A serious case of ants in the pants can make sitting through a play or musical a tough ask for little culture seekers. The solution? Introduce them to the theater scene at an improv show, where they can stand up, sit down and participate in the fun. These unscripted shows rely on audience participation to get the story in motion and are often hilarious. In Chicago, a city famous for cutting edge improv, we’d expect nothing less than awesome shows for kids. Here are three to see.
photo: Storytown / Lindsay Williams
What it is: From location, backdrop design and character suggestions, kids are encouraged to take an active role in this interactive improvisational musical — even becoming characters themselves. The kids are the fuel for the show and all ideas are honored and embraced. Needless to say, no show is the same!
Why you’ll love it: Have a heyday with bins of colorful costumes and art supplies. Kids and parents, too, can add to the set and build costumes and props as the show unfolds. Because everyday pieces of clothing and items found around the house are used as costumes and props, kids leave inspired to go home and put on their own performance.
Saturdays; 10:30 a.m.
1225 W. Belmont Ave.
What it is: Fitting of its name, which means “nonsense”, the lack of structure of this show makes it an absolute riot. To start, kids assist with costume selection and choose a location for the fully improvised story. As the plot thickens, artists make props, build scenery and modify costumes. Musicians let rip an improvised score and actors sing songs created on the spot. Kids are encouraged to throw out twists and turns in the plot, and even becoming characters themselves.
Why you’ll love it: The show is free for adults! If your kids get hooked, they can sign up for summer camp. For the Make a Play! camp, campers create a short play from start to finish, with lessons in storytelling, performance skills and group collaboration. Featured artists will instruct the students in yoga and music, and the camp concludes with a private performance of their original production. Check their website for updates on camp dates.
When: Saturdays, 10:30 a.m.
Cost: $10/kids; free for adults
1910 W. Irving Park Rd.
photo: ComedySportz Chicago
What it is: This hilarious 90-minute improv show has two competing teams creating comedy scenes, songs and games right on the spot based on audience suggestions. The audience chooses the winner and the show never repeats.
Why you’ll love it: Besides the competing teams aspect appealing to sports lovers, it’s clean, smart comedy that entertains all ages — which can be tough to come by.
When: Fri., 8 p.m.; Sat., 6 p.m., 8 p.m. & 10 p.m.
CSz Theater Chicago
929 W. Belmont Ave.
And one more thing . . .
If your kids get the improv acting bug, you can’t be in a better city. The Second City offers classes and camps for kids as young as age 4. Your kids will experience the improvisational games and exercises that are the foundation of Second City’s signature brand of comedy we’ve all come to know and love. Not only will you (hopefully!) start hearing better jokes around the house, the classes enhance a child’s ability to communicate, instill confidence, teach them to respect the ideas of others and help them to start developing their public speaking mojo. They even have a class designed specifically to help kids with anxiety.
Hyde Park’s The Revival also offers PlayProv and Improv classes for ages 4 & up. The young comedians will grow their imaginations using games and songs that encourage creative expression. Watch as their spontaneity is unleashed in a safe and supportive environment.
Have you seen a great kids’ show on stage lately? Shout about it in the Comments!
— Maria Chambers & Kelly Aiglon