By FVR Academy Instructor Jock L. Schloss
As little as 10 years ago, one of the most reoccurring questions people would ask me was: “Why should I learn Improv?” Which would usually be followed by: “I like having a script” or “I’m not an actor.”
Now, with more and more theatre schools requiring it in their curriculum, and many businesses bringing Improv workshops into the workplace, this question is asked less often.
Improvisation is now officially recognized as a theatrical art-form, and many theatrical & casting directors have said that having Improv experience is a big plus in their decisions whether or not to cast a particular person.
Although people have “Ad-Libed” since the early days of Vaudeville, Improvisation as we know it today was developed, in the early 1920’s, by a teacher of children’s theatre named Viola Spolin. She was introduced to the idea of games and storytelling as a teaching tool, while a student of Neva Boyd at Chicago’s Hull House. Deciding to use games to help teach her young students spontaneity, teamwork, and basic acting skills, she developed the first true “Theatre Games” out of the common recreational games used by her mentor Neva Boyd.
Since that time, these theatre games have been developed from their use as tools, into performance based Improvisation by people such as Viola’s son Paul Sills (the founder of Second City) & Keith Johnstone, who many think of as the father of modern Improvisation.
The late great Improv Guru Del Close once told me that he believed performing Improv increases your I.Q. Although that opinion has never been proven, it is true that Improv does use a part of your brain that many people let weaken, due to society’s common dependence on pre-planning. Theatrical actors are especially vulnerable to this weakening, due to “script dependence,” which can result in character portrayals that are “unbalanced” or ”missing something.” As a result, if an actor loses his/her place, or can’t remember the next line, many end up looking like a deer in the headlights, not having a clue how to cover, and waiting for his/her fellow actor to save them. Improv, however, strengthens that part of the brain, and helps to create characters that ring true.
But it doesn’t stop there. Improvisation has broken its chains to the theatre. Today it is used in: Fortune 500 businesses to help their employees to be sharper and better at their jobs, Recovery centers to help in the treatment of addictions, Education to help students understand what they are learning, and even social work, to help people get a deeper understanding of themselves.
So these days, if someone asks me “Why Improv” my response is simply:
“Can you think of any good reason why not?”
Check out out listing of Improv classes at www.foxvalleyrep.org/education!
Jock L. Schloss Teaching Artist, Stand-up Comedian, Actor If you’ve lived in Chicago in the past 25 years, you’ve probably seen Jock L. Schloss perform. A well-known face in Chicago’s improv & sketch comedy community, Jock has also been seen in many venues, performing his hilarious and irreverent Stand-Up Comedy act. Jock has performed in over 20 theatrical plays, appeared in several improv groups, and even produced, directed, and hosted a variety show! On-camera, Jock has been seen quite a lot lately. You might recognize him as the irritating announcer for the Americash Loans commercial, the mood-swinging dad in the Callaway Diablo commercial, and falling over the couch after screaming about shoes in the Sears Doorbuster commercial. He’s also been seen in several reenactment shows such as Animal Witness, Undercover, and When Weather Changed History. When not performing, Jock teaches improv & comedy classes to kids, and holds workshops for adult actors, known as SASS (Serious Actors Strengthening Seminars).
At Fox Valley Rep, our subscribers are very important to us. Year after year, they support us by re-subscribing each season, bringing new faces to our theater, and spreading the word throughout the community. We want our subscribers to have a voice, and to let them tell you ‘why Fox Valley Rep?” in their own words.
Meet FVR Subscriber and Supporter Kathy Livernois:
How long have you been a Fox Valley Rep Subscriber, and what encouraged you to subscribe?
I have been a subscriber since the very start of Fox Valley Rep. I decided to become a subscriber because I love theater and am committed to supporting local theater as much as I can. Theater brings family and friends together and allows them an opportunity to watch a performance that may be funny, beautiful and thought provoking.
What does Fox Valley Rep mean to you and/or the beautiful town of St. Charles?
I consider St. Charles to be very fortunate to have Fox Valley Rep producing performances that continue to give this community something to talk about.
FVR Subscriber Kathy Livernois (top left) enjoying ‘GIrls Night Out’ at North Avenue Charhouse before enjoying their subscription tickets to “Sisters of Swing.”
To all of the fellow Fox Valley Rep fans who have been considering a subscription but haven’t done so yet, what would you say to them?
