WBEZ | improv http://www.wbez.org/tags/improv Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Mental health training for police on hold http://www.wbez.org/news/mental-health-training-police-hold-113089 <p><div class="image-insert-image " style="text-align: center;"><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/StoryCorps%20141219%20Clark%20Weber.jpg" style="height: 360px; width: 540px;" title="Clark Weber works as a role play actor for a program that trains police officers to handle mental health calls. (Courtesy of StoryCorps)" /></div><p dir="ltr"><em>There are everyday people whose lives are changing as a result of the state&rsquo;s budget problems. We&rsquo;re collecting stories of the people Caught in the Middle.</em></p><p dir="ltr">Chicago Police Officers can take a special training that teaches them how to respond to mental health crisis. As part of that training they practice their new skills by role-playing with people who have a mental illness. But most of the classes are on hold, because the program relies on state cash that isn&rsquo;t coming through. Clark Weber is one of the role players for the training.</p><div><div style="text-align: center;"><em><a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/caught-middle" target="_blank">MORE STORIES FROM CAUGHT IN THE MIDDL</a><a href="http://www.wbez.org/tags/caught-middle" target="_blank">E</a></em></div><div style="margin: 0px; padding: 0px; border: 0px; font-stretch: inherit; font-size: 14px; line-height: 22px; font-family: Arial, sans-serif; vertical-align: baseline; color: rgb(51, 51, 51); text-align: center;">&nbsp;</div><div><em>We welcome your stories for this series. You can email us at&nbsp;<a href="mailto:caughtinthemiddle@wbez.org?subject=I%27m%20Caught%20in%20the%20Middle">caughtinthemiddle@wbez.org</a>. &nbsp;Be sure to include your name and contact information.</em></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Mon, 28 Sep 2015 13:09:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/mental-health-training-police-hold-113089 Songs We Love: Natural Information Society & Bitchin Bajas, 'Sign Spinners' http://www.wbez.org/news/songs-we-love-natural-information-society-bitchin-bajas-sign-spinners-113072 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/bajas1.jpg" alt="" /><p><div><div data-crop-type="" style="text-align: center;"><img alt="Bitchin Bajas (pictured) join Natural Information Society on Automaginary." src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/24/bajas1_wide-4ac16221161d4fbdf72d61ff399140bf8f361050-s700-c85.jpg" style="height: 337px; width: 600px;" title="Bitchin Bajas, left, join Natural Information Society on Automaginary.(Jeremiah Chiu/Courtesy of the artist)" /></div></div><div><div><p>Over the past five years, the groups&nbsp;<a href="http://naturalinformationsociety.com/">Natural Information Society</a>&nbsp;and&nbsp;<a href="http://bitchinbajas.tumblr.com/">Bitchin Bajas</a>&nbsp;have become staples of Chicago underground music, but from opposite ends. NIS leader Joshua Abrams has one foot in the city&#39;s improvisational jazz scene, a communal tradition that extends back 50 years to the heyday of the&nbsp;<a href="http://aacmchicago.org/">AACM (Association for the Advancement of Creative Musicians)</a>. Cooper Crain of Bitchin Bajas moves in more avant-rock circles, primarily as guitarist for the psych-leaning quartet Cave.</p></div></div><p>But NIS and Bitchin Bajas have something else in common: they both make repetition-based, meditative music that can be therapeutic, calming the mind through the ears. NIS centers this effect via the instrument Abrams plays called the&nbsp;<a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sintir">guembri</a>, a three-string Moroccan lute on which he plucks out patterns that his band-mates augment with drums, guitars, and the harmonium.</p><p><img alt="Natural Information Society &amp; Bitchin Bajas, Automaginary (Drag City)" src="http://media.npr.org/assets/img/2015/09/24/bitchinbajasnaturalinformationsociety_automaginary_mini_sq-e6818ff51b7fd248a628a9d0ed6231415cedfb20-s300-c85.jpg" style="height: 300px; width: 300px; margin-left: 10px; margin-right: 10px; float: right;" title="Natural Information Society &amp; Bitchin Bajas,Automaginary (Drag City)" /></p><p>Crain&#39;s trio creates their sonic oasis using synths, organs, and wind instruments, building beatific drifts out of rising tones. These tools turn out to be remarkably compatible on the groups&#39; first collaborative album <em>Autoimaginary</em>. The insistent, hypnotic pulses of NIS meld with Bitchin Bajas&#39; drone-tinted layers like gentle rain falling from dense clouds.</p><p>&quot;Sign Spinners&quot; hits the ground with Abrams&#39; running bass, then quickly ascends, as sparkly keyboard figures and shimmering guitar accents mirror each other. Things gradually intensify, cresting when a plaintive flute perches atop the bubbling mix. This airy, spacious music grows and grows without ever sounding cluttered. On the surface, &quot;Sign Spinners&quot; seems to barely move from where it began. Abrams&#39; loop churns along throughout, and no sudden left turns come up along the way. Yet by the time the song ends, you&#39;ll likely feel mentally transported &ndash; perhaps to the same blissful place where Natural Information Society &amp; Bitchin Bajas seem very happy to spend their time together.</p><p><em>Autoimaginary</em><em>&nbsp;</em>is out now on&nbsp;<a href="http://www.dragcity.com/">Drag City</a>.</p><p>&nbsp;</p><p>&mdash; <a href="http://www.npr.org/2015/09/25/443202778/songs-we-love-natural-information-society-bitchin-bajas-sign-spinners?ft=nprml&amp;f=443202778"><em>via NPR&#39;s Songs We Love</em></a></p></p> Fri, 25 Sep 2015 16:27:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/songs-we-love-natural-information-society-bitchin-bajas-sign-spinners-113072 Improviser finds purpose in Chicago police mental health crisis trainings http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/improviser-finds-purpose-chicago-police-mental-health-crisis-trainings-111274 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/StoryCorps 141219 Clark Weber.