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Producer: Joyce Sloane MAG
I called Joyce Sloane at her office at Second City where she is currently a producer emeritus. She has been with Second City for 40 of its 42 years.
Why is Second City so different from any other theater show in Chicago (and the world)?
There are several reasons. First, we perform every night, so the actors really can hone their talents in front of an audience. The shows are developed by the actors, so we're not at the mercy of writers. We're not looking to do last year's New York hit, we create our own shows so our actors are our writers. They create their own material, and most are very novel to theater. That's the biggest difference, we do our own material.
Do you think Second City would be as successful in another city?Is there something unique about Chicago?
It has been successful in other cities. We've been in Toronto for years and it's very successful there. We've been in Detroit for several years, too, but it is native to Chicago. Chicago is an unusual theater community because it allows you to fail. If you fail in New York, you practically have to mortgage the house because it's so expensive. But here, the audiences are very forgiving, and I like to say it's the failure capital of the world. People are given the opportunity here to make it work, the audience is very patient with them, and that's very much Chicago.
What changes have taken place at Second City over the years?
When we first started, we would say, "We now take you to. . . " you know, where the scene was going to be, but we don't do that anymore. We did chair sets in-between, where they would talk to the audience and everything was undefined by a blackout. In other words, when the scene was over, the lights went out.
But for the last few years, the shows have been televised, two or three story lines that get tied up in the last scene and the scenes sort of melt into each other. We don't do blackouts anymore.
As a producer at Second City for over 40 years have you learned any valuable lessons?
Oh, I've learned a lot. I've learned to accept change and to forgive things because new is good. The audience and our actors are always about the same age, so we've kept up with the times because our concerns are similar. There's a real sense of community because we're talking about the concerns of the audience.
In what way has Second City influenced your personal and professional lives?
It has been my personal and professional life. I had chances to work in New York and all over the country, but I chose to stay at Second City. I realized when I was doing musical stock at the Royal Alexandra Theater in Toronto that I got more satisfaction from a60-second original blackout done by Second City than recreating all the Rodgers and Hammerstein musicals. So that was the choice I made be-cause I enjoyed all this original work. It's been my pleasure. I communicate with the alumni, I talk to everybody here. I'm sort of a cheerleader, I think.
So many actors from Second City have gone on to stardom. How has fame and money changed them?
Most of them are very much the same. Richard Kind called to tell me when his baby was born, and again when they were going to bring her home. So that's the kind of really good relationship I have with them.
How has Second City's notoriety changed its approach to comedy?
I think the changes have come in the large number of people who want to be in Second City and the increased numbers taking our classes. We have created a whole improv community. When we first started, it didn't exist, but we made that change.
Say one last thing about Second City.
We've been in business for 42 years, we've spawned theaters and actors all over the country. It's hard to go to the theater, watch television or go to the movies without seeing someone who's been with Second City. We've been a major influence on the entertainment industry.