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Chicago Training Center Chicago Training Center Student Handbook
  • Policies and Procedures

    This General Information page contains important and pertinent information regarding the Training Center and general policies for our students. All new students should read it thoroughly and print out a copy for their reference. If you have any questions regarding this information, please contact the office. Every effort is made to keep this information up-to-date. However, things are subject to change without notice.

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  • About the Training Center

    The Second City Training Center has emerged as a leading school for people from all walks of life to study improvisation, acting and writing. Many Second City alumni first studied here, including Tina Fey and Rachel Dratch of Saturday Night Live, Stephnie Weir of MAD TV, Steve Carell of The Office, Nancy Walls and Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report, Chris Farley, Bonnie Hunt and Mike Myers. Other alumni of our Training Center include Sean Hayes of Will and Grace, three time Tony Award winner Hinton Battle, author of Broadway's Urinetown Greg Kotis, Halle Berry, and countless other producers, directors, writers and actors working in theater, television and film. Our students come from many backgrounds and experience levels. Whatever your reason for joining, we aim to create a safe and supportive environment where you can explore and grow.

    The focus of The Second City Training Center is to teach the skills which underlie the work on our resident stages. The classes, taught by professionals working in their fields, are dedicated to helping students develop their artistic voice, both individually and within an ensemble, and to provide the tools and techniques needed to express that voice. We draw on our company's history of ensemble improvisation, satire, and revue comedy as developed and practiced by our actors, directors, and teachers and serve as a laboratory for the exploration of the future of the art form. Classes are held in Chicago at Pipers Alley.

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  • Facility Information

    The Training Center office is located at 1608 N. Wells, on the fourth floor of Piper's Alley. Office hours are Monday through Thursday from 10am to 10pm, Fridays and Saturdays from 10am to 5pm and Sundays from 12pm to 9pm. The Training Center office phone number is 312-664-3959. The fax number is 312-587-9098.

    There is a paid indoor parking lot at Piper's Alley as well as outdoor lots along Wells Street and North Avenue. On-street parking is limited; consult posted signs. Nearby public transportation routes include the Sedgwick stop on the Brown and Purple lines, North/Clybourn or the Clark/Division stops on the Red Line, and the North Avenue (#72), Lincoln/Sedgwick (#11), Broadway (#36), Sheridan (#151), LaSalle (#156) and Clark Street (#22) bus lines.

    Classes are held in almost all spaces all the time. Classroom assignment is generally based on seniority. Conservatory and upper levels are assigned the theatre spaces. Classes assigned to any of the theatres may be relocated if special bookings require it.

    There are two restroom locations at North and Wells: outside of the Mainstage at the north end of the lobby; for the Training Center classrooms, e.t.c. and the Skybox - on the third floor of Piper's Alley.


    • Donny's Skybox Theatre (4th floor, Piper's Alley)
    • DeMaat Studio Theatre (3rd floor, Piper's Alley)
    • Mainstage Theatre (1616 N. Wells Street)
    • e.t.c. theatre (2nd floor, Piper's Alley)
    • Rooms 401-408 (4th floor, Piper's Alley)
    • Rooms 301-305 (3rd floor, Piper's Alley)
    • Room 101-106 (1st floor, Piper's Alley)
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  • Classes & Attendance

    New Student Orientation
    All new students are encouraged to attend an orientation session, which is generally held in the Mainstage Theater on a Sunday before a new term begins. The orientation gives an overview of the Training Center experience and allows new students to meet with the Program Head or a core teacher from the program they are entering. The orientation dates are posted on the yearly schedule section of the website or may be obtained by calling the Training Center office.

    Class Times
    We aim to make your class days and times constant throughout each program. In the Conservatory Program, once you are accepted into Levels 1 and 2, those two terms will be on the same day and time. After the Level 2 audition, you will be placed into a Level 3 class which may or may not meet at the time slot in which you originally began. In the Writing Program, Levels 2-4 are on the same day and time; Levels 5 & 6 are on the same day and time, though not necessarily the same as
    Levels 2-4. For Improv Levels A-E, plan to be with the same group at the same time and day for the duration of the program.

    Switching Class Times
    If your schedule changes and it is impossible for you to attend your scheduled class time, let us know as soon as possible. We will make every effort to place you in a new class time which is convenient for you. However, once you are placed in a class time, we cannot guarantee switching you into a different time within the same term. Students switching sections may be charged a $30 transfer fee. If other classes within your level are full, you may need to wait a term or even two to get into a different time slot. The best time to try to change classes is when registering for your next term.

