Extended interview with the Second City's Alison Gates

5/11/15 8:51:14 PM -- Chicago Illinois The Second City Blue Company Traveling Group © Todd Rosenberg 2015

5/11/15 8:51:14 PM -- Chicago Illinois
The Second City
Blue Company Traveling Group
© Todd Rosenberg 2015

Hooking Up With The Second City is a new sketch and improv show developed by the legendary Chicago theater. It’s all about relationships and romance, and comes to the Times-Union Center on January 23. We got the chance to chat with 26-year-old performer Alison Gates about the show, The Second City and what it’s like to be an improv comic.

Tell us about the show. It’s a relationship-themed show, which we’re really excited about. It lets us tackle different social or political issues in the context of people who really care about each other. It’s largely scripted, although a lot of the scenes have been developed from improv.

You play the guitar and mandolin. Will there be any music in the show? There will be a couple songs. Definitely some musical elements. We also have a musical director who was able to put together a lot of cool sounds for us.

How does one prepare to do improv? We don’t usually plan anything improv wise. Before shows, we get there early to get dressed and ready, and for me the best warm-up is just being around the other cast members. It’s a bunch of very funny people so when we’re in the same room, people start joking around and playing different characters.

How did you get started doing this? They had improv in my high school, so i did it a bit then, and then some more in college sort of as a way to meet people. Then I moved to Chicago to do it a little more seriously… I’ve been with this touring company for about eight months. I’m the most recent addition. Every year couple years Second City will have this big general audition where everybody can try out. I went through that, and from classes they have a conservatory program where you start to write material and I’ve gone through that process as well.

What’s unique about working with the Second City? One of the great things about performing at Second City is the writing process. A lot of times we’ll bring in ideas for each other, and then we get to improvise it in front of an audience. Based on how that goes, we’ll write down what happens and make tweaks and re-improvise it. In Chicago, after our shows we’ll have a third act, and sometimes if we’re working on new material it’ll be these scene pitches. It’s cool to get that feedback while you’re writing.

What’s your dream job? Down the road my dream job would be writing instead of performing, but being on the touring company is really, really fun, so I’m definitely in no rush to stop doing this.