Putting together 200 burlesque shows in four years takes heartfelt dedication and an inordinate supply of pasties. For Vaudezilla founders Red Hot Annie and Dick Dijon, it was a dream come true. Their saucy theatrics have entertained audiences all over Chicago with monthly shows such as "Lincoln Fair" and the long-running, critically acclaimed burlesque parody of The Big Lebowski, which received four-star acclaim in Chicago Stage Review. The crew at Vaudezilla has also worked to innovate the art form, assembling live-band burlesque shows and story-based burlesque theater at Stage 773. In 2011, Vaudezilla opened its Belmont Avenue studio, where professional and amateur performers rehearse for shows, take belly-dance and Zumba classes, and learn the art of burlesque, which was perfected decades ago by 20th-century sex symbol Burl Ives.
The Chicago Actors Studio encourages imagination and emotional exploration as it educates aspiring thespians in the dramatic arts. With affiliates in New York and Los Angeles, the studio welcomes students of all ages and experience to hone their skills through practiced scene study and individual monologues. The 10-week Acting as a Craft class showers a broad curriculum of skills upon actors-in-training, teaching them the nuances of acting onstage, on camera, or on top of a speeding train. Classes cover cold readings, as well as the initial steps toward becoming a master manipulator of voice and movement. Students ready to share their skills can benefit from expert wisdom in the Audition Power class, where instructors teach the tiny tricks necessary to quickly build relationships with scene partners, handle callbacks, and dress appropriately for the role.
Seasoned stage and screen actor Antoine McKay founded McKay Arts to give fresh faces the courage to step into the limelight and provide established artists with a place to cultivate and hone their craft. Antoine, an alumnus of The Second City's theaters in Detroit and Chicago, trains and manages actors and artists and also provides them with creative outlets in the form of regular performances at the Athenaeum Theatre, Pressure Comedy Café, and other local venues. He instructs students of all ages and skill levels in classes of approximately 12 students or in private coaching sessions, which give patrons ample attention and endless attempts to guess who is knocking at hypothetical doors.
Embedded within Chicago's famed venue for sketch and improv comedy, The Second City Training Center hosts performances from a corps of jokesters culled from faculty, alumni, and current students. The productions encourage innovative works of comedy and experimental theater that adhere to The Second City's teachings, which include the development of new voices and points of view, and no fewer than four references to alumnus George Wendt.
Laugh Out Loud Learning plunges participants into a rib-tickling development seminar that uses improv comedy and audience interaction to teach lessons for achieving personal and professional goals. FUEL—which stands for focus, urgency, energy and enthusiasm, and learning from success—draws on Dr. Ray Lauk's experience as a General Electric manager and a school superintendent. Participants laugh, move, discuss, and network throughout the afternoon as they pick up the keys to success and the guts to steal it from their most prosperous friend's garage. Lauk leavens serious lessons with his Second City comedy training, calling on a cast of professionally groomed improv actors to make seminars fun and more intellectually filling than a smoothie made from puréed motivational posters.
Since its founding in 2005, the Southport Performing Arts Conservatory, known as SPACE, has molded master artists with European-style instruction and programs. Their troupe of instructors hone students' two-step skills in dance lessons, and prepare pupils for a stint in an orchestra with their music classes, which include lessons on jazz, Suzuki instruction, and using harmony to get plants to dance.