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Victor Wong Fellows 2024

For Immediate Release

THE SECOND CITY PROUDLY ANNOUNCES THE RECIPIENTS OF THE SECOND ANNUAL VICTOR WONG FELLOWSHIP FOR AAPI VOICES IN COMEDY

CHICAGO — Legendary Chicago comedy institution The Second City is proud to announce the second annual Victor Wong Fellowship, a program to train and mentor up-and-coming Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) comedic talent. Named for The Second City’s first Asian American performer and funded by the family foundation of Peng Zhao, CEO of Citadel Securities, the fellowship will focus on developing the next generation of AAPI talent both on stage and “behind the scenes”. The Victor Wong Fellowship is the first program by a major comedy theatre to exclusively endow AAPI talent.

The 2024 Victor Wong Fellows, selected for their exceptional talent and unique voices, are:

  • Ian Voltaire Deanes
  • Grace Goze
  • Robert Kalia Kapaku
  • Devin Jeong-Wright
  • Johanna Medrano
  • Esther Oh
  • Brian Park
  • Frederic Powers
  • Ateeq Rehman
  • Becca Nix Tham

Under the Program Leadership of Jonald Reyes and Showcase Director Evan Mills, with Sophia Rafiqi as Assistant Director, Renee Hansel as Production Manager, and Music Director Maya Tanaka Allwardt the fellows will embark on an in-depth master program in improvisation and comedy that will conclude with a series of public and industry showcases every Tuesday in May starting at 8pm (5/7, 5/14, 5/21, 5/28)

“Beyond professional success on stage and screen, the skills of improvisation are a kind of super-power for life,” said Parisa Jalili, COO of The Second City.  “We are thrilled that this gift will allow us to train emerging AAPI talent to both hone their comedy skills as well as their skills to be deeply collaborative, resilient, and creative individuals.”

“Comedy connects us by validating our shared experiences and opening our minds to new ones,” said Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen. “Further diversifying the comedic community will help move this important medium—and the society it serves—forward. We are excited to help bring the unique perspectives of AAPI talent to the stage.”

The Second City is excited to set the stage for this new era of comedic talent and amplify the voices of the AAPI community.

For more information about The Victor Wong Fellowship and other initiatives at The Second City, please contact: Colleen Fahey VP of Marketing, The Second City cfahey@secondcity.com (312) 662-4516

The Victor Wong Fellowship builds on Mr. Zhao and his families longstanding commitment to accelerating opportunity and prosperity for the 23 million members of the AAPI community in the United States. Mr. Zhao is a founding board member of The Asian American Foundation (TAAF), which has become a catalyzing force for improving AAPI advocacy, power, and representation across American society. Mr. Zhao and Ms. Chen have convened and funded a variety of other initiatives focused on supporting Chicago and the AAPI community, including most recently The Peng Zhao and Cherry Chen Fund for AAPI Voices in partnership with Kartemquin Films.

Meet The Fellows:

Ian Voltaire Deanes (he/him) was born and raised on Chicago’s south side. An actor who loves Chicago’s rich theatre scene, from Improv and Sketch to Theatre. He currently can be seen performing with Satirical Race Theory at the iO Theater. Selected Previous Credits and Training include: “Kentucky” w/ The Gift Theatre, “Not One Batu” w/ Nothing Without a Company, “Fabulations: Or “The Re-Education of Undine” w/ Pulse Theatre, School At Steppenwolf – Class of 2017, Shout out to ChicagoMMA, Bel Air Martial Arts & Fitness, Taylor Barfield, Aaron Reese Boseman, and the theatre companies mentioned – I love y’all.

Grace Goze (she/her) is a comedian, improviser, and writer who grew up in Crystal Lake, Illinois. She moved to Chicago to obtain her MFA in Screenwriting with a concentration in comedy from DePaul University after earning an undergraduate degree in Creative Writing from Ball State University. Grace does various goofs and gags around the city, including performing with Clued In: The Improvised Murder Mystery (Second City) and Hitch*Cocktails (Annoyance Theater). Off stage, Grace loves to watch so-bad-they’re-good movies, lay by the lake, and visit the American Girl Doll store as if it were a museum. Stalk her on Instagram @mazingg.

Robert Kalia Kapaku (he/him) grew up in Beavercreek, Ohio, and has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering that he absolutely never uses. Robert has studied and performed with improvisation groups such as Breakfast Anytime!, Malarkey Comedy, and ComedySportz throughout the U.S. He performs regularly as a member of ComedySportz Chicago in their Friday and Saturday shows located at iO Theater. When not doing improv, Robert loves to travel the world, hike multi-day treks, visit ‘ohana in Hawai’i, and pet every dog or cat he meets. Find him on Instagram @robert.kalia.kapaku.

Devin Jeong-Wright (they/them), NYC-born and Boston-raised, is a product of progressive education that honed their understanding of complex narratives and our different human conditions. They attended the Theater School at Depaul and were a part of the inaugural class of its Comedy Arts major. There, Devin studied all facets of comedy, including sketch, improv, standup, producing, directing, writing and film. They have produced original work at the Annoyance Theater and Lincoln Lodge, including sketch reviews such as, Asian Americans for You, C*NT (a queer-femme sketch show), 50/50 (an auto-biographical play) and Little Miss Anthropes, a standup drag competition which they co-produce and perform at The Lincoln Lodge since June 2023. In their free time Jeong-Wright loves to write, play music, sew, dance, roller skate, and experience as many new things as possible. You can find Devin on Instagram @dzzzevin where they are guaranteed to entertain you.

