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.
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.
Though it was only founded in 2012, Virtual X has already begun making a name for itself in Chicago's established entertainment scene. It counts hip-hop duo Chiology and rapper Solo Xquzit among its roster of clients and produces a radio show on Intellectualradio.com. It also offers up headshots and demo reels as well as acting workshops that help actors build their skills for television, film, and theater that their loved ones film.