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>In 2004, the Chicago Police Department implemented a voluntary training program to deal with mental health emergencies.</p><p>Today, Chicago has the <a href="http://www.namichicago.org/documents/cit_advocacy_sheet.pdf" target="_blank">largest crisis intervention training program in the world</a>, according to Alexa James, Executive Director of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness)-Chicago.</p><p>Clark Weber is an essential part of the crisis intervention training. In this week&rsquo;s StoryCorps, Weber describes how he found himself in the greatest role of his life.</p><p>After moving to Chicago in the late 1980s, Weber studied improv at Second City. He loves acting, whether it&rsquo;s theater, television or film. But Weber struggled with depression and suicidal tendencies too. He was diagnosed as bipolar and spent four-and-a-half weeks at a state mental hospital before moving into a group home with Thresholds, a non-profit that assists people with mental illness.</p><p>&ldquo;When I came to Thresholds,&rdquo; Weber said, &ldquo;they had a theater arts program &ndash; which now unfortunately is defunct - and I was told that we have this opportunity to role play with Chicago police to make them aware and see what a real mental health crisis is like.&rdquo;</p><p>Weber soon found himself in the middle of the Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) training program, roleplaying as a person in distress.</p><p>The role-playing can be intense, Weber said. &ldquo;Officers have play weapons and a real Taser, which is non-functioning. And instead of using force, they try to talk us down. And we have total freedom to insult the police officers. We have total freedom to swear at them, to make it as real as possible.&rdquo;</p><p>If officers feel &ldquo;that the Taser needs to be used, they&rsquo;ll just point it towards us and say, &lsquo;Taser. Taser. Taser.&rsquo; So we&rsquo;re fake-Tased and then we discuss why the officer feels he or she had to do that.&rdquo;</p><p>Pastor Fred Kinsey is a member of ONE Northside, a group that this past year helped get police to increase the number of officers able to go through CIT training. &ldquo;If you have tools to recognize people in crisis, to know what kinds of medications people are on, that helps,&rdquo; Kinsey said. Chicago Police recently doubled the number of officers who are able to receive CIT training each year, Kinsey said. But that doubling of officers - from 200 to 400 officers each year &ndash; is small compared to the number of officers who don&rsquo;t take the training. &ldquo;I&rsquo;d like to see the majority, if not all, officers trained,&rdquo; Kinsey said. The biggest impediment to expanding the training program, he said, is not so much financial, but the time costs of taking officers off the street.</p><p>For Clark Weber, the experience has been transformative. &ldquo;I&rsquo;m not saying every day&rsquo;s gonna be a good day, or every day&rsquo;s gonna be a great day. Being bipolar I do have my ups and downs. But I run into officers that I&rsquo;ve helped train or they&rsquo;ve been in a class and they&rsquo;ve watched the videos. And I&rsquo;ve had officers come up to me and said, &lsquo;Because of you I helped save this person&rsquo;s life. Or I helped this person get the treatment that they needed.&rsquo;&rdquo;</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s very empowering,&rdquo; Weber says. &ldquo;For the first time in my life, I feel I have a purpose. I have a place in the world.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="450" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/playlists/6250422&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true&amp;show_comments=true&amp;show_user=true&amp;show_reposts=false" width="888px"></iframe></p></p> Fri, 19 Dec 2014 13:34:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/series/storycorps/improviser-finds-purpose-chicago-police-mental-health-crisis-trainings-111274 The Second City Chicago pushes for diverse voices on stage http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/second-city-chicago-pushes-diverse-voices-stage-110094 <p><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/Bob%20Curry%20Fellows.JPG" style="height: 413px; width: 620px;" title="For the first time in the history of the Second City, a special fellowship was created this year named after Bob Curry, the first African American to perform on The Second City’s mainstage in 1966. (WBEZ/Mariam Sobh)" /></p><p>Another late night talk show host is leaving CBS.</p><p>Craig Ferguson of <em>The Late Late Show</em> is expected to sign off at the end of the year.</p><p>This news comes just after the network announced Stephen Colbert will replace the retiring David Letterman.</p><p>The announcement raised questions again about why all the networks&#39; late night comics are white males.</p><p>Part of the answer takes us to Chicago, where many of the comedy stars of the last few decades learned their trade &ndash; including Stephen Colbert who studied improv at The Second City.</p><p>While some inroads have been made, comedy is still seen as a predominantly white male art form. Particularly when it comes to the art of improvisation and sketch comedy.</p><p>Improvisation was founded in 1955 at the University of Chicago and since then it has been slow to transition to an art form that is available to the masses.</p><p>While efforts have been made to be more inclusive of women, the LGBT community, and actors of color, there is still a lot of work to do.