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Chicago's famed Second City headed to Abingdon

staff report • Sep 7, 2011 at 3:53 AM

Chicago’s legendary sketch comedy theatre The Second City will bring its “Laugh Out Loud” tour to Abingdon’s Barter Theatre for a single show Monday, Oct. 3. Curtains up is 7:30 p.m. This special performance will feature some of the best sketches, songs and improvisations from The Second City’s 52-year history. The Second City opened its doors on a snowy Chicago night in December 1959. No one could have guessed that this small cabaret theatre would become one of the most influential and prolific comedy theatres in the world. With its roots in the improvisational games of Viola Spolin, The Second City developed an entirely unique way of creating and performing comedy. Founded by Spolin’s son, Paul Sills, along with Howard Alk and Bernie Sahlins, The Second City was experimental and unconventional in its approach to both theatre and comedy. At a time when mother-in-law jokes were more the fashion, The Second City railed against the conformist culture with scenes that spoke to a younger generation. The Broadway success of Mike Nichols and Elaine May — members of The Second City’s predecessor, The Compass Players — put attention on the fledgling comp a n y. Soon, alumni of The Second City — such as Alan Arkin, Barbara Harris, Robert Klein, David Steinberg and Fred Willard — began to cement the theatre’s reputation for developing the finest comedic voices of each and every generation. With the debut of NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” populated by Second City alums John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd and Gilda Radner, the theatre became internationally known for its ever-increasing roster of comedy superstars. Soon, Second City’s sister-theatre in Canada developed its own sketch comedy series, “SCTV,” hailed as one of the greatest comedy series of all time and featuring an all-star cast that included Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Catherine O’Hara, John Candy, Eugene Levy, Dave Thomas, Joe Flaherty and Rick Moranis. By the 1980s, The Second City had become much more than a small cabaret theatre on Chicago’s north side. In the middle of the decade, The Second City began a new era after Second City Toronto proprietors Andrew Alexander and Len Stuart bought out Bernie Sahlins’ interest in The Second City Chicago and set in motion a new era of innovation for the company. Today, The Second City continues to produce some of the comic industry’s finest talent. From Mike Myers to Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert to Tina Fey, The Second City imprint is felt across every entertainment medium. The Second City’s “Laugh Out Loud” tour puts a comic spin on the world’s everyday troubles, as no topic or subject matter is off limits. Not only does an evening with The Second City provide audiences the chance to see comedy stars in the making, but it also gives them the opportunity to see absolutely hilarious satire and cutting-edge improvisation in action. The event is sponsored by the Arts Array cultural outreach series at Virginia Highlands Community College. Tickets are $20 and can be purchased by calling the Barter Theatre box office at (276) 628-3991.

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