Chicago Improv heads to Charleston


Submitted photo Chicago Improv Productions preforms their fully improvised show “The Collage” at The Second City Skybox. “The Collage” is a show built of unrelated scenes which make up a thematic piece.

Megan Ivey, Verge Editor

The Charleston Alley Theatre will open its doors to Chicago Improv Productions to put on two improv performances Saturday.

Chicago Improv, a touring non-profit Illinois art organization, will start with a 3 p.m. children’s performance and finish with a 7 p.m. performance for the general public.

Duke Bagger, owner of the Charleston Alley Theatre, said that while both shows are open to the public, the afternoon performance will be geared toward children.

The evening performance does not specify discretion; however, Bagger said the content of an improv performance cannot be predicted.

“It won’t necessarily be offensive, but the children may not understand,” he said.
Chicago Improv will emphasize the aspect of storytelling by giving narratives and encouraging the children in the audience to participate through the act titled “Make ‘Em Ups.”

Jonathon Pitts, the director of Chicago Improv Productions, said that the group has given more than 31 performances to children this year.

“We know it works, and they enjoy it,” Pitts said. “We want to teach them how to improvise and build their communication skills.”

The evening performance will include half a dozen actors from the Chicago Improv Productions in a work called “The Collage.”

“The Collage” will compose of 8 to 10 improv scenes. By the end of the performance, the audience will find a central theme, tying all the improv pieces into a theatrical act.

Pitts said the theme of the performance will be based on the suggestions from the audience and work of the actors.

“During the skits, actors will bring back lines of dialogue or characters that resonate with them,” he said. “This creates a pattern and an overall theme over time.”

He said this creates a patchwork of acts, much like a collage. Pitts explained how themes come together using an example of a show in Detroit.

“The initial suggestion was unicorns,” Pitts said. “From there we had an emotional skit of a woman going into a coma, which brought some to tears, to a funny skit of a dog passing. The theme of ‘dealing with the other realms’ emerged.

We didn’t plan it, but it happened.”

Bagger said he is most excited to see how the pieces come together.

“I’m interested to see how they do it,” Bagger said. “It’s no easy task.”

This will be the first time the group performs at the Charleston Alley Theatre.

Pitts said the company is looking to travel outside its familiar Chicago area.

“We serve as a not-for-profit group for all citizens of Illinois, not just Chicago,” he said.

Bagger said he welcomes all types of performers to the theater.

“The theater typically holds local performances, but we are available as a space for other groups to come as well,” he said.

Tickets range in price according to age for the afternoon performance.

Tickets for children 10 and under are free, $1 for ages 10-14 and $8 for ages 15 and older. The evening performance has a $10 admission fee. Tickets can be purchased through the theatre box office.

Bagger said his hope of the event is to have the audience participate and have a good time.

“Improv can be amusing,” he said. “Even if it’s just the audience calling out topics to the audience. Any sort of participation is taking a theatrical chance.” Megan Ivey can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].