The event features improv teams from
Chicago high schools as well as an Illinois All-State team.
Originally a sidelight of the Chicago Improv Festival, The Teen
Comedy Festival grew into its own event last year because it
needed a bigger venue.
Emily Dugan, the festival's co-founder and artistic director, is the artistic director of the school of the arts and the director of outreach at the Beverly Arts Center.
As a teen, Dugan says she loved theatrical
festivals, and later wondered why there was
no improv festival for teens.
contacted Jonathan Pitts, executive director of the Chicago Improv
Festival, who'd been wondering the same thing. Last year, the Chicago Park
District also became a partner.
Improv instructor David Stuart of Improv Playhouse, says the teens are surprisingly savvy and smart. "One doesn't expect a certain level of information to come from fourteen to seventeen-year-olds," he said.
Stuart says the stereotypical "class clown" doesn't always last. "At least fifty percent of members of the ensemble are inherently shy," he says.
About half of the participants typically have some kind of theater background, according to Pitts. The group includes teens from different parts of Chicago who "might not speak to each other on the street" in other circumstances, but at the festival, he says, they cooperate to make a "joyous event, a joyous celebration."
And while they may be savvy about world issues, Dugan says, they're just "naÃ¯ve enough" to hit sensitive topics like race in brilliant moments where adults might fear to tread.Jason Raymer, 17, who will be a senior at Warren Township High School in Gurnee, hopes to follow in his father's footsteps as an actor.