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Chicago Improv Festival

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The sixth edition of this annual celebration of the art of improvisational comedy brings together performers from around the U.S. and from our allies abroad--think of it as a coalition of the comically willing. (Chicago, of course, is heavily represented.) This year's festival, the largest yet, is divided into several series--Mainstage, Showcase, Sketch, Solo, Duo, and Fringe--as well as an all-night improv session, an adult-oriented "Blue" show, a series of daytime Lunchbreak performances (presented in conjunction with the city's cultural affairs department), and numerous special events, including forums and workshops. The Chicago Improv Festival runs May 11-18, with events at seven principal venues: the Athenaeum Theatre (main stage and second-floor studio), 2936 N. Southport; ImprovOlympic, 3541 N. Clark; WNEP Theater, 3209 N. Halsted; the Playground, 3341 N. Lincoln; Noble Fool Theater, 16 W. Randolph; Frankie J's on Broadway, 4437 N. Broadway; and Crush (formerly Coyle's Tippling House), 2843 N. Halsted. Auxiliary events take place at the Chicago Cultural Center (Randolph Cafe, Claudia Cassidy Theater, and studio theater), 78 E. Washington; the Second City, Donny's Skybox Studio, Piper's Alley, 1608 N. Wells (fourth floor); ComedySportz, 2851 N. Halsted; and Martyr's, 3855 N. Lincoln. Tickets to shows at the Athenaeum can be purchased through Ticketmaster (312-902-1500 or www.ticketmaster.com) or at the Athenaeum box office; tickets to events at the other venues must be picked up at the box office on the day of the show. For general festival information, call 773-235-8070 or visit www.cif.com.

SUNDAY, MAY 11

CIF Family

The festival gets under way with an afternoon of free family-oriented shows and workshops. Performances take place at the Chicago Cultural Center's Claudia Cassidy Theater; a schedule follows. Tireswing Theatre performs The Lion's Gifts, noon; DSI Productions puts on an improv show, 1 PM; Live Bait Theater presents Police-Teen Link, 2 PM; DSI Productions returns for another show, 3 PM; the Classic Players, an ensemble of senior citizens, present The Early Bird Special, 4 PM. Workshops will be conducted at the Chicago Cultural Center in the GAR Rotunda; a schedule follows. Katherine Gotsick from Comedysportz conducts two workshops, at 12:15 and 1:15 PM; actors from the Playground teach improv games for the whole family, 2:15 PM; instructors from DSI Productions conduct a workshop, 3:15 pm; Judy Fabjance urges families to "take the improv plunge," 4:15 PM.

MONDAY, MAY 12

FuzzyCo

This local troupe, led by Fuzzy Gerdes, offers a midday comedy set. Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe, noon. Free.

Weekday Afternoon Workshops

These three-hour workshops are open to anyone and provide a basic introduction to the improvisation process. Classes take place Monday through Thursday, May 15, and are limited to 15 students; preregistration is required. Tom Salinsky provides Monday's lesson. WNEP Theater, 1 PM. $25.

Weekday Evening Workshops

These two-hour workshops are open to anyone and provide a basic introduction to the improvisation process. Classes take place Monday through Thursday, May 15, and are limited to 18 students. Monday's teacher is Craig Cackowski. Frankie J's on Broadway, 5:30 PM. $20.

CIF Short Films

The first part of this two-set program features selections seen at Second Cine, Second City Toronto's monthly short-film festival. Second Cine producer Andrew Currie hosts. Then Cesar Jamie presents a 90-minute collection of shorts by improvisers from in Chicago, New York, and LA, including the premiere of Rachel Dratch's The Vagina Monologues Monologue. Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 7 PM. Free.

TUESDAY, MAY 13

The Improv Bandits

This improv company hails from New Zealand. Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe, noon. Free.

Weekday Afternoon Workshop

See listing for Monday, May 12, 1 PM. Tuesday's teacher is Deborah Frances White. WNEP Theater, 1 PM. $25.

Weekday Evening Workshop

See listing for Monday, May 12, 5:30 PM. Tuesday's teacher is Jeff Griggs. Frankie J's on Broadway, 5:30 PM. $20.

CIF Cabaret

ImprovOlympic's resident team Baby Wants Candy and Boston's Musical Improv Company put on an evening of improvised musical comedy. Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 7 PM. Free.

CIF Super Cage Match Championships

Improv teams go head-to-head in competition. Scheduled to perform are Ferrari McSpeedy (Minneapolis), Dual Exhaust (Chicago), An Ordinary Inkling (Toronto), and Mother (New York). ImprovOlympic, 7 PM. $5.

WEDNESDAY, MAY 14

The Spontaneity Shop

Five British actors use the competitive techniques of Theatersports maestro Keith Johnston to create an original show. Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe, noon. Free.

Weekday Afternoon Workshop

See listing for Monday, May 12, 1 PM. Wednesday's teacher is Wade Jackson. WNEP Theater, 1 PM. $25.

Weekday Evening Workshop

See listing for Monday, May 12, 5:30 PM. Wednesday's teacher is Dave Razowski. Frankie J's on Broadway, 5:30 PM. $20.

CIF Lifetime Achievement Awards

Scheduled to be honored this year are three titans of the improv movement: Viola Spolin, whose text on improv games profoundly influenced contemporary theater; her son Paul Sills, cofounder of the Compass Players and Second City and one of American theater's greatest directors; and Sills's Compass Players compadre David Shepherd. Also to be honored are longtime Second City musical director Fred Kaz; Second City-trained actor Fred Willard; and the late Eugene Troobnick, a member of the original Second City cast. The Playwright's Theatre Club will also be honored on the 50th anniversary of its founding. The awards ceremony is followed by a performance of One World on One Stage, an "international improv jam" with performers from Canada, Great Britain, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the U.S. Chicago Cultural Center, Claudia Cassidy Theater, 7 PM. Free.

Schadenfreude Radio Launch Party

The troupe celebrates its radio show, scheduled to debut this summer on WBEZ. Martyr's, 8 PM. Free.

THURSDAY, MAY 15

Thursday Coaches

This three-hour workshop is for Chicago Improv Festival registered student ensembles only. Scheduled coaches are Joe Bill, Craig Cackowski, Lillian Frances, Michael Gellman, and Dave Razowsky. Second City, 11 AM. $30 per ensemble member.

Boom Chicago

The Amsterdam-based troupe returns home for a lunchtime show. Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe, noon. Free.

Weekday Afternoon Workshop

See listing for Monday, May 12, 1 PM. Thursday's teacher is Gary Austin. WNEP Theater, 1 PM. $25.

Thursday Coaches

See listing for Thursday, May 15, 11 AM. Second City, 2 PM. $30 per ensemble member.

Weekday Evening Workshop

See listing for Monday, May 12, 5:30 PM. Thursday's teacher is Peter Gwinn. Frankie J's on Broadway, 5:30 PM. $20.

Neutrino and FuzzyCo

See Critic's Choice. WNEP Theater, 7 PM. $15.

Mad-TV Night

Writers and cast members of the LA-based TV show hold forth; Mo Collins and Debra Wilson host. Athenaeum Theatre, main stage, 8 PM. $25.

Neutrino and FuzzyCo

See Critic's Choice. WNEP Theater, 9 PM. $15.

Opening Party

An official celebration is held at the Lincoln Tap Room, 3010 N. Lincoln, 10 PM. Free.

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