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PLAYGROUND PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT: DEVIN MIDDLETON!

Performer Spotlight! Every so often, The Playground Theater likes to highlight a performer and give them a moment to talk about their experiences and joys in comedy. This week, we’ve chosen to give the spotlight to Devin Middleton.

Q: What things have you been a part of at the playground?

A: The first show I ever did at The Playground was The Church of Hip Hop. An improv and freestyle rap show about worshipping Kanye West as a cult leader. Strangely enough, this premise has almost entirely come true.

Q: How long have you been performing?

A: I’ve been performing for about 4 and a half years and usually open for improv teams and stand ups by doing solo characters and sometimes songs.

Q: What drew you to comedy?

A: I truly only started doing comedy as a way to make friends and moved to Chicago just to do music.

Q: What’s been your proudest moment doing comedy?

A: My proudest moments would have to be recently, I’ve gotten some WOC involved as producers of variety shows I work on. I’ve always felt those spaces lack the WOC voice and I know with involved, a lot more unique voices can get noticed and booked.

Q: What upcoming shows do you have?

A: Currently, I’m a part of a weekly show called Studio Eleven at iO, every Friday at 10:30, and I’m also a part of an upcoming sketch revue called “Melodramatic Trap Music”, Saturday’s at 9pm at Judy’s Bear Lounge at Second City starting March 21st!

–Lizzie Kaniecki, The Playground Theater’s performance and special events blogger

Real Housewives of Improv!

There are two kinds of people in the world–people who love reality TV drama, and LIARS! Both kinds of people are welcome at The Playground Theater’s own Real Housewives of Improv. I asked Allie Romano, one of the show’s creators to tell me the behind the scenes secrets of Real Housewives.

Q: How did you come up with the name/concept?

A: A bunch of the girls who founded the group were just graduating from Second City’s conservatory. Lauren Lonergan, one of our founding members, is OBSESSED with the Real Housewives franchise. She knew she wanted to do something improvised related to the series. We all met up for the first meeting in January of 2016, and RHoI was born!

Q: What is your best memory from this show?

A: We have a very particular form where we interview an audience member about their hometown and then bring a “lost” episode of the Real Housewives of that town. But sometimes, we have to change the form up a bit (whether due to time restrictions or guesting on another show). One time we opened for a very thematically specific show, where we had to improvise based off of a song that the group who performed before us lip syncs at the end of their set. The “suggestion” song that we received was My Heart Will Go On, so we OBVIOUSLY performed Real Housewives of the Titanic. I think all of us remember that show fondly because we still had the structure of our form but we got to play in a different time period/level of absurdity (one of us decided to be Celine Dion and another was Unsinkable Molly Brown). We made each other break like crazy during that show, and sometimes when we want to mix things up, we decide to do a Real Housewives of a Historical Event/Movie/Book form.

(Wow, I really wish I had seen that.)

Q: How long has it been running?

A: We had our first show at the Playground in spring of 2016 after meeting up that winter to come up with the form and rehearse. We have essentially been 2 Fridays a month at 8 p.m. at the Playground ever since (over 3.5 years!), and we have also had runs at the Annoyance and been annual participants in CIF and Women’s Funny Fest.

Q: What are you most proud of about this show?

A: Improvising a Real Housewives episode could very well turn into a twenty-minute mockery of women and their backgrounds. Our housewife Marley came up with this example, which pretty beautifully encapsulates why we are so proud of this group: “There was one time that the audience wasn’t offering a hometown and Firas Alexander, who was running our tech, yelled out that he grew up in Kuwait. We interviewed him, and I was terrified that we (as a group of American women, none of which are of Arab or Western Asian descent) wouldn’t be able to find humor that respected and honored Kuwaiti women. I remember us being humble, breaking the fourth wall, and leading with what is universal about housewives, and we pulled it off with total fidelity to Firas’ interview. It makes me so proud to perform with smart women who care about the cultural aspect of our show and making responsible comedy!”

If you haven’t left this page to buy tickets to RHoi then what are you doing?! Catch them every other Friday at 8pm!

-Lizzie Kaniecki, The Playground Theater’s performance and special events blogger

PLAYGROUND PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT: JUSTIN BORAK!

Performer Spotlight! Every so often, The Playground Theater likes to highlight a performer and give them a moment to talk about their experiences and joys in comedy. This week, we’ve chosen to give the spotlight to Justin Borak.

Q: What things have you been a part of at The Playground?

A: I’m on the team Liar who has opened and played with Nitebrunch, Fresh Meat, and Phantom Pilots.

Q: How long have you been performing?

A: I’ve been doing improv for about 4 years, 2 in Chicago!

Q: What drew you to comedy?

A: What drew me to comedy was just knowing that no matter what I do all day I get to surround myself with some of the funniest and goofiest people in the world.

