Patiently Awaiting the New iO

A New Improv Home

New iOWith iO closing its Clark Street location two weeks ago, the Chicago comedy community is patiently awaiting the opening of their new improv home. In light of our patience, here’s a bit about what the LAFS team is most looking forward in regards to the new iO.

Everyone within the comedy community has been talking about iO’s big move for months, but I’m thrilled about the press its been getting citywide. The new location is definitely making waves throughout Chicago and is only going to help introduce more people to the wonderful world of sketch and improv. City visitors surely have The Second City on their to-do list (and rightly so), but I’m predicting that the opening of iO’s new building will emphasize the wealth of talent and resources available. Bring on the tourists!

They say a church is not the sanctuary or the steeple, but the congregation. To me that is what iO is; the actors who donate their talents every night. I hope that never gets lost.

I’m looking forward to the shows, and all of the space. I’m excited to be apart of a new wave at iO, creating a whole new set of stories and memories in this building. I feel as if the community won’t change and everyone involved will still be there to create improv as art. The loft and brick feeling of the new space will mix the old with the new, and there will be so much room for activities!

Call me a greedy person but I’m excited about how much more STUFF there’s going to be at the new iO. They’ve always produced great, messy, entertaining shows, but to have the opportunity to see even more things in more theaters is going to be great. There’s going to be so much cool fringe iO material to check out on any given night of the week. I’ve seen some of my favorite shows start out on an iO stage and I can’t wait to see what comes out of a bigger space with more room to play.

I sincerely hope that the new theaters in iO extend performance opportunities to community members who didn’t get that chance in the Clark Street building. iO has long been a celebrated landmark in the improv community, so making teams and snagging performance spots was highly competitive. That’s far from a bad thing — in fact, it’s the reason for the theater’s success. But an increase in the number of performers a theater can put on stage is equally far from a bad thing. I think it strengthens community, creates a need for diversity in performance, and therefore provides outlets for weirder, more experimental comedy. This is how our art form evolves. It’s great that iO can now be an even larger player in that.

A couple friends of mine took the summer intensive at iO last year, and one of them turned me on to TJ Jagodowski’s and Dave Pasquesi’s documentary, Trust Us, This Is All Made Up. This was my first, in-depth learning experience about long-form improv. So, I think I’m most excited to see a show at TJ and Dave’s theater at the new iO venue. I’m curious to see the way the two Chicago improv veterans run their theater and I’m hoping to learn more about comedy from them.

One of my favorite parts of “old” iO were the colorful blurbs scribbled on the women’s restrooms stalls, especially ladies who admitted their secret improv crushes. I mean who can forget, “Rance get in my pants?” Not that I endorse vandalism or graffiti, but I hope that “new” iO has the same space for people to share their secrets. I most look forward to the new TJ & Dave theater and the future productions that will be put up. And who isn’t excited about the rumblings that Tara DeFrancisco will be a warm and loving confidant as an iO student counselor? Perhaps there will space for our secrets after-all…

I’m really looking forward to the bar space at the new iO. The bar at the old theater had so much character between the bartenders and the clientele. It was just so inclusive. Actually, the first time I went to iO I ended up drinking with the team who I saw perform that night (Closed Quarters). And it was more than just polite conversation amongst strangers. We were all joking with each other like we were old friends and drinking like that too. That experience was the final push I needed to sign up for my first ever improv class. From what I’ve heard,  there’s going to be a lot more bar space, which only means more opportunities for awesome experiences like this. Not to mention, more space means more taps. And as iO has shown us time and time again, variety never hurt anyone.

The new iO will be huge, and more space, of course, means more everything–shows, classes, places to drink. What I’m most interested in, however, is the “more” specificity of the new theater. I’m excited to see how the four uniquely-purposed stages will change the dynamic of the theater. In particular, I can’t wait to see how The Mission, TJ and Dave’s theater-within-a-theater, will grow, and how its foray into a Thursday-Sunday sketch revue will change the role of sketch within iO and the Chicago comedy scene as a whole.

I echo the thoughts and hopes of everyone else as well. The thing I’m most hoping stays the same at the new iO is the feeling of home. For me, iO was really the first place I ever felt “home” at in Chicago (even though I’d lived here for 3 years by the time I found it). I hope that with the new circle bar for socializing, the event spaces, the beer garden and all the potential and opportunities that lay ahead for iO that it never loses that feel of home. Hell, if it still kept the same musty smell, I wouldn’t be mad about it.

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posted on by Kiley Peters posted in Chatter

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