Johanna Medrano (she/her) is from Lombard, Illinois, but has been making her mark in Chicago for the past decade. Currently, she performs a weekly sketch show with Missed Call, hosts Chicago’s BATSU! Game show and teaches improv and sketch-writing at the Annoyance Theater. For money, she’s a nurse. Just kidding. She works for BCG – it pays the bills. Notably, she’s a former DiOversity Scholar and cast member of the Huggable Riot Comedy Collective, Improvised Jane Bond, and founding member of CLUB ASIA – the only improv team in Chicago without a gimmick. Unrelatedly her toxic trait is spending gobs of money-making things she can buy for less. If you look closely at her yarn and fabric stash, you may spot a scarf. Ope! It’s only half of one. Special thanks to her family, especially sister Marybeth, for putting up with the chaos. Johanna is repped by Chicago Talent Network. Follow her on Instagram @jojo_in_chicago.

 

Esther Oh (she/her) is a performer, and writer from Philadelphia, PA, where she began her improvisational journey over 6 years ago. She has trained at the Philadelphia Improv Theater, the Walnut Street Theater, Second City, and the iO Theater. Since moving to Chicago in 2022, she has written and performed with Hot Soup, and is currently performing with Too Hot To Hoot, a Malarkey Comedy house team, on Wednesday nights. She enjoys exploring, climbing, writing, playing board games, and is so close to being able to do a split!

Brian Park (he/him) is from Hoffman Estates, IL and is thrilled to be performing with the Victor Wong crew! He wants to thank everyone for coming to the show and give an extra special shout out to all the family and friends! His comedy beginnings began in Burlington, VT at the Vermont Comedy Club. He built his improv chops in the Green Mountain state by performing on mainstage teams, touring company shows, and indie groups before moving to Chicago. While he enjoys improv the most, he has also written for the VT Comedy Club’s first Summer Comedy revue. When he isn’t performing improv comedy, he spends his time obsessing over cooking, playing through the PS5 gaming catalogue, and thinking about reading a book. Feel free to follow him on Instagram (parknbri).

Frederic Powers (he/him) is an improviser, voice actor, and content creator from Columbia, South Carolina, where he previously did improv and sketch at the University of South Carolina and with The Mothers at Trustus Theater. Since moving to Chicago five years ago, he’s continued his comedy education and can currently be found performing in Trigger Happy. He also keeps himself involved with a few Actual Play podcasts and D&D streams, including the currently ongoing These Silent Secrets, a Monsterhearts 2 podcast. He’s a huge fan of TTRPGs and fighting games (though he’s not what you’d call “good” at the latter), and he’s on a mission to teach as many people as possible how to play mahjong. You can find more information about him at fredericpowers.com or on his Instagram/TikTok/Twitter at @Freddie_PowPow!

Ateeq Rehman (he/him) is from Chicago, IL (ok fine! He’s from the suburbs but he’d drive into the city a lot!) He made comedy more than just a hobby after the pandemic when bread-making didn’t get a rise out of him. He can be seen weekly, performing improv with Creamboy and Stir Friday Night, sketch with Best of Annoyance Sketch, and will do standup occasionally if everyone asks nicely. He loves feeding his friends lavish meals with no recipes, reading, writing, and watching movies so terrible they are great. You can follow him on Instagram at @ateeqmr.

Becca Nix Tham (she/her) is from the Chicago suburb of Palatine but claims to be a true Chicagoan now that she has lived in the city for eight years. She is a proud Asian Jewish comedian, and Becca does it all- stand up, improv, and sketch comedy. She has performed at Laugh Factory, Annoyance Theatre, Lincoln Lodge, Flappers, Zanies, and more. She is a graduate of the iO Improv Program, as one of the first annual DiOversity scholars. Her comedy teams include the Jewish Comedy Project (sketch comedy that will be featured at the Steppenwolf Lookout Series), Club Asia (improv all around Chicago), and Trigger Happy (improv at the Annoyance Theatre). She is represented by Dream Team Chicago. You can check out her current hair color (and upcoming shows) on Instagram @beccahasokhair.

 

Meet The Creative Team:

 

Jonald Reyes – Victor Wong Program Lead (he/him) is a writer, performer, and director from Chicago by way of Rutgers University in New Jersey. He has trained at The Second City, iO, Annoyance, Chicago Dramatists and the Neo-Futurists. As a director, Jonald was honored to be named Chicago Reader’s “Best of Chicago” Best Stage Director in 2016. He was a member of the Directors Lab at Lincoln Center Theater (2017) and DirectorsLabChicago (2016). His recent directing credits include The Second City Touring Company; Stir Friday Night’s We Are Asian. We Do Comedy. (Steppenwolf Theatre’s LookOut Series); Hyde Ya Kids, Hyde Ya Park (The Revival); and the 30th anniversary of “Splatter Theater” (Annoyance). He has been the Assistant to the Director for Do You Believe In Madness? (The Second City’s 108th Mainstage revue); The Second City’s Left Leaning and Always Right (Berkeley Rep); and Generation Gap (Kennedy Center). Jonald is a founding member of Stepping Stone Theater and is on the Board of Directors for APIDA Arts. In addition, he currently serves as the Artistic Director of The Second City Training Center in Brooklyn, NY. More info at jonaldjude.com.

Evan MillsDirector (he/him) began working at Second City in 2018, spending a summer performing at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. in Generation Gap. Evan was also a 2017 Bob Curry Fellowship recipient, has performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and has toured with the Second City Touring Company. He has written and performed in three Main Stage Revues, including Together at Last, Do The Right Thing, No Worries If Not (Two Jeff Award Nominations including Best Performer and Ensemble in a Revue) and the current Don’t Quit Your Daydream (Jeff Winner for Best Performer in a Revue and nomination for Ensemble in a Revue). He has most recently been named one of the Chicago Tribune’s “Ten Best Theater Performances” two years in a row for both this year (2023) and last (2022). Evan is the co-creator and writer of Queer Eye: The Musical Parody, can be seen in the 2023 CBS Showcase, and was named a Just For Laughs New Face of ‘23.

