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The Birth of Second City and the Renaissance of Chicago Theater

June 18, 2023 @ 7:30 pm - 9:00 pm

EVENT DETAILS:

Join us for a fascinating discussion of Chicago theatre history, as we celebrate the launch of the second edition of Something Wonderful Right Away: The Birth of Second City—America’s Greatest Comedy Theater by Jeffrey Sweet.

Doors open right at 7:00p for a 7:30p start to the talk. Please have your ticket ready to show The Understudy staff. A limited cafe drink menu will be available to all who attend.

The evening will begin with an introduction and discission followed by a Q&A session with the authors. The evening will end with a book signing with copies of the book available for purchase along with merch from The Understudy Coffee and Books.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS:

Chris Jones is the longtime chief theater critic and Sunday culture columnist of the Chicago Tribune, where he has been on staff since 2002. Throughout the 1990s, he covered Broadway and its tours for Variety. He is author of Bigger, Brighter, Louder: 150 Years of Chicago Theater (2013) and his work has appeared often in the New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. Jones read Drama at the University of Hull, UK, and has a PhD from The Ohio State University. In 2011, Jones was named by American Theater magazine as one of the most influential theater critics in America. In 2014, he became the director of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Critics Institute in Waterford, Connecticut. Jones is a winner of the George Jean Nathan Award for Dramatic Criticism, the most prestigious honor for drama critics in the United States.

Mark Larson is the author of Ensemble: An Oral History of Chicago Theater, for which he conducted over 300 interviews with Chicago theater artists. His new book, Working in the 21st Century: An Oral History will be released in February 2024. He is currently working on Ed Asner: A Composite Portrait.

Jeffrey Sweet is a founding resident writer of Chicago’s Tony Award-winning Victory Gardens Theater, where many of his plays (including The Value of Names, Porch, Flyovers, The Action Against Sol Schumann, and Court-Martial at Fort Devens) have premiered before playing on stages around the world. His book, The Dramatist’s Toolkit, is a widely-used text on playwriting, and The O’Neill is a history of the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center. Among the actors who have starred in his scripts are Ellen Burstyn, Alan Bates, Richard Kind, Nathan Lane, Jon Cryer, William Petersen, Amy Morton, Gary Cole, Jack Klugman, and Megan Mullally.

ABOUT THE BOOK:

Discover the behind-the-scenes story of how The Second City theater created a generation of world class great actors, directors, and writers.

In the late Fifties and Sixties, iconoclastic young rebels in Chicago opened two tiny theaters—The Compass and The Second City—where they satirized politics, religion, and sex. Building scenes by improvising based on audience suggestions turned out to be a fine way to develop great actors, directors, and writers. Alumni went on to create such groundbreaking works as The Graduate, Groundhog Day, and Don’t Look Up. Many of them also became stars on Saturday Night Live. Something Wonderful Right Away features the pioneers of the empire that transformed American comedy.

This new edition tells even more of the story. Included for the first time is an interview with Viola Spolin, the genius who invented theater games that were the foundation of improvisational theater. Also included are dozens of follow-up stories about Mike Nichols, Barbara Harris, Del Close, Joan Rivers, Alan Arkin, and Gilda Radner, plus “You Only Shoot the Ones You Love,” the story of how this book’s author, playwright Jeffrey Sweet, became so involved in the community he covered that he was captured by it.

PARKING:

Paid parking is available on Clark St. with free parking available on the Ashland Avenue side of the Jewel-Osco, which is a short walk away from the store.

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