Chicago’s Newest Improv Theatre
The Chicago Improv Den (CID), which officially opened Spring of this year, offers the rare chance to study improv with small class sizes, built-in performances and an incredibly hands-on owner and founder, Dina Facklis. On the theater’s website they make it clear that they are not a “replacement for iO, The Second City, CIC or the Annoyance” but rather an “advanced supplemental training program.”
In one of her CID blog posts titled “Why Now?,” Dina addresses why she started CID, “Chicago is the improvisation mecca. And we want to strengthen that with yet another place of learning — with yet another informed point of view.” And so CID was born.
CID MANTRA: ENSEMBLE & VULNERABILITY
“I don’t think that anybody is going to succeed until they’re vulnerable.
For one, their ensemble needs to see their vulnerability – this is very ensemble oriented.”
Wise words from Dina Facklis, who has been performing in Chicago since 1996 and has been improvising for the past 19 years. She has performed and directed with The Second City Touring Company, had the honor of working with Steppenwolf, and has been heavily involved with iO, where she is best known for her balls-to-the-wall honest humor on her all-female team Virigin Daquiri — which you can catch Wednesdays at 8pm in iO’s Del Close Theater.
Dina explains, “I think improvisers, as a whole, are just really afraid to fail and the thing about improv is that nobody is foolproof. You know I’ve seen the best players in the city not have great shows every single time — there are always shows where something is off — so I just want people to be easier on themselves.”
WHAT TO EXPECT:
The Chicago Improv Den is an advanced training center with four levels each focusing on a different aspect of improv: from level one’s diagnostic-style instruction where students’ strengths and weaknesses are highlighted all the way to level four where the ensemble creates a custom form. Each level also involves actual stage-time. The first level features one final show at the end of the class and each level proceeding includes a performance for each week of the six-week curriculum. Dina believes performances are meant to “give [the students] some stakes.” With each class capped at 12 students and each student show serving to open for renowned veteran teams and improvisers as Virgin Daquiri, Seriously Unprepared, Pudding Thank You and Susan Messing — the stakes are truly felt.
Though the CID training center manages to be highly professional, high-caliber, and full of integrity, it also manages feel homey — attributes that are also to be found in the physical space itself. The Chicago Improv Den is currently renting space in the Den Theatre located in the heart of Wicker Park. After a long flight of wooden stairs, visitors enter a stunning loft featuring mahogany colored leather couches, antique furniture, globe lamps, mysterious paintings of gas stations and, of course, a welcoming bar.
From student appreciation nights featuring free tacos and pizza, to trivia battles between classes, it’s easy to feel at home at CID. Yes, Chicago is the world’s “improvisation mecca” for both seeing shows and taking classes, but in a sea of theatres and training centers where else can you perform for a full house, open for seasoned veterans, eat free pizza, then play trivia in swanky bar with your best friends?
The next session of classes at CID begins Saturday, September 6th. If you’re interested apply to be a student here. (And if you’re real cool mention this article, so this poor writer can get a student discount). Follow CID on Facebook and Twitter for show updates and more.