</p><p>Full disclosure, I&rsquo;m the first Muslim woman wearing the headscarf to graduate and perform at the Second City Training Center&rsquo;s conservatory.</p><p>Diversity is an issue that big improv institutions are keenly aware of.</p><p>Andrew Alexander, CEO, of the Second City has been grappling with this for the last 20 years.</p><p>He said he noticed the problem back in 1992.</p><p>&ldquo;I was in Los Angeles during the L.A. riots and I happened to fly back one of those evenings and I came to Chicago and I went straight to the theater,&quot; Alexander said. &quot;And our actors were 6 or 7 white actors who were struggling to figure out how to sort of deal with the riots in L.A. and it became quite apparent to me that the point of view just wasn&rsquo;t strong. And from that moment on I made a decision to really embrace how can we improve our diversity.&rdquo;</p><p>But, more than two decades later, there is only one person of color on the main stage at Second City.<br /><br />Why is that?</p><p>Anne Libera, director of Comedy Studies at Columbia College and an instructor at the Second City Training Center said it&rsquo;s difficult to cultivate diversity in general.</p><p>&ldquo;You both need people who want to do it, but for people to want to do it, you need them to see representation above them,&rdquo; Libera said.</p><p>For the first time in the history of the Second City, a special fellowship was created this year named after Bob Curry, the first African American to perform on The Second City&rsquo;s mainstage in 1966.</p><p>The fellowship is an intense training program that has accepted only 16 minority students who already have some experience on stage.</p><p>The goal is to mold them into exactly what the Second City is looking for.</p><p>Matt Hovde, the artistic director at the Second City Training Center, said he&rsquo;s confident this program will open the door for more voices.</p><p>&ldquo;It&rsquo;s the first time in a long time that I feel like it will directly translate into a bigger pool of diverse talent at Second City that are working and can work,&quot; Hovde said. &quot;So to me it&rsquo;s a great leap forward.&rdquo;</p><p><iframe frameborder="no" height="166" scrolling="no" src="https://w.soundcloud.com/player/?url=https%3A//api.soundcloud.com/tracks/147285183&amp;color=ff5500&amp;auto_play=false&amp;hide_related=false&amp;show_artwork=true" width="100%"></iframe></p><p>One of the Bob Curry Fellows, Patrick Rowland, is also a member of 3Peat, an all black improv team that plays weekly at iO, another comedy institution.</p><p>Rowland said when he took classes back in 2006 he was always the odd man out.</p><p>&ldquo;Every class I was in I was the only black person or person of color,&quot; Rowland said. &quot;There was a tall lanky white guy, a chubby white guy, a white girl who thought she was Tina Fey and then there was me.&rdquo;</p><p>Rowland said that since then, he has seen some changes.</p><p>&ldquo;Nowadays...it&rsquo;s not a lot but to me it&rsquo;s like an explosion of black people,&quot; Rowland said. &quot;And by explosion I mean that you you can count them on two hands.&rdquo;</p><p>3 Peat member John Thibodeaux said he&#39;s slowly seeing a paradigm shift.</p><p>&ldquo;The dominant voices you see in the media, if you&rsquo;re like a black actor in movies or television, you&rsquo;re gonna be the guy who&rsquo;s always the black guy and not just the guy. You don&rsquo;t see a lot of black protagonists in movies. And that&rsquo;s something that can be really inspiring to people coming up. Because I know I don&rsquo;t personally see a lot of people who look like me in the media, telling a story similar to mine. And that&rsquo;s why I like especially playing with this group because when you walk into a scene you know you&rsquo;re not going to be just a black guy. You&rsquo;re just going to be another improviser on stage which is refreshing.&rdquo;</p><p>Thibodeaux and the other members of 3Peat agree that in order for more minorities to get involved, they have to pave the way.</p><p>Which is something I&rsquo;m also now aware of.</p><p>I wrote a blackout sketch for my conservatory graduation show at the Second City Training Center that satirized being a Muslim woman and a person&rsquo;s fear that I was going to blow them up.</p><p>I was playing off a stereotype and people laughed.</p><p>But it&rsquo;s not always funny.</p><p>I was once in a class where the instructor thought it would be amazing if I came out on stage with an American flag and Indian music playing in the background.</p><p>I was confused, because I&rsquo;m not Indian.</p><p>Stereotypes are often another challenge for diverse performers.</p><p>3Peat member Nnamdi Ngwe is all too familiar with this and said he experienced it during an improv class.</p><p>&ldquo;I was actually told, in one of my classes, can you blacken it up,&quot; Ngwe said. &quot;He didn&rsquo;t use exactly those words, but he did want me to essentially blacken it up. I was like no thank you. I wanna do me.&rdquo;</p><p>The process of diversification is complex. But there have been some gains.</p><p>The Second City&rsquo;s smaller stage is now made up of half white and half minority actors.</p><p>But true diversity on the bigger stages promises to be a long term project made more difficult by the fact that it&rsquo;s so competitive.</p><p>The Second City for example may have only one or&nbsp;two positions open in any given year.