On Sunday nights, 9 teams comprised of 65 experienced, budding improvisers can be found duking it out at ComedySportz in the second season of what we like to call the Chicago Improv League (CIL). It is part of Chicago Improv Productions (CIP), the labor of love and brainchild of Executive Producer Jonathan Pitts. I got the scoop from Pitts and a few words from the three teams in this Sunday's Finals: Dads of Anarchy, Balt & Co and reigning champs, d'Hôtél Winñetkå.
These players are selected from graduates of national college improv teams that were involved with College Improv Tournament (CIT) during their undergrad experience. Needless to say, they put up a great show week after week and this Sunday is their final competition. Let's find out more about what's going down this year.
What changes were made this season versus last season?
With this season versus the last season we moved from an 8:30pm start time to 7:00pm. We went from a 16 week season to a 10 week season. We went from 8 teams to 9 teams and from 48 players to 65 players. The earlier time slot meant we had a shorter show and so we could only have three teams play per night instead of four teams. With the shorter season teams also only had 3 shows in the season as opposed to the 7 shows they had last season. We all found out together we prefer how it was last season with more show opportunities for everyone.
What has been the driving force behind this league?
The driving force behind the league for Chicago Improv Productions is as an emerging artist program for CIP's College Improv Tournament alumni. We know that when an improviser moves here it can often take two to three years to get established and we know that CIT alumni have lots of performance skills and show experience. We wanted to set them up in a place where they can show off their chops and create their own community among themselves. Like any other emerging artist program we wanted to give them a safe place to grow and be a launching pad for their careers. We also wanted to serve a younger adult audience in Chicago that might not always go to see improv.
What have been the most exciting discoveries so far this season?
The most exciting discovery for me with this year's season is that we now realize the growth and strength of the CIL is going to come from growing great teams rather than growing great players. Whenever I do a new program or festival, it always takes a time to become fully aware of the true essence of the nature of that program or festival. I want the CIL to act as a forging process to help teams develop their own identity and processes. Now, through this second season, its clear the CIL ought to be about the teams playing in a league for audiences to see and not about pickup teams playing at a company picnic.
What can we expect for next week's finals?
The three teams that will be competing in the finals are Dads of Anarchy, Balt & Co and the reigning champs from last season, d'Hôtél Winñetkå. Each team will play for 20 minutes and then the two professional judges along with audience will cast their votes. While they do that, we'll have two players from each team play in a min-montage. Then we'll announce the seasonal winner and that team gets an automatic performance slot in the 2014 Chicago Improv Festival.
Now just a few words from the teams you'll be seeing compete for the title on Sunday:
"Playing together has been fun because we're at that sweet spot of being just crazy enough without going completely looney tunes. We are the underdogs in the championship, for sure. Who wouldn't want to be an underdog? It's more romantic that way. Sunday is going to play out a lot like D2: The Mighty Ducks. D'Hotel is Team Iceland, Balt & Co is the street hockey team that teaches us how to play the game with heart, and us Dads are collectively Charlie Conway. It's going to be an excellent time. "
- Dads of Anarchy
"The best part of this season has been our growth and maturation as players. We added three new members at the beginning of the season who have brought a ton of energy to the team: Lizzie Daniels, Mitch Conti, and Madelyn Buxton. They've really helped balance out the team and have given us all a lot to feed off of. We're proud to have made a last minute charge for the finals and are feeling bullish heading into Sunday!"
- Balt & Co.
"We have been honored to compete this year as returning champs of CIL. The league is a really unique opportunity to perform at an established Chicago theatre and learn and grow as a team. We meshed very quickly as a group and have tried to use CIL as a way to continually challenge ourselves by doing a new form each week. We always try top ourselves, which usually means doing something that scares us and we have learned a ton in the process. We are very grateful for the chance to perform in CIL and are so excited for the finals!"
- d'Hôtél Winñetkå (reigning champs)