Produced by Jonathan Pitts and Frances Callier, this ambitious event runs through April 5, bringing together companies and fans from around the city as well as out of town. A slew of workshops and lectures by such notables as Del Close, Mick Napier, Keith Johnstone, Tim Kazurinsky, and Denise DeClue augment nightly performances by improv groups from New York, LA, Minneapolis, Portland, and Amsterdam, as well as Chicago. Most events take place at the Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark; a complete schedule of times, prices, and venues is listed below. Tickets for performances range from $10 to $15; a festival pass (good for many but not all shows) costs $75. Call the festival hotline at 773-862-5082 for information or Ticketmaster at 312-559-1212 for advance ticket sales.
THURSDAY, APRIL 2
Very Special Arts Chicago presents an audience-participation children's show. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 10:30 AM. Free.
Whitney Houston, We Have a Problem, Nomenil, and Jane
Tonight's emphasis is on gay/lesbian and feminist comedy. Whitney Houston, a sketch comedy revue developed by Second City Outreach Program alumni, "keeps its focus tight and its humor accessible to audiences gay and straight, in the know and out of touch," said Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge when she reviewed the show's original run. Nomenil, founded in 1994 by Courtney Evans and Allen Conkle, is known for such campy extravaganzas as That's the Way It Is, By Golly and Like Our Parents Smoking Cornsilk. And Jane is an all-woman ensemble specializing in long-form improv. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7:30 PM. $10.
FRIDAY, APRIL 3
This day of seminars and workshops runs from 11 AM to 6 PM at ImprovOlympic, 3541 N. Clark. Each session is $20. The schedule is as follows. 11 AM to 1 PM: "Know Your Business!," a lecture by talent agents Joey Edmonds, Vikki Keszey, and Alexandra Malbin. 1 to 3 PM: "How to Survive Your Love Affair With Improv," a lecture by actor-screenwriter Tim Kazurinsky, an alumnus of Second City, Saturday Night Live, and the Police Academy movies. 3 to 5 PM: "Story Theatre Techniques," led by Piven Theatre Workshop instructor Thomas Green. 3 to 6 PM: "Make a Musical," a workshop on improvising musicals by Nancy Howland Walker.
ImprovOlympic Road Show, Free Associates, and Brave New Workshop
The ImprovOlympic Road Show features teams from ImprovOlympic performing the Harold, Del Close's pioneering long-form improv style. The Minneapolis-based Brave New Workshop, founded by noted actor-director Dudley Riggs in 1958 and recently purchased by new owners, presents a program of vintage and current sketches and long-form improvisation. The Free Associates, who specialize in spoofs of literature and television, are currently presenting three shows in rotating repertory: B.S., Back in the Shadows Again: The Lighter Side of "Dark Shadows," and Chancing at Lunacy: The Completely Improvised Irish Country Play (see regular theater listings). Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7 PM. $15.
Brainwaves Improvisational Comedy, Sheila, and The Screw Puppies
Based in Portland, Oregon, Brainwaves specializes in audience-interactive improv games. Sheila, based in the Hyde Park neighborhood (which gave birth to the pioneering Compass Players 40-odd years ago), offers a program of "raw improvised comedy" performed "with such joy that even the weakest improvisations are fun," says Reader critic Jack Helbig. And The Screw Puppies is the Annoyance Theatre's evening of experiments in long-form improvisation. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 9:30 PM. $15.
Improv 'Til Dawn
The Zeitgeist Theatre hosts an all-night improv marathon following their regular performance of Flanagan's Wake. Royal George Theatre Center, 1641 N. Halsted. 10:30 PM to 4 AM. Free.
Slotnick Katz & Lehr
Joey Slotnick, Lauren Katz, and John Lehr, alumni of the comedy group Ed, perform an evening of improvisation. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, midnight. $10.
SATURDAY, APRIL 4
Master Class Weekend
A two-day sprawl of workshops and lectures begins today at the Franklin Elementary School, 225 W. Evergreen. The price for all Master Class Weekend events today and tomorrow is $150; this price includes one free elective (see listings for Friday, April 3), one free ticket to a festival performance, and light meals both days. Today's classes run from 10 AM to 6 PM; participants can select three two-hour workshops led by Second City Training Center artistic director Martin de Maat, Second City resident director Michael Gellman, ImprovOlympic coach Noah Gregoropoulos, ImprovOlympic producer Charna Halpern, Brave New Workshop education director Jenni Lilledahl, Annoyance Theatre cofounder Susan Messing, actor David Pasquesi, and teachers from the Actors Gymnasium.
Theatresports, The Neighbors, and The Impromptones
Theatresports, performed by the Broad Shoulders Comedy troupe, features teams of actors competitively improvising audience-suggested scenes. "The results are as unpredictable as any ball game, and less bloodthirsty," says Reader critic Mary Shen Barnidge. The Neighbors improv ensemble is currently represented on local stages by their show Evolve or Die (see regular theater listings). And the Impromptones, based in Los Angeles, mix music and comedy by improvising in harmony reminiscent of street-corner doo-wop groups. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7 PM. $15.
Boom Chicago Alumni, The Impromptones, and Second City National Touring Company
Boom Chicago is the company that transported Chicago-style improv to Amsterdam. The Second City National Touring Company doesn't usually go that far afield, but these itinerant improvisers perform vintage Second City songs and sketches for audiences across the country. See the listing for 7 PM tonight for a description of the Impromptones. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 9:30 PM. $15.
Coed Prison Sluts
See description in regular theater listings for the Annoyance Theatre's long-running prison spoof. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, midnight. $10.
SUNDAY, APRIL 5
Master Class Weekend
This two-day series of workshops and lectures moves over to the main stage of the Second City, 1616 N. Wells, today from 11 AM to 6 PM; see listing for Saturday, April 4, for a description of pricing policies. Today's lecture/demonstration events bring all students together in a large group environment. First up is a session with Annoyance Theatre cofounder Mick Napier from 11 AM to 2 PM. Next comes a panel of VIPs discussing "Going From Stage to Page: Creating Film & TV Projects" from 2 to 3 PM (panelists include Mick Napier, Second City executive producer Andrew Alexander, TV writer-producer Kim Clarke, screenwriting team Denise DeClue and Tim Kazurinsky, Factory Theater director Amy Seeley, HBO comedy consultant Bo Blackburn, and producer-director Joe Keefe). After that, ImprovOlympic guru (and Second City/Compass Players/Committee veteran) Del Close will lead a workshop from 3 to 6 PM.
The Have Nots!, Moe Green's Other Eye!, and Second City Black Comedy Workshop
The Have Nots! are a southern sketch and improv comedy troupe; Second City's Black Comedy Workshop features a cast of African-American and Latino performers under the direction of Aaron Freeman. See regular theater listings for a description of Moe Green's Other Eye! Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 7 PM. $10.
Now based in Los Angeles, this onetime Chicago comedian presents his one-man storytelling program That Jeff Garlin Thing. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 9 PM. $10.
The Chicago troupe Eight Degrees Below Normal hosts an open stage. Annoyance Theatre, 3747 N. Clark, 10 PM to midnight. Free.
Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jeff Garlin uncredited photo.