Second City Comedy Troupe, Ruth Eckerd Hall. Tuesday, 8 p.m. Tickets are $16 and $19.Second City is the first name in comedy training grounds. Scores of seasoned comedians, such as Robert Klein, John Candy, Martin Short, Gilda Radner and John Belushi, got their start at Second City. Known to most people through the Canadian television show, SCTV, Second City is a conglomeration of acting schools, touring troupes and residential performers, with bases in Chicago and Toronto.
Second City began in Chicago more than 17 years ago, expanding to Toronto in 1973. Since its inception, Second City in Chicago has expanded to include the Main Stage as well as a satellite theater, ETC., with two residential companies and three touring companies.
Most of the creative juices flow at the Main Stage, which Mark Beltzman, a member of one of Chicago's resident Second City companies, describes as "the theater where we write and perform our own material in cabaret settings."
Quick wits and on-the-ball timing are required to be a Second City performer, but audience interaction is also part of the formula.
"We do a scripted show. After the show, we take suggestions from the audience. We improvise and perform a skit until it's perfect," Beltzman said. "We open a new show at least once or twice a year."
Despite the recipe for perfection, the performers are not beyond adding extra spice to "keep each other on our toes. One of us may throw in an extra line some evenings to keep things interesting."
The resident companies carry most of the comedic weight as "touring scripts are written and performed by resident companies." To become a member of the resident company, Beltzman said, "most people take classes at Second City training companies. After that, they move up to level five, and perform a show a week. Auditions are held once a year for the touring companies and understudies. You move up from the touring companies to resident companies."
The company performing here will be one of the resident Chicago companies. "The reason we're coming to Florida is kind of a fluke and lots of fun," Beltzman said. "Most of us haven't been on the road in two or three years."
Beltzman says his company is looking forward to the change in climate. "Our producer asked us if we'd like to switch with the touring company, and we're all really thrilled about it," he said. "We look at it as a little paid vacation in Florida."