</p><p><em>Mariam Sobh is Midday Host and reporter at WBEZ. Follow her<a href="http://twitter.com/triciabobeda"> </a><a href="https://twitter.com/mariamsobh">@mariamsobh</a></em></p></p> Tue, 29 Apr 2014 11:07:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/news/culture/second-city-chicago-pushes-diverse-voices-stage-110094 The Kate Lambert Interview http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/kate-lambert-interview-106836 <p><div><p><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/KateLambertHeadshot.JPG" style="float: right; height: 453px; width: 300px;" title="Chicago comedian Kate Lambert. (Photo courtesy of Brian McConkey)" />Let&#39;s talk about what it&#39;s like to make a living as a comic performer in Chicago. Kate Lamber is an actress, improviser and writer. She is a cast member of The Second City Touring Company and has performed as an understudy on The Second City&#39;s e.t.c. Stage and at UP Comedy Club.</p><p>Kate has also toured with The Second City aboard Norwegian Cruise Line. She wrote and acted in viral shorts such as <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC-jafOj_Y4" target="_blank">&quot;Adults &amp; Tiaras&quot;</a>, <a href="http://vimeo.com/39320247" target="_blank">&quot;How to Live Like Beyonce&quot;</a>, and &quot;<a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3smaIc7UHEg" target="_blank">How to Sponsor a Uterus</a>&quot; that have been featured places like The Huffington Post, MTV and Cosmopolitan.</p><p>In addition, she is an actor, writer, and executive producer for the web series,<em> Teachers</em>. Kate is a member of the sketch group Cell Camp and performs at iO with the improv groups like Virgin Daiquiri (which featured <em>SNL</em>&#39;s Aidy Bryant and Cecily Strong) and guest improvises with Whirled News Tonight and The Deltones.</p><p><strong>What do you get from each of the&nbsp;</strong><strong>sketch and improv groups</strong><strong>&nbsp;you&rsquo;re in?</strong></p><p>Currently, I am performing with The Second City Touring Company, <a href="http://ioimprov.com/chicago/io/shows/the-armando-diaz-experience" target="_blank">The Armando Diaz Experience,</a> <a href="http://ioimprov.com/chicago/io/teams/virgin-daiquiri" target="_blank">Virgin Daiquiri</a>, and <a href="http://www.thekatydids.com/index.html" target="_blank">The Katydids</a>.</p><p>Working for The Second City has been a dream of mine since I first started improvising. The Touring Company lets me improvise, act, write, and travel, which are four of my favorite things to do. It is an honor to have this job and perform for people all across the country. In addition to creating our own material, we also perform some of the best scenes from Second City&rsquo;s fifty-plus year history. It&rsquo;s pretty incredible to be in scenes that people like Steve Carell, Tina Fey, and Stephen Colbert originally wrote and acted in.</p><p>Armando Diaz and Virgin Daiquiri are the two improv groups that I watched most when coming up in classes at iO. The players in these shows were some of the performers I admired most. When I was asked to join both groups, it was a &ldquo;pinch me&rdquo; moment. To play with these improvisers is a real privilege as they are at the top of the game, and being onstage with them only makes you better.&nbsp;</p><p>With The Katydids, we started as an improv group and then we expanded to doing sketch and online shorts. This is a group (made up of women with all varying forms of the name Kate) who are friends and co-workers.&nbsp; It is an independent group, so we began focusing on creating material. We have really had to pound the pavement to get our work out there and to have it pay off has been really rewarding. Most recently, we wrote, produced, and acted in a web series called &quot;<em><a href="http://www.teacherswebseries.com/" target="_blank">Teachers</a></em>&quot; (with Matt Miller and Cap Gun Collective) that was really successful and with which we are hoping to do more.</p><p><strong>When you&rsquo;re writing, are there any comedy topics you tend to avoid either because you find them too sensitive, overdone or just not that funny?</strong><br />I don&rsquo;t have a hard and fast rule about what topics I can write about and what I can&rsquo;t. Last year, I wrote about women&rsquo;s rights and gay marriage in two shorts. Both are pretty sensitive subjects where emotions run high on both sides. In the shorts <em>How to Sponsor a Uterus</em> and <em>Get Cash 4 Rights</em>, I wanted to weigh in on these subjects, so I did it by satirizing the opposition. I think that in order to write in a comedic way about any sensitive subject, you have to first understand why it&rsquo;s not funny before you put your spin on it.</p><p><strong>Who is Michael Billington and why is he worthy of mention <a href="http://www.katelambert.com/About" target="_blank">in your bio</a>?</strong><br />Michael Billington is the longest serving theatre critic in Britain and the theatre critic for The Guardian. He was also Harold Pinter&rsquo;s authorized biographer. When I was in college, I was lucky enough to study abroad in London and take a class from him. As a class, we attended multiple shows&mdash;several of them written by Pinter, and one that was written and directed by Pinter. It was an incredible experience to see these shows, but also discuss them with someone like Mr. Billington afterwards. We were able to critically analyze the performances and think about them in a way we hadn&rsquo;t before. We were also able to tell him that one of the actors we saw did a terrible American accent.</p><p><strong>As a Second City cruise employee, what secrets can you tell us from behind the scenes of cruise ships?</strong><br />When you&rsquo;re performing on a moving vessel, you have to deal with factors you would never encounter on land. I remember the water could be a little rocky as we were leaving Belize, and that was during our sketch show. Performing in heels is tough enough as is, but when the ship is moving every which way, even sitting in a chair requires concentration so you won&rsquo;t slide off.