The Second City is focused on increasing diversity in comedy, and have now created an entire department towards these efforts. Dionna Griffin-Irons is the Director of The Outreach & Diversity program at The Second City and was kind enough to share a bit about their latest endeavor: The Bob Curry Fellowship.
How did The Bob Curry Fellowship get started?
Last year, Outreach & Diversity had several conversations about creating more impact by providing talent of color more reps on stage and work at Second City. "Impact" was the word that kept resonating in my head and after discussing different fellowship ideas with the team, we landed on creating a master eight week program that embodied all of the ideas that we wanted while honoring our first African American actor, Bob Curry, who performed on our Mainstage in 1966. The fellowship was truly a culmination of yes and-ing -- ideas, paying attention to the comedy culture and launching at the perfect time. And of course, an amazing team -- Matt Hovde, Artistic Director of The Second City Training Center and Beth Kligerman, Director of Talent and Development.
What was the funding and audition process like?
We received over 150 submissions and auditioned 86 candidates from which 16 talented actors and improvisers were selected. Outreach & Diversity absorbed the cost of the fellowship (teacher costs, admin, etc). We've (The Second City) been funding our diversity initiatives for 21 years, as part of our mission and yearly efforts to increase diversity on the stages, so when we came to our CEO, Andrew Alexander, with the idea and the price of how much it would cost, he graciously agreed! He is our biggest proponent of our diversity efforts.
Our team decided that the fellowship should be tuition free for 16 candidates. We didn't want any burden to be upon the actor/improviser. And the process has been amazing to say the least.
The hand-picked 16 fellows have their final showcase next week, Wednesday, May 28th, what can we expect?
Yes, the showcase will feature 16 talented diverse actors and improvisers performing Second City archival scenes from our 55 year history along with some original pieces written by the group and some improvisation. The showcase is comprised of two acts, 45-50 minutes each and it will take place at 8pm on The Second City e.t.c stage.
What's next for these 16 performers and what's next for the fellowship?
All of the fellows are entrenched in the comedy or theatre community in some form. Many of them will continue working on their craft and start working more for The Second City. After we hold a summer audition, some of the fellows will be selected to perform in a fall show at UP Comedy Club in September. Several of the actors have already been hired to understudy a show and our resident stage. The opportunities and doors keep opening for them precisely because they are bringing the comedy goods.
Anything else you'd like to add?
The process has been amazing to say the least. Every Second City instructor and professional that has been a part of the fellowship has been authentic, candid and an invaluable resource to giving the necessary feedback and instruction for each talent to take their craft to the next level. It's pretty remarkable how everything came all together and the pieces blossomed.
We're excited for the future and what will be revealed next. And...Bob Curry must be smiling right about now.