The Second City, the famous Chicago-based improvisational comedy club, is bringing its touring company to Hilton Head Island next week.
For the past 50 years, The Second City has established itself as a comedic powerhouse, producing notable alumni including Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert, as well as current "Saturday Night Live" star Cecily Strong and "SNL" writer Tim Robinson.
One of the club's three touring companies will perform Aug. 5-7 at the Art Center of Coastal Carolina. The two-act show is a collection of best-of Second City sketches and improvisation scenes.
Second City is well-known for its improv, and the discipline is something the actors work hard to perfect, actress Rachel LaForce said.
"We practice the same way a basketball team practices, doing sprints to run faster. We train three to 10 hours a week for years. Hopefully at this point we're pretty good at it."
The 28-year-old Atlanta native began taking classes with Second City in 2007 and has been part of the touring company for the past year and a half. The cast coming to Hilton Head also includes Lisa Barber, Paul Jurewicz, Christine Tawfik, Adam Schreck and Nick Rees.
Although a majority of the show is scripted, the improv segments are the highlight for LaForce.
"It's being able to completely surprise yourself," she said. "That's rare. It feels like a gift, like buying yourself flowers."
Lowcountry Current spoke with LaForce and got the inside take on improv acting, being funny and what really goes on in actors' heads during shows.
Question. When did you know that you were funny?
LaForce. Oh wow. I've danced and sang and performed my whole life. I was always cast in the funny role, like the next door neighbor, the grandma. The first time I remember really making people laugh, I played the white rabbit in a community theater show. I remember realizing I had that ability but didn't know what to do with it yet. I discovered Second City at 17. I was supposed to go to New York for college and I discovered Second City and it was like, (gasps) "This is the most magical place on Earth."
Q. What is your favorite form of comedy?
LaForce. Improv is my first love. It's different every time. You never know what you're going to say. It's always in the moment, and every day you're creating something off the top of your head. The fact that people want to watch me do that is mindboggling to me.
Q. What goes on in your head during an improv show?
LaForce. There's a lot of compartmentalizing going on. There's actor brain and then there's character brain. On stage I'm listening to what my partner is saying and I'm filtering it through my actor brain. Like, if you're my roommate and you say, "Sorry, I drank your last beer." My actor brain filters what you said and then my character brain thinks, "Do I like my roommate? Is this the ninth time I've come home and you've drank my beer?" And all this is happening within seconds.
Q. Are there any golden rules improv actors know to follow?
LaForce. One of the big things is agreement. Improv has a philosophy we call "Yes, and." So the idea is that whatever is happening, no matter how wacky, you're agreeing to it, and you're adding something to the scene. So whether you're two unicorns or two Hilton Head lifeguards, whatever it is, you're building something together and there's agreement with "Yes, and."
Q. What's something you should never do as an improv actor?
LaForce. The only thing you should probably never do is leave the stage. You should want to be where you are. It's improv, so there are no wrong choices. The only wrong choice is to not make a choice.
Q. Second City has produced a lot of stars, including some very famous female comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Do you have a Second City role model or a comedian that you particularly admire?
LaForce. Obviously Amy Poehler. Mary Beth Monroe is another one of my favorites. And there are still some women that I get to work with here that I'm like "Oh my gosh, you guys are fantastic."
Follow reporter Erin Shaw at twitter.com/IPBG_ErinShaw.
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