Sophia Rafiqi Assistant Director (she/her) is an actor/comedian born and raised in Chicagoland. After graduating from Northwestern University, Sophia began training at iO Chicago and The Second City, most recently earning a spot in NBC Universal’s Bob Curry Fellowship. She can be seen improvising at iO Chicago and performing in and producing original sketch comedy throughout the city. Recent credits include NBC Universal’s Breakout Comedy Festival and acceptance of her original web content into the New York Television Film Festival. Sophia grew up with a dance background, training for 12+ years in ballet, jazz, tap, contemporary, and modern dance, and is also fluent in Urdu and Punjabi.

Renee HanselProduction Manager (she/her) is a Production Manager with experience in theatrical operations. Currently, she serves as a Production Manager of the Second City Training Center in Chicago and oversees production logistics, ensuring smooth execution of every project. Her strong organizational skills make her the go-to resource for any production-related needs. Renee holds a master’s degree in Performing Arts Administration from Roosevelt University and a bachelor’s degree in Theater from the University of Illinois – Chicago. Originally from O’ahu, Hawai’i, Renee is honored to be a part of the Victor Wong Fellowship. She is also a graduate of the Second City Conservatory program and served as an ensemble member of the Second City House Ensemble team “Supermodel U.N.” She is excited for you to see the show!

Amanda MurphyMusic Development Coordinator (she/her) is the Music Development Coordinator for The Second City company and the mentor and curriculum lead for The Victor Wong Fellowship Music Directors. She has been working across The Second City for over a decade as a Music Director, Faculty, Voice Teacher, Composer, and Sound Designer. Her Second City Theatricals music director credits include two Second City ‘Salute to Pride’ shows and Improv Extravaganza Explosion in the UP Theater. Working with the VFW MD’s has been an honor, and a delight!

Maya Tanaka AllwardtMusic Director (she/her) is a jazz fusion pianist and composer. She has competed nationally and internationally and holds 2 gold medals, performing at venues such as B.B. Kings, Andy’s Jazz Club, and Carnegie Hall, and with artists such as Gordon Goodwin, Wayne Bergeron, and Jiggs Whigham. Maya was a member of the 2022 Disneyland All-American College Band and is a Yamaha sponsored artist. @mayatanakamusic

BY THE SECOND CITY | FEB 28, 2024

Bob Curry Fellows 2023/2024

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  

CHICAGO, IL – The Second City, the pioneering institution of comedy and improvisation, is proud to announce the Bob Curry Fellows for 2023/2024. Generously sponsored for the first time by Wintrust, The Second City granted 14 tuition-free fellowships to exceptional BIPOC talent from diverse cultural backgrounds.   

 

Established in 2014 and named for the first African-American to join The Second City’s resident company, the Bob Curry Fellowship has proven to be a significant initiative to nurture talent and foster diversity in the comedy industry. Offering an in-depth 15-week master program that enables qualifying actors, improvisers, music directors, and stage managers of color to train at The Second City.   

 

Meet the 2023/2024 Bob Curry Fellows!  

Aaron Alicea – Aaron Alicea is a Writer/Performer/Puerto Rican from Brentwood, NY, with a myriad of college credits from different institutions that he would like a refund for, please! He has studied comedy with The Annoyance Theatre, The Pack Theater, and The Onion. He is a producer for the variety show Everything Is Fine, Resident Company member at iO Theater, and performs solo material at whichever venue allows him. You can follow him on Instagram @theaaronalicea or be his friend on Venmo @Aaron-Alicea-2  

 

Ruby Aviña – Ruby, a Chicago native hailing from Brighton Park, is a comedy performer and writer with a focus on improv. Having graduated from the iO training program in 2019, Ruby has been actively performing, showcasing their talents in groups like Antojitos Improv and Ratas De Dos Patas, which had a successful show at Steppenwolf Theater. With a passion for exploring the intricacies of human nature through comedy, Ruby brings a unique perspective to the stage.  

 

Alexi Bolden – Alexi Bolden is from Cedar Rapids, IA and graduated from The University of Iowa with a B.A. in Theatre Arts and African American Studies. Alexi is an SNL Scholarship recipient with The Second City and has written and performed with her sketch teams at Brooklyn Comedy Collective (N.Y.), Austin Sketch Festival (TX), The Annoyance, iO and other theaters around Chicago. You can find her at @alexibolden on Instagram or on any streaming platform where she co-hosts her podcast, Academia.  

 

Mo Burns – Mo Burns is from St. Louis, MO, where he started performing at the Improv Shop Theater. He graduated from Southeast Missouri State University with a degree in Film Studies. When not on stage, Mo enjoys reading, watching films, catching NBA games, and eating chocolate chip cookies. Catch Mo in “Holy Fuck Comedy Hour” every Friday at midnight at The Annoyance theater, and find him performing standup across the Chicago area. You can also follow him on Instagram @jokesburns.  

 

Xzavier Dean – Xzavier is from Davenport, IA and moved to Chicago in December 2020. Before joining Bob Curry Xzavier performed at the iO with Keystone improv and served as a writer/performer with sketch group Missed Call at the Annoyance theater. Mostly just happy to be here, Xzavier enjoys the simple things in life like ice cream and a good slab of ribs. You can still catch Xzavier performing with Missed Call every Friday night at The Annoyance theater, and feel free to give him a follow on Instagram @ezrashabazz.  