Initially I purchased several subscriptions as gifts for my girlfriends so they could experience the wonderful theater that Fox Valley Rep provides. After the initial gift, they wanted to continue with the subscription and we now enjoy a “Girls Night Out’ with dinner followed by Fox Valley Rep theater. Once you purchase one performance, you will want to purchase a subscription for the season - excellent theater at an excellent price!
Join Kathy Livernois and the rest of the record-breaking amount of Fox Valley Rep Subscribers by visiting www.foxvalleyrep.org/subscribe!
Each year we look at several different scripts to consider as part of our season. We like to explore newer works that haven’t been produced yet in the Fox Valley area. Sisters of Swing is only a few years old but immediately jumped out as a piece that I thought would fit very well with our mission and also something that fits perfectly on our stage. It’s story and music are both charming and moving.
The Andrews Sisters in 1952.
The music of the Andrews Sisters evokes so many memories for so many people, so it’s fitting that our story takes place as a memory. We’ve set the play in the attic of Patty, the youngest of the three sisters who lived into 2013. She is surrounded by photos, costumes and memories of her life with her two sisters, who have long since passed away.
The Andrews Sisters were world renowned in the 1930s and 40s. Known especially for their USO performances during World War II. They captured the innocence and “can-do” spirit of America and became an inspiration of all that was good in the U. S. of A.
But like many siblings, it’s not always easy to stay true to each other when dealing with fame and fortune. The Andrews Sisters broke up in the 1950s as rock and roll took over, and their music fell out of fashion as did their relationship with each other. Sisters of Swing will take you into the past as you share the greatest successes and biggest failures of one of America’s greatest singing groups.
- John Gawlik, Sisters of Swing Director
Artistic Director of Fox Valley Rep
Growing up in St. Charles, how has the arts scene in this community shaped your upbringing and love for the performing arts?
My two sisters and I did a lot of community theatre as kids, especially with No Center Aisle at the Norris Center. The whole suburban Chicago area brings in a lot of great artists – aside from Pheasant Run, there’s always a concert or performance at the Arcada, Norris Center, or even one of the high schools – you don’t always have to make that hour drive into the city! It wasn’t until I was working at a summer repertory theatre in Michigan and I met a Chicago actress who, when I told her where I was from, exclaimed “oh, St. Charles! Home of Fox Valley Rep!” that it really clicked that I was from somewhere where the arts were so valued.
In this musical, you play Patty Andrews. Has the music of The Andrews Sisters impacted your life in any way?
I love learning about this era, and the music associated during WWII especially. My grandparents were married the day before Pearl Harbor and I think anytime I hear The Andrews Sisters’ music, see clips of USO performances, or even watch White Christmas I think about them. This style of music had such a profound cultural affect and personally, I enjoy it very much.
When you think of The Andrews Sisters, what song of theirs first comes to your mind?
“Don’t Sit Under the Apple Tree!”
At Fox Valley Rep, we want patrons to ‘Laugh, Reflect, Reconnect’ with the show that come to life on our stage. What do you think audience members will enjoy about this tribute to The Andrews Sisters?
Aside from the fantastic music, I think this show has a lot of heart and nostalgia without being too saccharine. There are moments that give you pause to reflect on your own family and life – it’s all a bit bittersweet. Also, those sisters were sassy! Definitely be prepared to laugh.
What’s it like being back in your hometown to perform?
I love coming home to St. Charles. While I love living and working in Chicago, it’s always great to come home and it’s especially great to get to work there. I think with a show like this that has such a multi-generational appeal, I’m excited that my family and hometown friends will have such easy accessibility seeing it.
Brittany Stock holds a B.A. in Theatre from Hope College where she had the honor of performing at the national level of the Kennedy Center American College Theatre Festival in the original production of Rose and the Rime. Chicago credits include; El Stories XIV (The Waltzing Mechanics), Time to Burn (Forget Me Not Theatre Company), The Barista (Bard and Fool Theater Group), The Timey Wimey Fantastic Brilliant Extravaganza Geronimo! (The Right Brain Project), and The Rocky Horror Show (Underscore).
Fox Valley Rep’s hit Andrews Sisters musical, “Sisters of Swing!” is playing on Pheasant Run’s Mainstage June 5 through July 27, 2014. Visit http://foxvalleyrep.org/SistersofSwing/ for more information.