    Making Up Classes
    You can make up a maximum of two missed classes by going to another class time during the same week. If you are uncertain about when you can make up a class, please call the Training Center office. Make-up classes are for your benefit. They do not erase the original absences, as they do not take away from the fact that you were not present with your own ensemble.

    During the 7th and 8th week for Levels C-E and throughout the term for Conservatory Levels 3-5, students are preparing for upcoming performances and therefore students from other classes would not be able to participate. As such, students attending a make up session during one of these weeks may be unable to fully participate in class activities. Each instructor has the right to inform any student who is making up a class whether they may participate or only observe the class.

    Missing more than two of your scheduled class times can be grounds for repeating a term. Even though a student may make up their missed classes, the student is also required to be part of an ensemble. Missing their regularly scheduled class jeopardizes their involvement within the ensemble.

    Required Classes
    The Second City Training Center reserves the right to require writing and/or acting classes for individual students as needed. Should an individual not complete any required class, The Training Center reserves the right to hold the student back a term until the requirement is satisfied.

    Students Returning from Hiatus
    Sometimes a student may wish or need to take time off from the Training Center due to personal reasons. Should this occur, please contact the Training Center immediately. Please note that when you return, the Training Center reserves the right to place you in an appropriate level at its discretion. Students who leave during Levels D or E will be placed in Level C as soon as an opening is available. Students who leave during Levels 3-5 will be placed in Level 3 as soon as an opening is available.

    Returning students must pay the tuition rate that is applicable at the time of rejoining the Training Center. Any student returning after more than one (1) year of absence is required to rejoin the program at a level determined by the Training Center.

    Visitors are not allowed to attend regular classes. A drop-in class or jam would be an appropriate option for guests.

    Substitute Instructors
    A substitute teacher may sometimes be necessary due to the fact that our faculty is comprised of working artists. When possible, students will be notified by their instructor in advance. However, sometimes advance notice is not possible.


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  • Payment Policies

    New Student Fee
    Students who have never before taken a class at The Second City Training Center in Chicago are required to pay a one-time $15 registration fee at the time of registration. Each student incurs this fee only once.

    Multi-Class Tuition Discount
    Students who enroll in more than one class may receive a 15 percent discount off each additional class.

    Early Registration Discount
    Most adult program classes have an early registration period during which students can register at a lower tuition rate.

    Processing Fee
    A $1 processing fee will be added to the registration for each class.

    Work Study
    Work Study positions are generally given priority to our student volunteers. Volunteer positions come up very regularly and are the easiest way for adult students to receive discounted tuition.  Volunteers are usually sought to assist with high volume events at the Training Center or to represent the Training Center at various events and locations around Chicago.  To apply to be a volunteer (also known as the Second City Dream Team), please submit this form.

    Youth Scholarship
    The Second City Training Center offers scholarships for our youth programs. Scholarship applications will be posted on the Teen & Youth Program index page when they are being accepted.

    Returned Checks
    A $30.00 fee will be assessed for returned checks due to insufficient funds or closed accounts.

    Note: Tuition is non-refundable and non-transferrable. All sales are final.


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  • Auditions

    Conservatory Program Auditions
    An audition is required to enter Levels 1 and 3 of The Conservatory Program. Please consult the Training Center calendar for the Level 1 audition dates. Appointments are accepted approximately two weeks prior to the Level 1 audition date. Students in Level 2 should note their audition date on their calendar, which will generally fall on the Friday before the Level 3 term starts. If a Level 2 student is not able to make the scheduled audition, s/he is welcome to wait a term and audition later.

    Skybox Auditions
    Each term, a number of shows require actors, including Training Center productions such as Writing 6 revues, or several independent comedy productions. Auditions are generally open to current students and alumni of the Training Center, though final say lies with the individual director. The Training Center will post audition dates on the callboard and e-newsletter as available.

    Second City Touring Company and Business Theatre Auditions
    If you wish to audition for The Second City you should send a headshot, resume, and cover letter to the attention of the appropriate departments. You may do this at any time during the year. For Touring Company send info to: The Second City National Touring Company, Attn: Casting, 1616 N. Wells, Chicago, IL 60614. For Business Theatre, send to: Second City Communications, 1616 N. Wells, Chicago, IL 60614.