 

Tara Egan – Tara Egan is a performer, a comedy writer, and a big fan of olives, and is beyond honored to be joining the incredible Bob Curry Fellowship family. Outside of Second City, she’s a contributor to The Onion and can be found performing with ComedySportz Chicago, Trapped in a Musical, RIFF, and more. Follow her adventures in comedy, cooking, and flower identification on Instagram @tara.egan. She is endlessly grateful to her mom, Tiny Cat, and Vinny, without whom she wouldn’t be here.  

 

Alphaeus Green, Jr. – Alphaeus is an experienced stage, screen, and voiceover performer who has performed as Troy Maxson in August Wilson’s Fences and has been seen on The Chi, among many other projects. Since moving to the Chicago area, he’s been a part of Foul Play and ComedySportz and is a recent graduate of the Conservatory at Second City. Alphaeus is thrilled to be a part of The Bob Curry Fellowship.  

 

Colette Gregory – Colette S. Gregory is an award-winning writer, comedian, and actress. She is the showrunner and a performer on the upcoming Chicago-based sketch show “Out of the Loop” which will be released on the Hipstr network in 2024. Colette was in the 2020 Second City Black History Month show and understudied for The Second City Mainstage and e.t.c. She toured the country using humor to teach sexual assault prevention with Catharsis Productions and produces SHADE: An Actually Diverse Comedy Show at Steppenwolf Theatre Company. She has a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre Production from Northwestern University, as well as a Master of Arts and Master of Education in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University–New York. You can catch her singing with RIFF: Chicago’s Music Improv Party, performing sketch comedy with Bosses in Bonnets and doing improv with Baby Wine. Colette was recently featured on the third season of HBO’s South Side. Follow her on Instagram @colettecomedy or on TikTok @colettegregory  

 

Olivia Jackson – Originally from Bellevue, Iowa, Olivia Jackson (she/her) is an actor and improviser based here in Chicago. She has a B.A. in Literature and Theatre from Saint Mary’s College and has trained at Second City and iO Theater. Recent theatre credits include A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Bottom/Helena), Gather (U/S), and Hamlet (Ophelia/Claudius). Olivia also performs with improv team, The Mermaids, who have played festivals in Orlando, Kalamazoo, Miami, and the Boom Chicago Festival in Amsterdam. Follow Olivia on Instagram @livdawg3. Love to Mom, Dad, and Mads.  

 

Yamina Khouane – Yamina is first generation Texican. She has a degree in Theater & Dance (but mostly theater) from UT Austin and has trained at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and H.B. Studio in NYC. In Austin, she performed with several award-winning ensembles, including sketch group The Latino Comedy Project. Among her acting credits is the controversial indie film “Call Me Brother,” which stars current SNL cast member Andrew Dismukes. Yamina is also a recent graduate of Second City Chicago’s Conservatory program.  

 

Yuxin Lu – Yuxin embarked on their musical journey as a pianist, captivating audiences as a soloist and chamber musician across Europe and the United States. Yuxin ventured into the realms of short film and music production, showcasing their versatility as a sound designer, multi-instrumentalist, and composer. Their expertise in recording and mixing techniques allows them to infuse creativity into every project they undertake. Notably, Yuxin recently concluded the Victor Wong Fellowship in Second City, serving as a music director. When not immersed in the world of music and audio, Yuxin finds solace in playing video games and indulging in culinary pursuits. You can check out their sound works and music at sourlyx.com. Or follow on Instagram @sourlyx.  

 

Deshawn Mason – It all started with standup for Deshawn, a devout follower of the fun. Stand-up led him to acting, improv, and traveling the country. He’s performed in comedy festivals on both coasts, headlined many a show, and, in the last year, spread his wings in the improv community, performing upwards of 150 shows. Following his foot and listening to the fun has finally brought him all the way here to Chicago. He’s excited to continue to sharpen his tool kit, and can’t wait to show you what he’s been working on all the years.  

 

Kelton Neals – Kelton Neals is from the farmlands of Oklahoma, knee deep in chickens and donkeys. Since moving to Chicago, Kelton has participated in Second City’s Archive Show and Second City’s Directors Review as a writer and actor. Along with his friend and comedy partner, Kelton wrote and performed in the two-person comedy show Better You Than Me ™ . They were also seen in I.O. Theater’s Improvised Housewives of I.O. Kelton performs standup and characters around the city is a part of the resident team Whimsy Lohan, at the I.O. Theater. Kelton enjoys reading, hanging out with his dog, over decorating his apartment, and writing sketches in their free time. You can see what Kelton is up to by visiting their Instagram @keltonneals or visiting their website at Keltonneals.com.  

 

Seth Pae – Seth Pae is a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Chicago, IL. Seth has been Assistant Principal Viola of the Chicago Sinfonietta since 2022, and recently joined the Chicago-based music collective, D-Composed. He is an artistic collaborator, educator, and mentor, working with Chicago area composers, arts organizations and creators on a variety of exciting projects. Along with viola, he has an active piano-vocal career, and is a mainstay at several piano lounges across the Chicagoland area. For more info, visit sethpaemusic.com  

 

Meet the 2023/2024 Bob Curry ADs! 

Luis Cortes– Luis David Cortes is a Mexico City born, LA raised, Chicago resident. In addition to having appeared in several national commercials and TV shows, Luis has also toured with The Second City, Csz Chicago, The National Theater for Children, Story Pirates and the musical improv team, Baby Wants Candy. Most recently, Luis created the DEI dept at ComedySportz Chicago serving as Director for 5 years until 2022. Luis also assistant directed the last two ETC revues: “Eat Pray Bigfoot in Love” and “Oh the Places you’ll Glow”. 