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;</p><p>With the ship, you are essentially living and working on a floating city for four months. It gives you a lot of time to work on material or just stare at the ocean which, surprisingly, doesn&rsquo;t get old. You also learn terms like <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vessel_emergency_codes" target="_blank">&ldquo;Code Oscar&rdquo;</a> that come in handy for any future improv scenes that takes place on a boat and make you sound legit.</p><p><strong>What have been some of your favorite parts of the cruises?</strong><br />I was so excited to go on the cruise because it was my first job with Second City and because I got to travel which was something I wanted to do since I graduated from college. To make it even better, the people in the cast were incredible and seasoned performers so I learned a lot from them. We were able to go to so many amazing places together. Some of which I knew I would never have the chance to visit again, so I made the most of it.&nbsp; I got to swim with dolphins in Mexico, zip line through the rainforest in Belize and Costa Rica, swim in a mud volcano in Colombia, and go dog sledding in Alaska. It was pretty surreal to experience all of those things within four months.</p><p><strong>What are you happiest to come home to after a cruise?</strong><br />I was happiest to come home to my family and friends. And it was nice to be in a house that always stayed in one place.</p><p><strong>What have been some of your favorite voiceover gigs?</strong><br />Voiceover is something that is relatively new for me. I did a radio spot last year that was a lot of fun, but I have also had a great time auditioning for things. I recently auditioned for an animated film and it was so cool to see the part I was reading for and check out the script.</p><p><strong>How is writing for web series different from writing for the stage?</strong><br />Writing for shorts and web series is different from writing on the stage because there are things that you can show onstage that you can&rsquo;t on film and vice versa. The great thing about online shorts is that you can go to town with costumes and makeup when you wouldn&rsquo;t have time for something like that in a sketch show. For one short we did, I had to use latex, scar wax, and layers upon layers of foundation to cover up my eyebrows. It took forever to do, but the end result was ridiculous and looked real. Sketch shows are so fast paced that you don&rsquo;t have that kind of time.</p><p><strong>What&rsquo;s harder: being a girl in comedy or being in comedy and living in Chicago?</strong><br />I hear more about how difficult it is being a woman in comedy than I think about it myself. It&rsquo;s a question that is posed to a lot of female comedians since there have been several high profile people in the news this past year claiming that women aren&rsquo;t funny. That concept is ludicrous to me because having a particular body part isn&rsquo;t what makes you funny; it&rsquo;s about being smart and observant and that&rsquo;s not relegated to either sex. If someone believes that women aren&rsquo;t funny, then their opinion is already insignificant to me because I can&rsquo;t respect anyone who thinks that way. Personally, I&rsquo;m glad to be a woman in comedy, and right now is a really exciting time to be doing this. Women&nbsp;like&nbsp;Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and Lena Dunham have made an incredible impact not only as actors, but writers and producers and I think that trend is going to continue.&nbsp;</p><p>Chicago&nbsp;was the absolute right place for me to come to pursue comedy&mdash;even if I didn&rsquo;t have that intention when I first moved here. While it is very competitive, it is also a nurturing community. You can always find a place to perform, and on any given night onstage, I know I can look out into the crowd and see other performers in the audience watching and supporting.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What is the best skill to have with musical improv?</strong>&nbsp;<br />The best skill to have is to not worry about looking like an idiot. Musical improv flexes a completely different muscle than improv. It is easy to get into your head about the rhythm of the music, singing on key, or whether or not you will be able to rhyme. But if you get out there and just have the most fun you can possibly have with it, it&rsquo;s impossible for the audience not to enjoy it too.</p><p><strong>Tell me about your<em> Check Please</em> appearance. </strong><strong>Where did you go and what&rsquo;s the best thing you ate?</strong><br />My <em>Check Please</em> episode aired earlier this year.&nbsp; It was a lot of fun to do because I had to visit two other restaurants to which I had never gone, so it was great to get out and try some new things. &nbsp;If you see it, you can look forward to watching me try not to be awkward.</p><p>I went to three restaurants&mdash;<a href="http://taximchicago.com/" target="_blank">Taxim</a>, <a href="http://czechplaza.com/" target="_blank">Czech Plaza</a>, and my pick&mdash;Marion Street Grille in Oak Park. I am not someone who typically orders fish, but I had the fish and chips at Marion Street Grille and they were fabulous. &nbsp;he fish was tempura fried, light and fluffy.&nbsp; It was great.&nbsp;</p><p><strong>What are you hoping to achieve in the near and in the distant future?</strong><br />I would love to continue working for The Second City. Ultimately, I want to work in TV and film. I would love to write and act for movies or a TV series. My first love was always performing, but working in Chicago has made me love being involved in all aspects of the process. It is awesome to have a hand in creating what you are performing.</p><p><strong>How does it feel to be the 346th person interviewed for Zulkey.com? </strong><br />Pretty good.&nbsp; I just hope I get a jacket.