    When general audition dates are scheduled, Second City will announce these through publications, flyers and on the website. The producers notify those actors whom they are interested in seeing in addition to accepting appointments as announced. You WILL NOT automatically be informed of the dates of general auditions. These auditions are not a place to try out your audition techniques; please audition only if you are ready and interested in working.

    We cannot guarantee that graduates will be given performing positions. As a student of the Training Center you have a leg up on the competition because you are studying improvisation in the way that a Second City performer needs to have studied. Many of the current members of the Second City Resident and Touring Companies are graduates of The Training Center. However, no one is guaranteed a job with the Second City once you graduate from The Training Center.


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  • Donny's Skybox & de Maat Studio Theatres

    Donny's Skybox Theatre is on the fourth floor of Piper's Alley. The de Maat Studio Theatre is on the third floor of Piper's Alley. These spaces are used for classes as well as for a series of performances presented by alumni, faculty, students & guest artists of the Training Center. Visit the "Performances" section of this Chicago Training Center website for the current schedule. Training Center students receive half-price tickets to the majority of shows and free tickets to class graduation performances.

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  • Performance & Tickets

    Conservatory Performances
    All students are encouraged to see at least some of each term's Conservatory Performances. The dates of these performances are on the website. Level 2-5 shows are held on Sundays at 6pm in the Skybox Theater and are free.

    You should also see Monday night Level 6 shows twice a session. We recommend that you come once early on and then once near the end of the run. For Level 6 shows, we recommend that you arrive early since the shows must have at least 25 attendees prior to the first performance. These shows begin at 8pm, with a free 7pm pre-show on some nights. Tickets for Level 6 shows are $5 general admission, free for Training Center students.

    Skybox Shows
    All year long, a number of shows are produced by faculty, guest artists, current students and alumni of the Training Center. These are performed at Donny's Skybox Studio Theater on the fourth floor of Piper's Alley. Some of these shows are improvised while others are scripted. They represent a wide range of the styles that are explored at the Training Center. It is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED that you attend as many of these as possible. Present your student ID at the Skybox box office to receive the general half-price student discount on Skybox shows.

    Other Student Shows
    Current Training Center students receive free tickets to performances by Levels C-E of the Improvisation Program. Students, particularly those just starting out in these programs, are very much encouraged to see these shows to become familiar with the performance experiences.

    Mainstage and e.t.c. tickets
    Current Training Center students may obtain one complimentary ticket to the Mainstage or e.t.c. Theater on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Sunday evenings, provided the show is not sold out. If the show is sold out with reservations on one of these nights, you will be asked to purchase your ticket.

    Call the box office at 312-337-3992 to make reservations and mention that you are a Training Center student. When you come to pick up your ticket, it is required that you present your current Training Center ID. This offer is valid only on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday evening performances. Free tickets are not available for Friday and Saturday night performances in the Mainstage or e.t.c.

    Monday Night Touring Company shows
    Current Training Center students may obtain one complimentary ticket to the Monday Touring Company shows.  These tickets are only released about ten minutes prior to the show. We highly recommend that you see it since these shows often present classic material from past shows and tickets are much less expensive than the regular resident shows.

    Improv Sets
    Improv sets on the Mainstage and e.t.c. Theaters are free to everyone. They run Monday through Thursday at 10:00pm, Saturdays at 1:00am, and Sundays at 9:00pm; no improv sets on Fridays. (Times are approximate - the sets begin a few minutes after the main show ends.) Seating is based on availability, so you may want to get here a little early (say 12:15am on a Saturday) to make sure you get in. The improv sets are fun to watch and a great learning experience as well.

    Special Ticket Offers
    Occasionally, the theaters will have last-minute ticket offers for Training Center students. Often, these are advertised within hours of a show via email. Therefore, it is important that you keep the Training Center office up-to-date on your contact information.

    General Notes
    Reminder: There are no comps available on Fridays or Saturdays for the Mainstage or e.t.c.

    Please treat the box office staff with respect. They work very hard and are good at what they do. Always have your ID with you if you want a free ticket. Current IDs are available any time the Training Center office is open.

    You are in a program designed to teach you how to perform in a Second City company. The students who take the time to see all the shows and watch the improv sets find that their class work is greatly enhanced.

    As a student, you are strongly encouraged to see all shows at The Second City Training Center and Theaters, as well as other shows throughout the improv community. Take advantage of the opportunity to see shows!