 

Kaleb Jackson– Kaleb Jackson [they/them] is a Chicago-based performer, writer, producer and director from the suburbs of Chicagoland. Kaleb also co-founded and would later serve as Artistic Director for Vibrancy Theater, a theater company that uplifts and broadcasts Black, Indigenous and People of Color in theater at Ohio University and beyond. For business inquiries, headshots sessions or more information about Vibrancy, please visit kalebjackson.net or follow @kaleebjackson on Instagram. 

 

Meet the 2023/2024 Bob Curry Directors! 

Marla Cáceres– Marla is thrilled to be a part of the Bob Curry Fellowship as a director! She recently served as assistant director for the 111th Mainstage, Don’t Quit Your Daydream, the 46th e.t.c., Great Altercations, and has written and performed in several Second City productions, including debuts at the Kennedy Center, LaJolla Playhouse, and the Spanish/English El Show Mas Funny for the Arscht Center in Miami, her hometown. She was also a writer and performer for the acclaimed all-woman She The People, and facilitates improv workshops around the country for Second City Works. In addition to her work at Second City, Marla has worked for The Onion, writing comedy videos for multiple national brands, and performed as an improviser in several shows including the long-running improvised political satire Whirled News Tonight. She thanks her husband, James, for his never-ending love and support, and her kids Wyatt and Juniper, who are the funniest people she knows. 

 

Sabrina Odigie– Sabrina has trained and performed at famous institutions across the country, including The Second City, Upright Citizens Brigade, The Pit, The Annoyance, and more. A graduate of the Second City Directing Program, she Assistant Directed ‘Dance Like There Are Black People Watching’ (2023), the 2022 Bob Curry Fellowship, and 4-time Jeff-nominated ‘Do The Right Thing, No Worries If Not’ (2022). She also performs weekly with Mall Walkers and iO resident improv team The Paisleys (iO Theater). Follow her on IG at @sillygalbribi. 

 

Following intensive training and workshop performances, the selected fellows will be given a unique platform to shine in a series of public and industry showcases slated for February 2024  

For more information on the Bob Curry Fellowship, please contact:   

Colleen Fahey press@secondcity.com

About Wintrust

Wintrust is a financial holding company with assets of approximately $56 billion whose common stock is traded on the NASDAQ Global Select Market. Built on the “HAVE IT ALL” model, Wintrust offers sophisticated technology and resources of a large bank while focusing on providing service-based community banking to each and every customer. Wintrust operates fifteen community bank subsidiaries, with over 170 banking locations located in the greater Chicago and southern Wisconsin market areas. Additionally, Wintrust operates various non-bank business units including business units which provide commercial and life insurance premium financing in the United States, a premium finance company operating in Canada, a company providing short-term accounts receivable financing and value-added out-sourced administrative services to the temporary staffing services industry, a business unit engaging primarily in the origination and purchase of residential mortgages for sale into the secondary market throughout the United States, and companies providing wealth management services and qualified intermediary services for tax-deferred exchanges.

 

BY THE SECOND CITY | NOV 17, 2023

(20) Days of Summer Improv For Free!

It’s summer. The weather’s warm, the vibe is good, and you’re not looking for anything serious right now. We totally get it. Neither are we. So, what we’re putting on the table is a no-strings-attached, commitment free, Drop In Improv class. We’d even make it free, if you’d be down. Need convincing?

With our drop-in classes, you can:

  • Test the waters before committing to a full course (no pressure)
  • Discover if improv is your cup of iced tea (or coffee, or whatever beverage you like)
  • Learn from experienced instructors in a fun, judgment-free environment
  • Meet new, like-minded people who share your interest in comedy

More Than A Laugh…

Sure, improv can be about making people laugh, but it’s also so much more than that. By jumping in a free drop-in class, you’ll not only learn the art of improvisation but also benefit from some maybe unexpected perks.

Boost That Confidence

Improv is all about thinking on your feet and being spontaneous. As you become more comfortable on stage and with your classmates, you’ll naturally feel more confident in your everyday life.

Enhance Creativity

Improv is an incredible way to flex your creative muscles. The more you practice, the more innovative and imaginative your ideas will become.

Communication is a Skill

Improv is all about active listening and responding to your scene partners. These skills are crucial in everyday life and can help improve your personal and professional relationships.

Meet New Friends

According to the Harvard Journal of Science*, when you show up to participate or engage in something you’re interested in, the likelihood of meeting someone else who is also interested in that thing goes up by a whopping 75,000%.

*not a real publication

Less Stress

3 out of 4 dermatologists agree that laughter is the best medicine. Doing improv not only helps you blow off steam but also teaches you to think on your feet and not sweat the small stuff. We have no idea what’s up with that 4th dermatologist. We aren’t gonna worry about it. (See?!)

No Experience? No problem.

You might be thinking, “This sounds great, but I’ve never done improv before. Can I still come?” Yes! And… our free drop-in classes are perfect for beginners and seasoned improvisers alike. Our experienced yet gentle instructors will ensure that everyone feels welcome and included, regardless of their skill level.

Improv and Chill

We have air conditioning. It’s August, let’s not kid ourselves. And after your class you can hang out with your new friends and grab a cold drink at our bar!

Bob Barker, Y’all

THE PRICE IS RIGHT (free)

Drop-in classes are the perfect opportunity to explore the world of improvisation without fear. You can come when you want, learn at your own pace, and discover the joys of improv! You might make some new friends, or find your new favorite hobby, or discover a hidden talent you never knew you had! The possibilities are endless.

We can’t wait to see you, and who knows – you might just be the next big thing in comedy! (NO PRESSURE)

                                         SIGN UP TODAY

BY THE SECOND CITY | JUL 11, 2023

The Power of Play: Six Ways That Kids Benefit From Improv

It’s another Saturday afternoon at The Second City. There’s an almost non-stop stream of laughter ringing through the halls. Kids are running around their classroom room pretending to be animals, falling on the ground, and getting up laughing. Trying out different characters and scenes and coming up with creative new ideas. The vibe in the room is one of pure fun. But, there’s more than just a good time going on, the kids are learning invaluable skills like how to take turns speaking in a group setting, how to collaborate with others, and most importantly, how to think on their feet!

