Coolness and Creativity in Chicago

I’ve been a “creative” in this city for a very long time. I’ve been an improviser for, my lord, almost 15 years. My brother is an artist, my husband is an artist and an improviser, my friends write hilarious and amazing shows and I’m happy that I spend my time in this city creating art or watching art being created.

But you know how it is, you get jaded…well not jaded, but you get to the point where you’re not necessarily surprised anymore, or you go longer and longer in between things that really blow you away with their creativity.

Something has come along that has really impressed me and really made me think and that thing is this:

365 Sketches

The 365 Sketches project was written by Joe Janes and is produced by Don Hall.

The premise is that Joe Janes wrote a sketch a day for a year.

Now, I’m a writer, I like writing a lot and I’m an improv comedienne and I have co-written a sketch show. Man, it’s not easy to write sketches. It’s not easy to write a few a week, much less seven. Unbelievable. Now the next unbelievable thing is Don Hall taking every one of those 365 sketches and producing them and putting them up on stage.

Seriously? Really? Amazing.

The way it’s working is they’ve handpicked 26 directors, there are over 200 actors and each director gets about 12-14 of Joe’s scenes. The directors cast it themselves, hold auditions, hold rehearsals and this week and through the weekend, they are being performed at the Strawdog Theater on Broadway.

So not only am I blown away by the sheer magnitude of what Joe has done, which is just mind-blowing and takes more discipline than I can ever imagine myself having, but then Don comes along and knows inherently that sketches aren’t meant to lie around, but are meant to be performed and starts putting this puppy together.

THEN, you have the roughly 250 people, let me say that again, TWO HUNDRED AND FIFTY PEOPLE – actors, directors, producers, stage managers – you have all these people willing to give their time, energy and passion for this – well it’s just overwhelming to me.

I went last night to one of the sketch shows, Don and Joe are both there shooting 5 hour energy drinks, there’s a bar and a friendly crowd and an air-conditioned theater. And granted, are all the sketches laugh out loud hilarious? No, no they’re not, but are they fully-realized sketch scenes and some are sad and some are funny and some are absurd and they all have a beginning a middle and an end.

Sometimes projects really catch my fancy in this city and this is one of those. One of the things I really love about it is that it’s very Chicago. There are no pretensions to this thing. There are no gimmicks, no feather boas, no art stars with fake names – this is the passion of Chicago actors mixed with the passion of a prolific writer and a producer who believes that artistic work is not mean to lie around with no one to see it.

I strongly suggest you go support this, it may not be the most hilarious thing you’ve ever seen, but as you sit there, you will marvel at the undertaking, the passion and the friendship of Chicago’s comedy community.


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