Charleston Alley to welcome Chicago Improv for 3rd year

Chrissy Miller, Contributing Writer

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The Chicago Improv Productions are coming back for the third year in a row to perform their show, “The Collage,” at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Charleston Alley Theatre.

Duke Bagger, owner of the Charleston Alley Theatre, said the group is quite clever when it comes to taking audience suggestions and making skits out of them.

Jonathan Pitts, executive director and performer in Collage, said each performance is unique because the audience can actively participate and interact with the performers.

“It’s always fun for the audience and us improvisers to see what we do with the suggestions and what those suggestions spark,” Pitts said.

Part of what makes the Collage show unique is the performers do not have a set group for every show. Different members of the 20-person group perform every time.

“Having different casts guarantees we’ll have different shows each time,” Pitts said. “Because we all know each other and the form, each cast combination is always cool, fun and unique.”

Pitts learned this form of improv in the ‘80s when performing with the founders of the Chicago improv group Stone Soup.

The members who are set to perform are Ian Williams, Scott Hanada and Jonathan Pitts from Chicago, Cara Maurizi and Jessica Shryock from the Champaign area and Jeff De Leon from the Quad Cities.

Both new and old performers will participate in the show.

Pitts has performed in over 1,500 improv shows. Along with performing and teaching around the world, Pitts has also taught at the Second City in Chicago for 16 years.

“My joke is that I can get a flat tire anywhere and call up an improviser, and while they probably won’t be able to help me change the tire, they will keep me entertained,” Pitts said.

Performer Jessica Shryock said she also feels the connections and positive impact the company has had on her life.

“There is so much joy involved in an improv set, and it is a very uplifting experience,” Shryock said.

Shryock got involved after participating in a collegiate improv tournament and has been part of the Collage team for about a year.

“Many people think that there is pressure to come up with something funny right on the spot, but this is not the case,” Shryock said. “True improv is about the other members of your team, and never about yourself. There is no pressure, other than the pressure to support your teammates.”

Because the show is made up on the spot, some parts may not be appropriate for children.

However, Bagger said parents can decide what is appropriate.

The Charleston Alley Theatre is located at 718 Monroe Ave. Tickets are 10 dollars, and people can call 345-2287 to reserve tickets. Tickets are also available at the door.

Parking will be available behind the theater just off Jackson Avenue across the street from Jackson Avenue Coffee.

Chrissy Miller can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].