Learning Through Play

One of my favorite things about improv class is that it encourages children to learn through playing. Improv is a fun and engaging activity that inspires kids to be creative, spontaneous, and silly. Through theatre games and exercises, children can explore their imagination and, along the way, learn important life skills like communication and teamwork. Children may not even realize that they are learning while they are playing!

Building Confidence

Improv requires participants to think on their feet and be fearless in exploring new ideas. As kids become more comfortable with improvising, they will also become more confident in their ability to take risks and communicate their ideas clearly while still having an open mind. Improv class also teaches kids that their voice and ideas are worth sharing. Because they are learning to “Yes, and..” each other’s offers, shy kids are given room to come out of their shells, open up, and have a great time!

Developing Positive Social Skills

Improv, unlike stand-up comedy, is a social activity. It requires a group effort to create. Because of this, children learn to develop healthy social skills. They learn to actively listen to their peers and respond in a way that is supportive and collaborative. We’ve all seen it, sometimes someone at work likes to take over a project without regard for anyone else. On the flip-side there are people who are too shy or insecure to present their opinions/ideas to anyone but their diary. There’s a saying in improv: “Bring a brick, not a skyscraper.” This attitude encourages kids to bring their imagination to the group without completely taking over. It teaches them to contribute and communicate in a healthy way.

Creative Problem Solving

Improv exercises often require children to think “outside the box” and come up with creative solutions to problems. As children learn and practice the games in class, they will intuitively become more adept at solving problems in innovative ways.

Adaptability and Teamwork

Improv requires participants to be flexible and respond to surprises and changes in the moment. Kids learn to be adaptable in the face of unexpected situations, which will help them to navigate life’s challenges more effectively. Additionally, improvising characters and scenes requires teamwork and collaboration, which helps children learn to be respectful of others’ ideas and to work together towards a common goal.

Improv is FUN!

Let’s be honest, the world can be a confusing and scary place. Improv teaches us to be brave and how to have fun doing it! In improv class, kids get to play, explore, and be silly in an encouraging and supportive environment. Improv classes can be an excellent way for children to blow off steam, build new friendships, and find joy in being creative.

 

Give your kid the gift of improv.  Yes, and… sign me up in Chicago or Toronto! 

BY THE SECOND CITY | JUN 7, 2023

Second City Announces 2023 SNL Scholarship Recipients

The Second City is thrilled to announce the recipients of the 2023 SNL Scholarship. In partnership with Saturday Night Live, this scholarship will provide tuition-free training to diverse comedic talent from varying levels of experience.  

In addition to receiving performance and writing training at The Second City Training Center, recipients will be connected to SNL talent executives and be able to submit an audition tape or sketch packet to SNL for the landmark show. 

The following recipients were awarded scholarships and will begin their training with The Second City this March: 

Magdalena AL-Ghraibawi (she/her) “I’ll explain my name if I get the chance to, but for now you can just call Maggie! I’m a Muslim, Arab, woman of color who was born and raised in Vienna, Austria, a country that dislikes all of what I’ve just listed. Even though Vienna is a safe and affordable city that I both love and hate, I’m very excited to leave and move to the US. Currently, I’m studying to become a teacher, but I hope I’ll manage to make a living with comedy before I must face the responsibility of writing a bachelor’s thesis. With my comedy, I want to create a safe space for marginalized people; I want us to laugh and heal together while simultaneously educating people about social issues and I think the SNL DEI Scholarship offers me the perfect platform to do exactly that. I can’t put in words how thankful and honored I am about receiving this great opportunity and I’m excited to see what this journey has in store for me!” 

Caia Cammie (she/her) is 21 years old, raised between Kansas and Louisiana. She began acting as a child and attended summer camp in New Orleans throughout the years. This led to her attending Dillard University in New Orleans where she majored in theater. She hosted the school’s annual coronation, starred in several student films, and even worked as a background character for a Netflix film. In 2021, Caia moved to Chicago to transfer to Columbia College where she received a talent-based scholarship and continues to pursue her bachelor’s in fine arts.   

Liam Fallows (he/him) is a comedic performer and writer originally from the south Jersey suburbs of Philly, where he started his improv journey. After moving to Chicago, he studied at The Second City Film School where he was awarded the Stuart Cornfeld Scholarship and the Writing Mentorship 2023. Studying amongst the community within The Second City solidified his reverence for comedic writing and performing and he enjoys collaborating with those who feel the same. Liam’s love for television comedy, specifically sitcoms of the 1960’s, fuel his motivation to honor this frivolity in his work as well as in his overall approach to life. He is incredibly excited and sends a huge thank you to The Second City and Saturday Night Live for trusting him with this terrific opportunity. In his free time, an ideal day would include an iced coffee while browsing the “showbiz memoir” section of a used bookstore. 

Victoria Franso (she/her) is an Assyrian-American comedian and proud daughter of Iraqi immigrants. Shuffling between Chicago and Detroit, she has completed the improv programs at The Second City training center Chicago and Go Comedy! Improv Theater in Metro Detroit. Currently, she’s enrolled in Second City’s Conservatory and Go Comedy’s advanced improv program. She is also an understudy at Go Comedy. As a Saturday Night Live fan of about 15 years (ask her anything!), she considers this an opportunity of a lifetime and is incredibly grateful to The Second City. Victoria’s hope is to provide more leading roles for Middle Eastern women in comedy, as well as highlight the Assyrian experience both in the United States and in the homeland. 