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Fri, 26 Apr 2013 08:48:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/claire-zulkey/2013-04/kate-lambert-interview-106836 The Q Brothers do Dickens http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-12/dont-miss-list-december-13-19-inside-pritzker-pavilion-and-round <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//main-images/RS6807_345.unb_.th_.qbrothers.jpg" alt="" /><p><p style="text-align: center;"><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="338" src="http://www.youtube.com/embed/erQ8zJpuWVo" width="601"></iframe></p><div class="image-insert-image "><u><em>A Christmas Carol</em>, a work in progress by the Q Brothers; inside the Pritzker Pavilion in Millennium Park, tomorrow (Friday the 14th) through Sunday (the 16th); Friday and Saturday at 7, Sunday at 2; FREE!</u><p>The Q Brothers are a pair of actual brothers from the North Side who&#39;ve carved out an unlikely niche: They turn Shakespeare plays into hip-hop musicals, thereby managing to horrify both Shakespeare aficianadoes and hip-hop fans. And yet &mdash; speaking from the Shakespeare side, at least &mdash; it absolutely works. The Brothers&#39; verbal and physical inventiveness, coupled with complete understanding of the plays, made <em>The Bomb-itty of Errors</em> and <em>Funk It Up About Nuthin&#39; </em>not just fun but faithful to the originals in every way that matters.</p><p>Now they take on another classic that could use a good shaking-up: Charles Dickens&#39; nearly exhausted <em>A Christmas Carol</em>. While it&#39;s still a work in progress, the Brothers are spicing up this year&#39;s holidays by sharing their reinvention of the work we think we all know. The audience will sit safe and warm in the choir lofts of the Pritzker Pavilion stage and see what new changes can be rung on the familiar story. Believer me, if there are any changes left, the Qs will find them!&nbsp;Tickets are free, but RSVPs are strongly recommended. To RSVP, please contact <a href="mailto:qbrotherschristmas@gmail.com" target="_blank">qbrotherschristmas@gmail.com</a>.&nbsp;And when that&#39;s over . . .</p><div class="image-insert-image "><p><u><em>The Second City That Never Sleeps</em>, a benefit for Onward Neighborhood House, Tuesday (the 18th) at 6 pm at <a href="http://secondcity.com/">The Second City</a> e.t.c. Theatre, 1608 North Wells, 2nd floor; 312-337-3992; tickets $20 at the door throughout the 24-hour event.</u></p><p>The Second City may be a for-profit company (unlike most Chicago theaters) but its heart is apparently in the nonprofit world. For 24 hours beginning Tuesday evening, Second City company members, alumni and friends will present improv, music, stand-up comedy and even an interview with political stats maven (and University of Chicago graduate) Nate Silver. Proceeds will benefit Onward Neighborhood House, a broad-spectrum social service agency (or what Jane Addams would have called a settlement house). If you can&#39;t imagine rising and shining to see Fred Armisen perform at 1:30 in the morning, there are plenty of offerings at reasonable hours, including Jeff Tweedy at 9 p.m. Tuesday, the aforementioned Nate Silver at 10 a.m. Wednesday, and others too numerous to mention: find details on the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/search/results.php?q=The%20Second%20City%20That%20Never%20Sleeps&amp;init=quick&amp;tas=0.56148045176595">Second City That Never Sleeps Facebook event page</a>.</p></div></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Thu, 13 Dec 2012 05:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/blogs/onstagebackstage/2012-12/dont-miss-list-december-13-19-inside-pritzker-pavilion-and-round Renowned theater companies pair up for operatic laughs http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/renowned-theater-companies-pair-operatic-laughs-101019 <p><div class="image-insert-image "><img alt="" class="image-original_image" src="http://www.wbez.org/system/files/styles/original_image/llo/insert-images/tragedina2.jpg" style="float: left; margin: 5px; height: 327px; width: 225px;" title="Princess Tragedina (WBEZ/Cassidy Herrington)" />Two Chicago theater companies are joining forces in an unlikely double act.<p>The Second City and Lyric Opera of Chicago announced Wednesday that cheeky comedy and classical singing will share the same stage in <em>The Second City Guide to Opera</em> this winter.</p><p>The Lyric&rsquo;s General Director Anthony Freud said the performance will not only appeal to opera fans, but also those who think &ldquo;an opera house was the last place in the world they would ever be entertained.&rdquo;</p><p>Second City spokesperson Alexandra Day said that each company will do what it does best, but with &ldquo;areas of what we hope will be hilarious overlap.&rdquo; &nbsp;The show will feature the celebrated soprano, Renee Fleming, and a comedy star to be announced at a later date.</p><p>Fleming is also the Lyric&rsquo;s creative consultant. She came up with the idea to unite Second City and the Lyric after hearing one of her recordings play during a Second City skit, Freud said. &nbsp;</p><p>&ldquo;On behalf of everyone (at) The Second City I want to thank Renee for not suing us,&rdquo; Kelly Leonard, Second City&rsquo;s executive vice president said. &ldquo;We are obviously thrilled that our use of unaccredited sampling has become an opportunity rather than a cease-and-desist letter.&rdquo;</p><p>Leonard said the two companies make a surprising but natural partnership because of the experimental nature of Chicago&rsquo;s art scene.</p><p>&ldquo;The city has always thrived when it mixes high art and low art,&rdquo; Leonard said. &ldquo;We are at our best when we are not bound by categories.&rdquo;</p><p>Lyric Opera&rsquo;s General Director Anthony Freud says the collaboration is an effort to bring opera to audiences of different backgrounds.