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Chicago Improv Festival 

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"Improv as Theater," the theme of the ninth annual edition of this sprawling showcase of performers from around the world, links improvisation to its roots and emphasizes its potential--and rightly so. When Viola Spolin taught character games to the folks who went on to found Second City, she called the form improvisational theater. This year's CIF jury members selected participants who exhibit an inclination to experiment beyond standard short-form sketch comedy and long-form montage, including actors, writers, monologuists, dancers, musicians, and video artists. Special focus is placed on interdisciplinary work, as well as emerging talents from high schools and colleges. As CIF executive director Jonathan Pitts says, "The act of improvising is the act of creating." The fest also honors the memories of veteran actor and original Compass member Hamilton Camp, Athenaeum Theatre executive director Fred Solari, local entertainment journalists Allan Johnson and Mark Sinclair, and director-performer Jim Zulevic.

The Chicago Improv Festival runs 4/24-4/30 at the Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport, and the Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington. Auxiliary events take place at the Playground Theater, 3209 N. Halsted, and Loyola University, Kathleen Mullady Memorial Theatre, Centennial Forum, 6525 N. Sheridan (enter at 1125 W. Loyola). Admission ranges from free to $30. Some performances are restricted to persons 18 and over (see listings). Tickets to shows at the Athenaeum can be purchased through Ticketmaster (312-902-1500 or www.ticketmaster.com) or at the box office; tickets to events at other venues must be purchased at the box office on the day of the show. For general festival information, call 773-935-9810 or visit chicagoimprovfestival.org. For info on shows at the Cultural Center, call 312-744-6630 (TTY 312-744-2947). Following is the schedule through 4/27; a complete schedule is available online at www.chicagoreader.com.

MONDAY 24

CIF Lunchbreak

Norway's Oslo Improvisasjonsteater launches a series of lunchtime performances cosponsored by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. a 12:15 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe. F

The Xprovisation Series: Singularities

This showcase of solo performance features actor Andy Eninger, video artist Tom Herman, poet Michael Green, musician Eric Leonardson, and dancer Margaret Morris, followed by an improvised group piece by all five artists. a 7 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall. F

TUESDAY 25

CIF Lunchbreak

The Mike and Duane Show features improvised and scripted rock operas. a 12:15 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe. F

The Xprovisation Series: Colossal

Program of ensemble-based multidisciplinary work featuring Double Play (two actors and a string bassist in a combination of Spolin games, contact improvisation, and Viewpoints exercises), the Moonbones dance group, Polyrhythmic (a collective of visual and performing artists), and Split Pillow (a video collective), followed by a collaborative improvisation by all four groups. a 7 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall. F

WEDNESDAY 26

CIF Lunchbreak

Cold Towne Heroes, a group of Hurricane Katrina survivors from New Orleans now living in Austin, perform. a 12:15 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe. F

Bodies of (Comedy) Work

The Chicago Improv Festival joins forces with "Bodies of Work: The Chicago Festival of Disability Arts and Culture" for an evening of improvisation featuring deaf lesbian solo performer Terry Galloway of Austin. Also on the bill: Ice Worm, a trio of deaf actors from California, present their improvised game show Whose Sign Is It Anyway? The performance is sign interpreted. a 7 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Preston Bradley Hall. F

THURSDAY 27

CIF Lunchbreak

Ice Worm (see Wed 4/26 listing for Bodies of (Comedy) Work) performs; the show is sign interpreted. a 12:15 PM, Chicago Cultural Center, Randolph Cafe. F

Name Change Pending

This West Palm Beach trio presents Extreme Improv, a program of "dangerous" games. a 6:30 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, patio (weather permitting). F

Waiting For Ennis Cotter

This Boston-based trio perform a slice-of-life comedy set in a bar. a 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, first-floor studio. $15; 18+.

Hurricanes Are Funny

The Cold Towne Heroes, survivors of Hurricane Katrina, present a sketch show. a 7 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, second-floor studio. $15; 18+.

Whirled News Tonight, The Williamson Playboys, and Bassprov with Mo Collins

The hilarious improvised comedy Bassprov stars Joe Bill and Mark Sutton as two pals on a fishing trip. As small-town Hoosiers Donny Weaver and Earl Hinkle, Sutton and Bill while away their time in Donny's bass boat, drowning worms, popping beers, shooting the breeze, and chatting with whoever happens to be sharing the boat with them. For this opening-night performance they'll be joined by original MAD TV cast member Mo Collins. (JHe) Whirled News Tonight satirizes current events. The players exhibit a genuine rapport: articulate dialogue unfolds logically, swiftly, and concisely. (MSB) Also featured: Toronto's Williamson Playboys. Jordan Peele and Becky Drysdale host. a 7:30 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, main stage. $30; 18+.

PoetrySportz and Oslo Improvisasjonsteater

Chicago's ComedySportz presents "PoetrySportz," featuring improvised poetry presented in competition. See Mon 4/24 "CIF Lunchbreak" listing for information on Oslo Improvisasjonsteater. a 8 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, bar. F; 18+.

The Midnight Hellhouse

Jen Ellison directed this send-up of evangelical Christian haunted houses that use scenes of sinners in hell to scare visitors into "piety." a 9 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, first-floor studio. $15; 18+.

Play

Second City alum Dan Bakkedahl takes time off from The Daily Show to star in an improvised two-act play. a 9 PM, Athenaeum Theatre, second-floor studio. $15; 18+.

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