Thursday, February 27

Let's start by saying I'm a huge fan of Second City. I love their conservatory program, their teachers are incredibly inspirational {think of the best teachers you've ever had and then imagine a school where ALL of the teachers are like that}, and they support programs that allow students to perform. One of my favorite such programs is the coached ensemble program led by Brian Posen {founder of Stage 773}. Through this program students can audition in front of a panel of different directors for a spot on one of the directors' coached improv ensembles -- the auditions are a series of short, two-person scenes.

Let's sum this program up quickly. First, it's FREE! So basically you're getting two months of improv and performance training for absolutely nada. Second, the coaches are awesome and teach you a brand-new improv form that they want to try out. Third, you're able to meet so many improvisers who you probably wouldn't have met through class. And finally, you get to perform four times on the Donny's Skybox stage at Second City. Which is exciting because you can tell people you're performing at Second City and they won't know the difference.

I'm about to finish up my second round of these coached ensembles -- my last performance is tonight. My first round had performances back in December and was an incredible experience. We were "The Jessicas", coached by the wonderful Jessica Mitolo. We had a group of eight improvisers and our form was essentially a monologue-heavy montage with clap edits. The form and the dynamic of our group led to high-energy and connection-based improv sets that were SO much fun to perform. We actually just performed again last week, opening for the Twisty house ensemble at Second City, with a set ranging from pornstar rabbits to trix addiction. 

The round I'm in now has been fun as well. We are "DWI - Driving While Improvising" and are coached by Jonny Nelson. We have a group of eight improvisers and our form primarily takes place in a "car" -- with four improvisers sitting on chairs in the formation of a car. The rest of the improvisers are outside of the car on the sides, ready to tag out the car members when inspiration hits. The form rests heavily on giving each other gifts {"you're such a controlling mother", "when you lost your legs in 'Nam", "you always speak in a heavy accent when you ask a question"} and tagging out to build the energy of the scene. We've had three shows so far this month, and our last 15-minute set is tonight at Donny's Skybox at 10:30pm.

Here are some pictures from last week's show taken by the incredibly talented photographer Greg Pallante.

It's one of the best feelings to be on stage with a group that you feel safe with. Improvisers who you know will catch you and your ideas, no matter what you throw out onto the stage. 

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