</p><p>&ldquo;You can ask, &lsquo;What possible relevance could it have to a very 21<sup>st</sup> century, very un-European city like Chicago?,&rsquo;&rdquo; Freud said. &ldquo;What I can say is that if you distill opera down to its basics, what is it? It&rsquo;s telling stories through words and music.&rdquo;</p><p>Freud said the collaboration is part of the company&rsquo;s recently announced effort to bring opera to a wider audience. Lyric Unlimited focuses on community partnerships, education and performances at the opera house and around the city.</p><p>&ldquo;Together I think we can try to explore how opera can find a way of becoming truly relevant to people and communities for whom it has had absolutely no relevance up to now,&rdquo; Freud said.</p><p>This year, the Lyric will unveil its first program specifically designed for families, he said. It&rsquo;s an interactive 70-minute version of the classic, <em>Don Pasquale</em>, called <em>Popcorn and Pasquale</em>. The theater is offering lower ticket prices for families and is also partnering with sponsors to provide free tickets to families in need. Lyric Unlimited is funded by a $2 million award from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, announced earlier this month.</p><p>The Lyric&#39;s upcoming collaboration with The Second City is an example of these efforts to connect with new audiences and art forms.</p><p>To demonstrate the point, two Second City e.t.c. performers, Tawny Newsome and Michael Kosinski, acted out a musical sketch at the press conference Wednesday. The skit parodied the unlikely flirtation between opera and improv, featuring the operatic caricature,&ldquo;Princess Tragedina,&rdquo; and the improv actor, &ldquo;Gary.&rdquo; The troubled princess remarked how their relationship was hopeless because she requires &ldquo;elaborate sets&rdquo; &ndash; not typically found on an improv stage.</p><p>The fate of the Lyric and the improv relationship will unfold on the Civic Opera House&#39;s stage on Jan. 5.</p></div><p>&nbsp;</p></p> Wed, 18 Jul 2012 18:04:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/sections/art/renowned-theater-companies-pair-operatic-laughs-101019 Improv pioneer Josephine Forsberg dies at 90 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-05/improv-pioneer-josephine-forsberg-dead-90-92827 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//blog/photo/2011-October/2011-10-05/Second City Student Show_Flickr_Elizabeth McQuern.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Very few of the men and women are left now who, sixty years ago, began to create in Chicago the modern techniques of improvisational theater. With the death Monday of Josephine "Jo" Raciti Forsberg, 90, the ranks of the surviving founders have grown even smaller.</p><p><img alt="" class="caption" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/blog/insert-image/2011-October/2011-10-05/Second City Student Show_Flickr_Elizabeth McQuern.jpg" style="width: 400px; height: 300px; margin: 5px; float: left;" title="Forsberg helped develop the modern techniques of improve theater, like those used by these Second City students in a 2008 performance. (Flickr/Elizabeth McQuern)">The creation of concepts and rules for improvisational comedy, acting and performance--each somewhat distinct from the other--didn't happen all at once. There was no improv big bang, but a series of events, theater troupes, experiments, workshops, cabarets and schools which sometimes flowed out of each other and sometimes not. Jo Forsberg was up to her neck in as many of them as anyone else, from The Second City co-founders Howard Alk (deceased), Paul Sills (deceased) and Bernard Sahlins (happily still among the living and still engaged in making theater), to Mike Nichols and Elaine May and Shelly Berman, to Del Close and David Shepherd and Sheldon Patinkin (also, happily, still fully engaged in Chicago theater).</p><p>Although I hadn't seen Jo Forsberg in many years, I remember her vividly and her gifted children, too, Linnea and Eric, who were major forces in the early Off-Loop Theater scene of the 1970's. Now with independent careers of their own in teaching (Linnea) and film (Eric), they were with her when she died Monday at Illinois Masonic Medical Center.</p><p>I'm grateful to theater critic and Columbia College teacher Albert Williams for reminding me of the details of her long career.</p><p>Jo was a member in the 1950's of the pioneering Playwrights Theatre Club, forerunner of the Second City improv theatre, and she was an early member of Second City itself where she assisted Viola Spolin, whose pioneering work in theater games was--and is--the foundation of all contemporary improv work. Spolin, mother of Paul Sills, eventually left Chicago for the West Coast, with Forsberg taking over Spolin's Chicago workshops. Forsberg also produced and directed the long-running Children's Theatre at the Second City from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s, continuing to teach at Second City and later at the Players Workshop, forerunner of the Second City Training Center. Among Jo's thousands of students over the years, according to Williams' account, were George Wendt, Shelley Long, Harold Ramis, Bonnie Hunt, Robert Townsend and Bill Murray. Forsberg also was the aunt of the late Martin de Maat, who served for many years as artistic director of the Second City Training Center.</p><p>Linking the generation of the founders to those who followed, Forsberg invited Compass Players co-founder David Shepherd back to Chicago in the early 1980s and teamed him up with her student, improv producer Charna Halpern, paving the way for ImprovOlympic (today known as iO Chicago) which Halpern created with great improv guru and theorist Del Close. Also in the 1980s and '90s, she owned and operated an off-Loop venue, the Theatre Shoppe on Lincoln Avenue, which produced dozens of plays and nurtured the careers of many actors, including Steve Carell and Tim Kazurinsky.