iO Moved But Improv Still Remains
The Belmont CTA stop offers access to a lot of great improv theaters, but plenty of people are still getting off at Addison. Despite the departure of iO, Lakeview still has an active improv scene and I’ll tell you why.
Everyone knows Lakeview is crawling with improv. From Chemically Imbalanced Comedy Theater (CIC) on Irving Park down to Stage 773, The Annoyance Theatre, ComedySportz and The Playground Theater, all right off of Belmont, you’ll have no problem finding a fun show. But there’s a misconception going around that since Wrigleyville lost iO, it has lost it’s improv presence. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Yes, while the neighborhood may still be overcrowded with loud and drunk sports fans, loud and drunk improv fans are still in heavy supply as well. iO closed out it’s final days on Clark Street a few weeks ago, however, there are still places to take classes, see shows and even get stage time. Here are a few attractions (outside of Wrigley Field) that will have you making the Addison Red Line stop your destination rather than Belmont.
Under The Gun Theater – Links Hall
Despite being just over a year old, Under the Gun Theater (UTG) has a lot of comedic force behind it. Angie McMahon, the theater’s Executive Director, founded Chemically Imbalanced Comedy in 2007 as well as directing a handful of notable shows throughout Chicago. Artistic Director, Kevin Mullaney, has taught improv for over 17 years, seven of which he spent in New York as the first Artistic Director and Improv Chief at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre. Beyond the impressive resumes’ of the co-owners, UTG has been staging original content throughout Chicago since last July. However, the newly acquired space at 956 W Newport Ave. will be the sole home to their future productions.
UTG will not only offer unique performances at their new theater, but unique classes as well. On top of a conventional improv program taught by Mullaney himself, the theater offers some non-improv specific classes, including short film-making and storytelling. Additionally, the theater is organizing Chicago’s chapter of the National Sketch Writing Month, which starts in next month. This range in curriculum highlights the theater’s mission to explore and combine different comedic mediums.
While the theater aims to open its doors for performances in October, classes start in September! Head on over to their website to sign up for a class and consider donating to help them open their doors!
FrankenReagan – Mullen’s On Clark Upstairs @ 8pm (Mondays)
FrankenReagan has been performing at Mullen’s on Clark (3527 N Clark) for the last seven years. Granted, only one cast member has been there since the beginning, but the current ensemble has been performing together for four years now.
FrankenReagan (Jason Hall, Noah Paris, Eric Michael Davis and Brett Hartle) hosts and headlines this free show every Monday at 8pm. Every week, anywhere between three to five groups will take the stage in the upstairs room at Mullens. The room is separate from the bar downstairs, so it’s essentially its own intimate theater. Acts vary from improv, sketch, stand-up, solo, storytelling, musical – really anything that can be remotely considered “comedy.” The performers always bring in a range of experience levels with a good mix of experienced veterans to first time performers.
FrankenReagan is branching out of their comfort zone a little bit and will perform their first sketch show some time in the Fall. Be sure to “Like” them on Facebook to get further details about their show and potential performance opportunities.
98.6’s Free Show – Underground Lounge @ 8pm & 10pm (Mondays & Tuesdays)
98.6 have been improvising together for about four years now. Early on, they were performing weekly on the dance-floor of a bar in Andersonville called The Call. While the venue did scratch their performance itch, they began to long for an actual stage. As luck would have it, they found one in Wrigleyville.
Since 2010, 98.6 (Orlando Lara, Mat Labotka, Frank Bieszczat, Cassandra Phillips, Clint Phillips and Avery Lee) has been performing and producing shows at the Underground Lounge (952 W Newport Ave). The group produces four shows a week – Mondays and Tuesdays at both 8 PM and 10PM.
98.6 sets no restrictions on acts, which don’t necessarily need to be comedic at all. The crowd is always super supportive seeing as most of the people watching will also perform. And beyond the luxury of having a physical stage, there is also a bar with great specials.