Famed Second City Troupe Headed to Tech’s Macey Center
The Second City just might be the first name in contemporary comedy theatre, dating back over a half century go — and its Best of Second City troupe is headed to New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center at 7:30 p.m. on April 12.
The Performing Arts Series event was scheduled to fill the slot vacated by the Gaden Shartse Monks, due to the uncertainty their visas would be issued in time for their performance, originally slated for April 19.
PAS Director Ronna Kalish is a Chicago native and quite familiar with the history of Second City.
“Most people probably equate Second City with its more famous alumni who went on to appear on ‘Saturday Night Live,’ including John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Stephen Colbert and Tina Fey,” Kalish said. “What they may not know is that Second City actually opened on Dec. 16, 1959, at 1842 North Wells Street in Chicago.”
Kalish said the theater evolved from the Compass Players, a 1950s cabaret revue show started by undergraduates at the University of Chicago.
With its roots in the improvisational games of Viola Spolin, The Second City developed an entirely unique way of creating and performing comedy. Founded by Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, along with Howard Alk and Bernie Sahlins, The Second City was experimental and unconventional in its approach to both theater and comedy.
At a time when mother-in-law jokes were more the fashion, The Second City railed against the conformist culture with scenes that spoke to a younger generation.
By the 1980s, The Second City had become much more than a small cabaret theatre on Chicago’s north side. In the middle of the decade, The Second City would begin a new era as Second City Toronto when proprietors Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart bought out Bernie Sahlins’ interest in The Second City Chicago and set in motion a new era of innovation for the company.
Second City’s Canadian counterpart developed its own sketch comedy series, SCTV, hailed as one of the greatest comedy series of all time and featuring an all-star cast that included Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and Rick Moranis.
Additionally, The Second City has grown well beyond a single stage to become a diversified entertainment company. Second City Training Centers in Chicago, Toronto and Los Angeles teach thousands of students every week; four touring companies perform Second City revues all over North America and abroad; Second City Communications has become an industry leader in bringing improv-based methodologies to the corporate sector; and Second City continues to create unique media in television, film and the digital realm.
The Second City continues to do what it has always done best, Kalish said, in producing the premiere comic talent in the industry.
Kalish has charted the growth of The Second City extensions, as well as other trends in the performing arts.
“‘The Second City: Best of Second City’ show features some of the best sketches, songs and improvisations from The Second City’s 52-year history, along with some contemporary routines which ought to be a blast both for the performers and our audience,” she said.
Troupe members certainly have a wealth of inspiration to draw from in developing their contemporary sketches, from the celebrity collage known as the Kardashians and the entire “reality” television industry, to the clogged political system headquartered in the nation’s capital city.
“If we’ve ever needed a dose of silliness, satire and comedic spontaneity, now is the time,” Kalish said. “The Best of Second City puts comedy first in an amazingly funny show that jabs and cheers pretty much equally.”
Tickets are $20 for adults, $18 for senior citizens 65 and over, and $10 for youths 17 and under, and are available at the Tech Cashier’s Office (second floor of Fidel Center), Brownbilt Shoes and Western Wear, Burrito Tyme Drive-up, by calling 575-835-5688, or at the door.