If I say “Second City,” you say "Chicago?" Maybe. But I bet "comedy club" comes in a close “second.”
The Windy City’s legendary improv club turned 50 a year ago, but it’s not slowing down in middle age. In fact, it’s exporting city-specific shows around the country, including one right here for Cincinnati audiences at Playhouse in the Park for the holidays.
Following the 2006 success of a Denver show (they called it How I Lost My Denverginity), Second City began to offer customized shows for extended runs in various markets. The Queen City’s own two-act revue, Second City Does Cincinnati: Pride and Porkopolis, opens in the Shelterhouse Theatre on Thursday and continues through Dec. 23.
It’s directed by Mick Napier, who spent his teen years in Trenton, about 20 miles north of Cincinnati.
“I was born in Hazard, Ky., but I grew up in Ohio,” Napier says. “I wanted to get back to the area.”
Napier is also directing another Second City show at Actors Theatre of Louisville, It Takes A ’Ville (Jan. 4-Feb. 6).
Second City sent writers to Cincinnati late in the summer to collect material.
“It’s the first time I’ve directed one of these shows where writers developed a lot of the material,” says Napier, who has worked with Second City for two decades.
He has his own company, The Annoyance Theatre, which he describes as “more subversive” — “sketch comedy and more in a vibrant, uncensored atmosphere,” according to its Web site. Napier’s book, Improvise: Scene from the Inside Out, is a fundamental text in the rambunctious world of theater-on-the-fly.
The Cincinnati show will certainly have some improv, Napier says, but “it’s a blessing and a curse. The show can expand if you allow too much improvisation. I have a really good cast, and I’ll give them more leeway to improvise, but they’ll keep the scene intact.”
His Cincinnati team — three men and three women — are Second City veterans.
“They work a lot, they’re very funny with a good acting foundation,” Napier says.
What should one expect from the Cincy-centric shows?
“We have a bubbly tribute song to Pete Rose,” Napier says. “There’s a City Council scene that toggles between Covington City Council and Cincinnati City Council, reflecting the differences in point of view. There’s an segment that has a ‘hall’ of celebrity figures from Cincinnati, people like Marge Schott.”
Even though he’s from Greater Cincinnati, Napier says the show has local anecdotes and information he hadn’t heard before.
“I didn’t know about the flying pigs or why it’s called the Queen City,” he says.
Even if you go to see the show this week, you might want to check back later in the run. Napier says, “We’ve really discussed how we want to get out and talk with people and absorb more that we can use,” enriching the show as it runs.
“It will probably involve a lot of drinking as well,” he adds.
“I’m hoping we can push this material right to the edge without alienating people. We want everyone to enjoy it and have a good time,” Napier says. “It’s like a party. It will give you a chance to look at yourself and your city in a way you’ve not looked at it before. Or perhaps it will reflect on truths you know but never actually focused on.”
I’ll second that!
SECOND CITY DOES CINCINNATI: PRIDE AND PORKOPOLIS runs at Playhouse in the Park through Dec. 23. Buy tickets, check out performance times and get venue details here.
CONTACT RICK PENDER: firstname.lastname@example.org