There’s a new improv venue opening up in Wheaton, and I couldn’t be more excited. Jeff Ash and Brendon Culhane have leased a space for Westside Improv.
The biggest challenges I’ve encountered doing improv in the Chicago suburbs have been:
- finding a physical space. I know all you need is people and chairs, but lights sure help, too. So does a neutral wall to play in front of, as well as a location that’s easy for your audience to find. Out of necessity, Open Source has held shows completely in the dark, on the set of Sweeney Todd, under garish fluorescent lights, and in places that are so hard to get to that I’ve gotten texts after the show from audience members who gave up looking and went home.
- keeping up energy from one show to the next. It was only practical for Open Source to hold shows once a month, but that’s too far apart to use the momentum from one show to feed into coordinating and promoting the next.
- connecting with new improvisers. Going to The Improv Retreat helped me with that this year, but as a whole, I mostly ended up performing with, coaching, getting coached by, and recruiting the same people I played with in college. I want to broaden my circle.
Westside is solving all of these problems. 123 Front Street is easy to find — it’s walking distance from the Wheaton Metra station and the parking garage. The space itself is something between a black box and a cabaret, seating 60ish people. It’s designed for long form, but the layout is flexible enough that short form, sketch, and plays with minimal sets could work, too.
There will be shows every weekend. Shows every weekend! In the suburbs!
Classes and workshops will be a good entry point for new and new-to-me improvisers.
My team, Circus Police, will expand and become a Westside House team. That means we’ll get an outside coach and have regular performance opportunities we haven’t had before. I’ll also be teaching beginner improv classes — the Tuesday night class will be free! — and helping out around the theater.
In related news, I’ve stepped down from leadership at Open Source Improv. Open Source and Westside look like they’ll have a great relationship, and Open Source getting to use that beautiful new space means it won’t need the same kind of constant administration it needed when it was mobile.
You should click here to get on the Westside Improv mailing list. It is going to be the best.