Fox Valley Repertory’s spring production will be a memorable one, as this American memoir comedy will bring together its adult acting company with a full kids cast. Nearly a dozen of the youth cast will be making their professional debut with this show — and better yet, they are from Fox Valley Rep’s very own award-winning FVR Performing Arts Academy!
Cheaper by the Dozen, playing March 27 through May 18, is one of the best-loved American memoirs recounted from the book by siblings Frank Gilbreth and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey. This 1920s coming-of-age comedy, adapted by Christopher Sergel, is directed by Vance Smith and involves nearly two dozen actors!
“With 13 cast members and 10 understudies, Cheaper by the Dozen marks the largest acting company in Fox Valley Repertory’s history of professional productions,” says Artistic Director John Gawlik. “Eleven of these actors reign from Fox Valley Rep’s own award-winning Performing Arts Academy and blew us away with their outstanding auditions. This will be a great professional experience for them.”
Cheaper by the Dozen actor and Academy student Nathan Castagna (12) of Geneva has been involved with Fox Valley Rep’s youth programs for three years and is thrilled with making his professional debut, says parents Brenna and Dan Castagna.
“Fox Valley Repertory has become a second home to Nathan. FVR has provided an encouraging and educational place for him to develop his performance skills while cultivating a talented and confident individual,” says Brenna.
“Fox Valley Rep has allowed me to make good friends and I keep coming back to the Academy to take classes with the people I know,” says Nathan. “I have had great theater training and experiences here. FVR has inspired me to be the person I am today.”
Real-life siblings Erika (12) and Keira (10) Denker of St. Charles are excited to play stage-siblings in this family comedy. And because of their training with the Academy, they felt incredibly prepared for their professional audition.
“I have learned so much from the academy instructors and professional directors, so I was prepared,” remarked Erika.
“I have done so many auditions with the Academy that I knew exactly what to do,” adds younger sister, Keira. “The Academy is so much fun. I always get to make new friends and expand my knowledge of acting!”
“Everyone single person involved with FVR is just so kind,” says mom Julie Denker. “And I know that they genuinely care that my kids are learning and have a fun experience in whatever class or show they are doing.”
Kaia Ebel (12) of Geneva also believes that her Academy training taught her to make bold choices when auditioning, which helped her land a role in this production, while Cooper Chavez (13) of West Chicago adds that all of FVR’s training in singing, dancing and acting surely played a part in getting him ready for this role.
About Cheaper by the Dozen
“Cheaper by the Dozen” cast members pose for a picture, family-style.
As the father of twelve, Frank Gilbreth used to joke: “You know, they come cheaper by the dozen!” One of the best-loved American memoirs captures the trials, tribulations and sheer amusement recounted by the children of efficiency experts Frank and Lillian Gilbreth during the 1920’s. You’ll laugh the night away with this humor-filled look into the life of a family who often served as the subjects of their fathers’ motion studies. The results are terribly embarrassing, funny and — extremely effective! It is a coming-of-age story about rebellion and reconciliation, love and laughter, selfishness and sacrifice that has delighted audiences all over the world.
The cast of Cheaper by the Dozen features (in alphabetical order): Matthew Bausone (Des Plaines), Rachel Becker (15, Naperville), Nathan Castagna (12, Geneva), Micheal Daily (Chicago), Erika & Keira Denker (12, 10, St. Charles), Grace Etzkorn (17, Lisle), Josh Greiveldinger (Chicago), Keaton Jens (13, St. Charles), Ewan Parker Eaton (12, Deer Park), Laura Sturm (Chicago), and Stephanie Sullivan (Evanston). Understudies include: Natalie Antonik (15, Palatine), Caden Bohmer (10, Batavia), Cooper Chavez (13, West Chicago), Kaia Ebel (11, Geneva), Glynis Gilio (18, Batavia), Eric Leonard (Chicago), Mary Nigosian (Batavia), Matthew Petersen (15, Lombard), Kelsey Sante (Naperville native), Hayley Troyan (9, Hanover Park), and Timothy Vogel (Naperville).
For more information on Cheaper by the Dozen, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org/Cheaper.
For more information on the FVR Performing Arts Academy, visit www.foxvalleyrep.org/education.