HYDE PARK — A new Hyde Park comedy theater is bringing improvisational comedy back to the neighborhood where it started.
The Revival will be a 149-seat cabaret and comedy club at 1160 E. 55th St., 16 feet from where improvisational comedy ostensibly started in Chicago with the Compass Players.
Two Second City alums, John Stoops and Billy Bungeroth, have already held auditions looking for Chicago comedians with a knack for ensemble comedy.
Stoops said he's not ready yet to discuss the theater, but workers started last week rehabbing the former dialysis center after building permits for a 149-seat cabaret were approved on Aug. 28.
According to a call for auditions, rehearsals will start in November in Hyde Park and the new company is searching for improv comics with some performing experience and strong writing chops.
The theater is developing its plans at the Chicago Innovation Exchange run by the University of Chicago. When the group started at the business incubator, its plans included nightly performances.
“From sketch to improv, stand-up to jazz, nightly performances are smart, funny and totally original,” the Revival promised on the incubator’s website. “Inspired by the legacy of the Compass Players, The Revival returns improvisational theater to its ancestral home within Hyde Park's burgeoning arts community.”
The new theater will be just steps from the Compass bar, which is now the neighboring fire station, where Shelley Berman, Paul Sills, David Shepherd, Elaine May and others devised the improv style of the Compass Players that would later morph into Second City.
The group under Sills in the early 1950s employed heavy use of theater games. His mother, Viola Spolin, literally wrote the book on improvisation on stage.
The St. Louis chapter of the group inspired member Del Close to codify his “rules” of comedy that he would later take back to Chicago at Second City.
The early style developed by Compass Players is still at employed by Second City and many other improv groups and and may be on its way back to Hyde Park.
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