About The Second City 

The Second City opened as a small comedy cabaret in 1959 and has since become one of the most influential names in comedy. The Second City’s stages, touring company and Training Center have acted as a launching pad for some of the most well-known writers, directors, and comedians in the world. 

Stay up-to-date by following us on TikTok, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter. 

 

BY THE SECOND CITY | FEB 1, 2023

Congrats to This Insanely Long List of Emmy Nominees

Is it us, or is this the longest list ever? The Second City is incredibly proud to congratulate the 2022 Emmy nominees for an outstanding year of bringing audiences laughter, food for thought, more Ted Lasso, not enough Ted Lasso, and inspirational entertainment.

This list of nominees touches all corners of The Second City: our resident stage alumni, former TourCo members and Training Center teachers, our Artistic Advisory Board and our Board of Directors. Please join us in congratulating them.

  • Ali Barthwell: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (Last Week Tonight With John Oliver)
  • Stephen Colbert: Variety Talk Series; Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series; Outstanding Short Form Comedy, Drama Or Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Chelsea Devantez: Outstanding Writing For A Nonfiction Program (The Problem With Jon Stewart)
  • Paul Dinello: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Ariel Dumas: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Bill Hader: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series; Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series; Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series (Barry); Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Curb Your Enthusiasm)
  • Chris Licht: Outstanding Short Form Comedy, Drama Or Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Jane Lynch: Guest Actress in a Comedy Series (Only Murders in the Building)
  • Carley Moseley: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Bob Odenkirk: Lead Actor in a Drama Series; Best Drama Series (Better Call Saul)
  • Asher Perlman: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Amy Poehler: Host for a Reality or Competition Program (Making It); Outstanding Directing For A Documentary/Nonfiction Program; Outstanding Documentary Or Nonfiction Special (Lucy and Desi)
  • Sam Richardson: Guest Actor in a Comedy Series (Ted Lasso)
  • Tim Robinson: Outstanding Actor In A Short Form Comedy Or Drama Series; Outstanding Short Form Comedy, Drama Or Variety Series (I Think You Should Leave With Tim Robinson)
  • Martin Short: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series (Only Murders in the Building)
  • Brian Stack: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Jason Sudeikis: Lead Actor in a Comedy Series; Best Comedy Series (Ted Lasso)
  • Robin Thede: Variety Sketch Series; Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (A Black Lady Sketch Show)
  • John Thibodeaux: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)
  • Steve Waltien: Outstanding Writing For A Variety Series (The Late Show With Stephen Colbert)

…Not to mention multiple nominations for SNL, where Aidy Bryant, Chris Redd, and Cecily Strong are cast members.

We’ll be rooting for all of them on Emmy night!

BY THE SECOND CITY | JUL 15, 2022

The Second City Announces First-Ever Artistic Advisory Board

The Second City is proud to announce that, for the first time in the iconic comedy company’s 62-year history, an Artistic Advisory Board has been formed to help promote and secure the organization’s success for the next 62 years and beyond. As The Second City works to attract and foster the next generation of comedy, the esteemed 15-member board will help guide The Second City’s creative direction and uphold the creative values of the institution. The board’s members – all proud Second City alumni and community members – are as follows:

Stephen Colbert, Artistic Advisory Board Chair
Steve Carell
Dwayne Colbert
Tina Fey
Keegan-Michael Key
Julia Louis-Dreyfus
Jane Lynch
Tim Meadows
Peter Murrieta            
Suzy Nakamura
Catherine O’Hara
Sam Richardson
Jeff Richmond
Jason Sudeikis
Robin Thede

“I’m grateful to my fellow Artistic Advisory Board members for being so generous with their time and talent. We all believe that comedy is better off with a vital Second City. We want to share our experience of this tradition which helped form who we are as comedians and artists and help encourage a new generation to make that tradition their own,” said Artistic Advisory Board Chair, Second City board member, alumnus, and one-time top t-shirt salesman, Stephen Colbert.

The Artistic Advisory Board will work with The Second City to discuss the direction of the theater and the ways in which they can support its artists, helping inform the artistic direction of The Second City. As well-known alumni and community members of The Second City, they will champion the artistic and comedic standards of the organization through direct engagement which supports the recovery and growth of the theater.

“The Second City recently marked 62 years in improv, fostering some of the top talent in comedy the world has ever seen. Today, we announce our first ever Artistic Advisory Board, led by none other than Stephen Colbert, filled with familiar names, all proud Second City alumni and community members – many of whom started as students in our training center,” said Parisa Jalili, COO of The Second City. “We are so incredibly thankful to the alumni who have joined the inaugural Artistic Advisory Board for their generosity and dedication to The Second City and its future. As we look to the next 62 years and beyond, we are thrilled to have the Board’s support and creative vision guiding the way.”

The Second City management team will continue to be responsible for day-to-day operations while the Artistic Advisory Board will help to champion the artistic standards of The Second City and inform the creative direction of the theater. Acquired last year by private equity firm ZMC, The Second City celebrated its 62nd year in business on December 16th, 2021.

“We are proud to support the groundwork that The Second City is laying as it thinks about its next 60 years and more. To think that this impressive list of board members all came to The Second City as students of the craft, and are now supporting the next generation is incredibly inspiring,” said Jason Sporer, ZMC Principal and The Second City Board Chair. “The Second City knows that what’s best for business is doing what’s best for its performers, and we can’t wait to see the impact this Board will have on current students in the training center, as well as on those who may now be inspired to take the leap into comedy.”

BY THE SECOND CITY | MAY 10, 2022

How Second City and “Yes, And” Helped Erika Casupanan Win Survivor 

When the pandemic shut down everyday life, Toronto resident Erika Casupanan had to delay a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity: a chance to compete on the 41st season of Survivor. To help her pass the time until filming could resume, Erika began taking classes online at The Second City. Did those classes help her outwit, outplay, and outlast to win the whole game? You bet they did.  