    Hot Tix
    The League of Chicago Theatres, the non-profit service organization for Chicago's theater community, operates the Hot Tix booths throughout the Chicago area. Hot Tix offers half-price week-of and day-of-show tickets, plus a small service fee. Tickets are added on Mondays and updated throughout the week as more tickets become available. It's a great way to see lots of theater productions if you're on a tight budget. For Hot Tix locations and a list of shows for sale, go to

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  • Listing Your Class Shows on an Actors' Resume


    It is important that for any audition, whether through Second City or not, you represent your training and show experience with us correctly and honestly. For example, performing in the Mainstage theater for a Level E show does not allow you to put “Second City Mainstage” on your actor’s resume. Please list the location or producing body on all your Training Center experience as “Second City Training Center, Chicago.” After completing a program, it is also important not to list yourself as a “Second City Alumni,” but rather a “Second City Training Center Alumni.”

    For example, a student who has completed Level 6 of The Conservatory Program should list the experience as:

    Level 6 Show - Ensemble - Second City Training Center, Chicago

    If you are interested in more information on auditioning or creating a resume, the Training Center regularly hosts workshops and free events that cover the essentials of auditioning. Check the Training Center callboard, the student section of the website, or the Training Center newsletter for upcoming events of this sort.


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  • Miscellaneous


    Training Center ID
    At the beginning of each term every Training Center student is given a Training Center ID. It is your responsibility to make sure that you receive your ID on the first day of class and that you do not lose it. Only students who have paid in full will receive a Training Center ID. Your ID is the only way to identify yourself as a Training Center student at the box office or for other purposes. Make sure to have it with you whenever you are in the building.

    Wear comfortable clothing to class -- something you can roll around on the floor in and not worry about. Be prepared to make yourself warmer or cooler no matter what the weather may be like outside.

    Crime is part of life in the big city. Try not to bring anything of value with you to the theatre and never leave your belongings unattended. The Second City may not be held responsible for any lost or stolen articles.

    Tuition Policy
    Tuition is non-refundable, non-transferable. The Second City Training Center reserves the right to accept or deny any application.

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  • Discipline Policy

    Immediate Dismissal
    If at any point during class, the instructor feels that a student is engaging in behavior which is dangerous or highly disruptive to the classroom ensemble, the instructor may require that the student leave the classroom for the remainder of that day's class. Students dismissed from class in this manner may not return to their regular class until they have spoken with someone from the Training Center office. Behavior which would result in immediate dismissal includes, but is not limited to, violence, inebriation, or other actions which are disruptive to the work of the class. If behavior is deemed excessively disruptive to the training center environment, the training center reserves the right to permanently dismiss a student from the center as well as the extended Second City property.

    Students who display behavior which an instructor deems to be detrimental to the progress of their ensemble may be issued a warning. The instructor gives the warning verbally and then notifies the Training Center office. If a student receives more than one warning for similar issues, the Program Head will be notified and appropriate action will be taken. Depending on the circumstances, students may be required to transfer classes, repeat a term, take a leave of absence from The Training Center or to leave the Training Center permanently. Warnings may be given for excessive lateness, for missing more than one of the scheduled classes (even excused absences), inappropriate classroom behavior, inability to keep up with class progress.


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  • Suggested Reading List

    • Improvisation for the Theater, Viola Spolin
    • The Second City, Sheldon Patinkin
    • Days and Nights at The Second City, Bernie Sahlins
    • Impro, Keith Johnstone
    • Something Wonderful Right Away, Jeffrey Sweet
    • The Second City Almanac of Improvisation, Anne Libera
    • Process, Mary Scruggs & Michael Gellman
    • The Compass, Janet Coleman
    • The Comic Toolbox, John Vorhaus
    • Respect for Acting, Uta Hagen
    • Acting, The First Six Lessons, Boleslavsky
    • The Actor at Work, Robert Benedetti
    • Act of Being, Charles Marowitz
    • Audition, Michael Shurtleff
    • Speaking Clearly, Modisett and Luter
    • The History of the Theatre, Oscar G. Brockett
    • Sanford Meisner on Acting, Sanford Meisner
    • Advice to the Players, Robert Lewis
    • Introduction to Stanislavsky, Sonja Moore
    • Comedy is a Serious Business, Harry Ruskin
    • An Incomplete Education, Jones and Wilson
    • Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, E.D. Hirsch
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