater has it's own thing going on and can be competitive, but when it comes down to it we're all just humans obsessed with the same art form.

Danielle Solzman: When did you first catch the improv bug and at what point did you know it was something you wanted to do for a living?

Chelsea Devantez: I grew up in the Southwest and did not even know improv existed. I wanted to perform and even though I knew I was weird and funny I went to NYU to study dramatic acting. I was super depressed in college. Then one day I walked into the Upright Citizens Brigade on a Sunday because it was free. I saw Amy Poehler and her friends improvising and it absolutely blew my mind. I thought I was witnessing some sort of magic. My hands were shaking in my lap. I knew I had broken open the kernel that led me to perform and that improv was what I had been searching for.

Danielle Solzman: How did you learn about the Comedy Studies program at Columbia College/Second City?

Chelsea Devantez: I'm obsessive when I love something and I was looking up every way for me to study improv. I think I found a blog from a student in the first semester of the comedy studies program and applied immediately.

Danielle Solzman: Which instructor has had the most meaningful impact on your improv career?

Chelsea Devantez: Anne Libera, Mary Scruggs and Andy Miara were some of my teachers in comedy studies. All three of them changed my life and taught me things that I use daily.

Danielle Solzman: Many celebrities stop by to check out the show and later perform in the free set. Has there been anyone that you were very excited to meet? Is there anyone you would like to see show up some day?

Chelsea Devantez: So many. Too many to name. Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, RuPaul Katya Zamolodchikova, Gina Davis, Rose Mcgowan, Jill Solloway, Dolly Parton and the ghost of Mae West.

Danielle Solzman: This is going to be your third revue. What has the process been like so far for the new show? Should we expect a fire sketch when the show opens?  

Chelsea Devantez: Since I'm writing this after the show opened, no, you should not expect a fire sketch!

Danielle Solzman: You attended NYU. How does living in Chicago differ from the Big Apple?

Chelsea Devantez: I'm in love with Chicago. To me, Chicago is the greatest city in America. Chicago has all the same art that NYU does, but this city allows you to just concentrate on doing great work and making friends and finding out what kind of artist you are. You don't have to worry about insane rent prices, or how it takes an hour to get across the city to see a friend, or what you're wearing. You can just keep your head down and concentrate on what matters most to you.

Danielle Solzman: If you could go back to your years in high school, what would you tell yourself?

Chelsea Devantez: Leave, bitch! Get the fuck out of that small town! High school was hell for me, I went through a lot of shit there. As with every hard thing in life, it makes you who you are, but I still wish I could have skipped it. Annnnnd on that note, our current show deals a lot with the past and what you would have said to yourself way back when. If you want to hear my joke answer to this question, come see the show and listen for it in the closing song.

Danielle Solzman: Thanks again for joining us and keep up the great work.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Interview with Storytown's Jill Olson

Storytown Improv founder/producer and Funny Bones Chicago director Jill Olson took some time out of her schedule recently to talk with Chicago Improv Celebrity News.

Danielle Solzman:  Thanks for joining Chicago Improv Celebrity News.  How are things treating you?
Jill Olson:  Thank you for having me.  I can't complain.  School has started and I'm gearing up for a nice fall even though we still have a little summer left.
Danielle Solzman:  When did you first get bitten by the improv bug and know that it was want you wanted to do?
Jill Olson:  I had no idea what improv was and fell into it.  I was waiting tables in harford county MD with a girl who was going to a audition for a theater company in Baltimore and wanted someone to go with her.  I had nothing to do so I went too.  They were auditioning for EVERYTHING in the theater, a play, a late night ongoing series, a couple other things in addition to an improv group.  I got a call asking me to join the improv group because I obviously had a lot of training.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  They said I was great at the improv section... and I was like, oh, you means the warming up?  I did that during college and did comedies.  When I graduated I wanted to move to NY because I was in love and the boy wanted to move there.  A professor of mine said I couldn't, that I had to move to Chicago.  I can to visit and he introduced me to my godfather of improv Nick Kanel from Baby Wants Candy.  I moved here two months later.
Danielle Solzman:  You produce and founded Storytown Improv.  When did you get the idea for this?
Jill Olson:  I was an actor in a similar children's production and slowly worked my way from acting to help producing it.  There wasn't a script but a beated out story structure.  The company dissolved and I wanted to continue working on a show for kids because it was so amazing to see kids get so involved in theater.  At the time I was working at iO and Charna Halpern was a blessing and said that it was my theater and I could try whatever I wanted on Saturday mornings as long as I was done by the time classes started.  We went to a fully improvised format.

Danielle Solzman:  How many shows do you perform per year?
Jill Olson:  Storytown performs every Saturday at Stage 773.  So we are a weekly staple.  Then we try to go out in the community as much as we can.  In the summer we partner with the Lincoln Park Zoo on Tuesdays and Sundays for multiple mini shows a day.  We've done two events with the Art Institute.  We just started a after school program at the Chicago Jewish Day School.

Danielle Solzman:  You’re also the Chicago Director of Funny Bones Improv.  What do you feel is the most important thing about this organization?
Jill Olson:  I could go on and on about Funny Bones.  I'll try not to... I love that Funny Bones gives kids who are going through something hard a relief.  We do not treat them like children in a hospital.  They are kids that deserve to laugh.  The performers also give their all to every show to help make these kids feel amazing and involved.  Their energy and heart and commitment does not change if there is one child versus a whole room of kids.  They take their time and do what they can to make sure each person has a great experience.
Danielle Solzman:  What improv instructor has had the most meaningful impact on you?
Jill Olson:  Oddly enough, through teaching, I learned that my dance teacher growing up impacted me so much.  For her it was about the practice and process rather than the bells and whistles of competitions at a young age.  I think that is why I love the process of improv and using at as a tool to appreciate the arts.
Danielle Solzman:  You teach improv at The Laughing Academy.  If there is one thing that your students take with them after they finish your class, what is it?
Jill Olson:  That's hard.  It changes day to day.  But I guess what I would want them to walk away with most is the teamwork aspect of improv.  None of us can do this alone.  YOu need your scene partner.  You need your classmate.  They need to be able to work with other people regardless of whether we are friends outside of class or not.  It doesn't matter who you think is cooler than someone else.  In class, we are a team and can only succeed together.
Danielle Solzman:  You’ve trained at both iO and Second City.  What were your initial thoughts in seeing the improv community come together after the fire a few weeks ago?
Jill Olson:  Well, we can only succeed together.
Danielle Solzman:  Thanks again for joining us and keep up the great work.

Friday, September 4, 2015

Catch Second City Improv Sets at The Annoyance

You can catch the cast of The Second City Mainstage show doing free improv sets at The Annoyance Theatre and Bar.

From their Facebook page:

The Second City Improv Set @ The Annoyance - Tickets are FREE! Yes, FREE! Use the links to RSVP:
Sun, Sept 6 at 11:00p after Cartoon Sex Book ➙
Tues, Sept 8 at 10:30p after TNT ➙

Second City Thanks Chicago Theater Community

We can hardly thank them enough, but hopefully this Facebook post will suffice for now! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK...

Posted by The Second City on Friday, September 4, 2015

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Hey, Do You Remember Me?

It's been a few years and we're getting this thing restarted.

Last week's fire brought an entire Chicago improv community together and it was amazing, really, to see all the theaters and other venues so their support and open up space for the training center classes and box office.