What led you to taking classes at The Second City?  

It was really a pandemic hobby. When I was working at a public relations agency years ago, people at the agency were taking improv classes for professional development. I remember thinking, “Okay, maybe I’ll do that one day.” When the pandemic hit, I was about to go and film Survivor. I just needed something to really distract myself like a lot of people, so I signed up for Improv Escape online. A girl who was in the class lived in my neighborhood. She reached out to me through Instagram and said she was going to take the writing class online. I decided to take the class with her. Then I started taking Writing level one and Improv level one. I ended up continuing on through Improv level three and then Writing level two. I also took a stand-up class; I took Writing for Late Night. I had to stop because it was time for me to go and film Survivor. But what was crazy is that all these people who I met online through these Zoom classes, we all lived in the same neighborhood, in the same part of Toronto, and probably would’ve never met each other had it not been for these classes. There was one moment during our writing class that one of the girls and I both went out onto our balconies and realized we lived across the street from each other. We could literally see each other from our balconies, but we would’ve never met had it not been for Second City. And now, we’re all really, really good friends. 

There’s a saying in improv about playing the scene you’re in. How did you use your improv skills to pivot from working in PR to becoming a tribe member in Fiji? 

I was supposed to be on Survivor in 2020, but then it got delayed because of COVID. In 2020, I think I would have been a much more control focused, almost rigid PR person because, even though PR can be very reactive, there’s the desire to maintain a level of control. And I think that had I gone and played the game in 2020, just as the person I was at that point, I probably would’ve lost. I think I would’ve been so freaked out by things not going exactly the way I wanted them to. 

Would you say that practicing the mantra of “yes, and” helped you win? 

Yes. One hundred percent.  I was much more open to being flexible and accepting of whatever was offered to me. I think that I was much more prepared to be ready to roll with the punches. 

In improv, it’s all about the ensemble and making the other people on stage look good. On Survivor, your goal is to outwit and outlast. How did you reconcile those two things to be a good teammate and somebody who could win the game? 

I didn’t really care about being a good teammate, to be honest. I guess that’s just part of the game. I think that going into the game, I knew that one strength I had from my PR background was really understanding how to assess the situation and how to understand the different power dynamics and everybody’s different motivations. Through improv classes, I learned so much about the subtle things we do to communicate information about ourselves in the scene. There are so many non-verbal things that I learned about what we communicate about ourselves, and I really went into Survivor knowing, okay, I can assess where everybody’s at. I can assess what’s motivating everybody. 

Something that improvisers deal with on stage is hecklers. You’ve gotten your fair share of unwanted feedback, as social media is the ultimate breeding ground for heckling. How do you deal with complete strangers weighing in on everything you do? 

I’ve gotten much more than my share of online bullying. I get messages almost every day from somebody telling me that I suck or that I shouldn’t have won or that I’m not worthy. I think there’s a couple things. I realized that, through taking the classes at Second City, the risk of just making a suggestion or putting yourself out there—that’s the win. Sometimes things work, and sometimes things fall flat, but it doesn’t really matter. What matters was just going out there and doing it. The other thing I think is that these people have never done what I’ve done. I know that I’m one of the only people on the planet who can say that they’ve won Survivor, so they can say whatever they want. It doesn’t matter. 

You’ve been on camera again recently as a Survivor correspondent for ET Canada. How has improv training helped you as a public speaker and interviewer? 

It’s a lot of confidence building, and then I think it’s also me being good with whatever gets offered to me. When I worked in PR, I was on the other side of the thing where I would be preparing whichever executive or whichever person was getting ready to be interviewed. I would just be so detailed in making sure that they were ready to do it perfectly. On this side of things, I don’t know what somebody is going to be like when I talk to them. The people that I’ve interviewed have been on Survivor. I’ve watched them on TV, and I’ve kind of guessed, “Okay. I think this person will be a good interview.” Sometimes, I’m right. And sometimes I’m so wrong, and someone I expect to be a good interview gives me two-word answers. It reminds me again of improv and accepting whatever I get offered and to “yes, and” it. 

One of my friends who I was talking about just messaged me saying she signed up for a new class. She signed up for the writing class. So, now that I’m doing more on camera stuff, I’m like, “Oh, maybe I need to sign up for acting classes?” So who knows? Maybe I’ll be back in the Second City classroom. I’ve actually never done one of the classes in person, so I’ve only been able to improvise from my chest up. Part of me is like, “Oh, if I ever get on stage, will I know how to use my legs?” 

This interview has been edited for length and clarity. 

Want to try a Second City class, too? Go here for U.S. and here for Canada.

BY THE SECOND CITY | APR 26, 2022

The Faculty Lounge with Mo & Law: Episode 4

This week on the Faculty Lounge with Mo Phillips-Spotts and Law Tarello, we bump in PHATT al and talk about his path to Second City Toronto. Find out how PHATT al bridges the gap between hip hop and improv,  about teaching the next generation of improvisers, and what ‘90s band he toured with (we were delightfully surprised). 

PHATT al is a Dora nominated actor and band leading rapper of the Juno nominated NuFunk band ‘God Made ME Funky’. He was a featured performer at the NBC Universal Second City Break Out Comedy Festival in Chicago in 2016.

To listen on SimpleCast, click here.

To sign up for classes, click here.

For more PHATT al:

Insta/Twitter: @phattal3000

Bandcamp: https://bit.ly/3u85Ao8

For more Mo: Instagram.com/MoprovChi

For more Law: Instagram.com/ImprovLaw

BY THE SECOND CITY | MAR 28, 2022

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