Q: What’s been your proudest moment doing comedy?

A: I think my proudest moment is the first time my team, Liar, headlined a show at iO! It just means a lot that we now have a long running show there!

Q: What upcoming shows do you have?

A: My team liar has shows every Monday at iO at 10 called Pants on Fire and every Tuesday at the Bughouse at 8 called Everything is Fine! Also I’m in conservatory shows at Second City on Monday nights all of March!

–Lizzie Kaniecki, The Playground Theater’s performance and special events blogger

PLAYGROUND PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT: LEILA GORSTEIN!

Performer Spotlight! Every so often, The Playground Theater likes to highlight a performer and give them a moment to talk about their experiences and joys in comedy. This week, we’ve chosen to give the spotlight to Leila Gorstein.

Q: What things have you been a part of at The Playground?

A: At The Playground I participated in the Mixer on Monday nights, and got to teach some of the mixer workshops with my indie team Alterboyz! Bryan Duff and Kevin Reader would run it, and they always made it SO much fun. Alterboyz also did a run of shows at The Playground, when we first became a team, where we got to perform in a run with the team Blue Angels for 3 weeks. Then shortly after that, we did a run of shows with Sean Price and Ollie Hobson when they were in an epic two-person group called Ginger Price. It was one of the most fun summers I’ve ever had in Chicago! I was also on The Playground team Riff Raff with some of my now best friends/favorite performers in Chicago! It was a stacked team, and we would rehearse on Saturday’s at 10am! Isn’t that insane? That’s how much we loved it!

Q: How long have you been performing?

A: I’ve been performing in Chicago for 5 and a half years!

Q: What drew you to comedy?

A: I was always super drawn to comedy, but I definitely dove into it in college. I auditioned over and over again for the plays in the theater department, and never got cast. I decided to audition for the improv groups on campus, and it was the best decision of my LIFE. I’ve always loved playing heightened characters and joking around with friends- and didn’t realize there was a real field for it! My best memories in college are with my improv group Awkward Silence Comedy lol.

Q: What’s been your proudest moment doing comedy?

A: My proudest moment doing comedy in Chicago?? That is a tough question. I think one of my proudest moments was performing with Alterboyz at Indiana University, where we headlined their comedy festival and taught workshops. It felt like a full circle moment since I graduated from IU, and then got to come back with my best friends to perform and teach! Also you know how when you go perform at colleges, and all the students are like “you’re MY HERO.” Honestly, the best way to get an inflated ego is by performing improv at a college festival. It’s honestly incredible??

Q: What upcoming shows do you have?

A: I’m getting ready to perform in the Black History Month Show at Second City on Tuesdays and Wednesdays starting February 4th and running through March 11th! I also perform with the Harold team Artemis at iO and occasionally with my guilty pleasure team “Brady” with Erin Keif and Olivia Nielsen. Me and Jesse Kendall were on the playground team Riff Raff together, and we wrote and produced a Hallmark Parody film called Love Dump together! The feature length movie is coming out in February!!! Here is the link to the GoFundMe with more info and our trailer! https://www.gofundme.com/f/love-dump-hallmark-spoof?utm_medium=email&utm_source=product&utm_campaign=p_email%2B4803-donation-alert-v5

–Lizzie Kaniecki, The Playground Theater’s performance and special events blogger

PLAYGROUND PERFORMER SPOTLIGHT: LAUREN LONERGAN

Performer Spotlight! Every so often, The Playground Theater likes to highlight a performer and give them a moment to talk about their experiences and joys in comedy. This week, we’ve chosen to give the spotlight to Lauren Lonergan.

Q: What things have you been a part of at the playground?

A: First and foremost, The Real Housewives of Improv, a group I founded in 2016 and that still performs there twice a month. I have hosted and taken part in many variety shows over the years as well, including A Keaton Kristmas. And also have had the honor of doing The Playground’s JFL showcase for the last two years.

Q: How long have you been performing?

A: I have been performing since I was in diapers – dance recitals which turned into theatre and so on. I have been performing in Chicago for almost 7 years now.

Q: What drew you to comedy?

A: Growing up I loved making people laugh by doing funny voices and impressions of family and friends. Also, as an only child and Leo moon, I love the spotlight. During college I read Bossypants, which was like a compass to me. I decided YES! That is what I will do: move to Chicago and do comedy.

Q: What’s been your proudest moment doing comedy?

A: Writing and performing (and remounting) my solo show True Grits at the Annoyance last year. It was a challenging process, but it was a joy to perform and led to some cool opportunities!

Q: What upcoming shows do you have?

A: Billie Eilish’s Blue Valentine Variety Show! At The Playground Feb. 15th at 7pm.

–Lizzie Kaniecki, The Playground Theater’s performance and special events blogger