</p><p>We tend to think of improvisational theater as being comedic and satiric, in the mold of The Second City or The Committee (San Francisco) or the Upright Citizens Brigade (New York, but it started here). However, the greatest improv teachers and directors, and Jo Forsberg was among them, understand that improvisation is a key to the imagination which may be applied by any actor to any given role or situation. Once dismissed as having little value, improvisation now is part of the core curriculum of any comprehensive course of acting or directing studies. Master teacher Jo Forsberg is among those who should be thanked and remembered.</p></p> Wed, 05 Oct 2011 11:30:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/blog/onstagebackstage/2011-10-05/improv-pioneer-josephine-forsberg-dead-90-92827 Funny man Jimmy Carrane releases his inner ‘Improv Nerd’ http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-15/funny-man-jimmy-carrane-releases-his-inner-%E2%80%98improv-nerd%E2%80%99-92030 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//segment/photo/2011-September/2011-09-15/Jimmy Carrane.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>For 25 years, Chicago improv comedian <a href="http://www.jimmycarrane.com/" target="_blank">Jimmy Carrane</a> honed his skills in the wide world of comedy. And worked with some of the biggest names who got their start in--or rolled through--Chicago.</p><p>He played small rolls in television and film and for quite some time; and could be found in public radio-land on WBEZ’s <em>Eight Forty-Eight</em>. Carrane interviewed celebrities as the host of his own “show-within-a-show,” <a href="http://www.wbez.org/content-categories/56935" target="_blank"><em>Studio 312</em></a>.</p><p>Carrane channeled his chops to teach comedy and recently combined all of his passions for stage and performance in a new stage show, <em>Improv Nerd with Jimmy Carrane</em>. The weekly show runs on Sundays through Nov. 27 at <a href="http://www.stage773.com/" target="_blank">Stage 773</a>, on West Belmont.</p></p> Thu, 15 Sep 2011 14:58:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/episode-segments/2011-09-15/funny-man-jimmy-carrane-releases-his-inner-%E2%80%98improv-nerd%E2%80%99-92030 Improv for Alzheimer's: 'A sense of accomplishment' http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-14/improv-alzheimers-sense-accomplishment-90592 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org//npr_story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-15/Alzheimer&#039;s_Flickr_Ann Gordon.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Many newly diagnosed Alzheimer's patients go through the stressful phase of realizing they are losing their memory while still having enough insight to know that, over time, they will no longer be able to care for themselves.</p><p>So a team of researchers from Chicago — a city known for improvisational theater — is testing a new idea of whether unscripted theater games can affect the well-being of these patients.</p><p>"Improv is all about being in the moment, which for someone with memory loss, that is a very safe place," says Mary O'Hara, a social worker at the Cognitive Neurology and Alzheimer's Disease Center at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine. "Maybe thinking about the past and trying to remember makes the person a little anxious or even a bit sad because their memory is failing. And maybe thinking about the future too much is also anxiety-provoking. So being in the moment is such a safe and a good place to be."</p><p>The Northwestern researchers are working with the Tony Award-winning Lookingglass Theatre Company. There are already theater programs that use improv for Alzheimer's patients in the later stages of the disease, but this collaboration is unique because it's for early-stage patients.</p><p>"There's no experience required, there's no script, there's no memorization," O'Hara says. "They bring to it just their creative potential. And they are so successful at this."</p><p>Christine Mary Dunford, with Lookingglass, leads the group of novice performers in very simple improv games.</p><p>One "of the basic tenets of improv that [is] perfect for working with people with dementia [is] the concept of yes," Dunford says. "So, fundamental to all our work is that whatever answer someone comes up with, the rest of us are going to be able to work with it."</p><p>Researchers don't expect these games to stop or slow the progress of Alzheimer's disease, but they are investigating whether engaging the creative abilities of these early-stage patients improves their lives.</p><p>Before and after the eight-week program, participants and their families are asked a series of questions, checking to see how the course changes their answers.</p><p>"We're asking people to tell us how they're feeling about their physical health, their mood," says Darby Morhardt, a research associate professor at Northwestern. "How do they feel about their memory? How did they feel about their family, about their relationships? And also, how do they feel about their current situation as a whole and their life as a whole?"</p><p>"When we think of people with Alzheimer's and other dementia, we think about people who are losing skills on a daily basis," says improv coach Dunford. "But here, they're learning some new things, too.</p><p>It gives them a feeling of — a sense of self-confidence that they were able to accomplish this. And in this disease, there's not a lot of opportunity to feel a sense of accomplishment."</p><div class="fullattribution">Copyright 2011 National Public Radio.</div></p> Sun, 14 Aug 2011 23:01:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/2011-08-14/improv-alzheimers-sense-accomplishment-90592