Chicago is home to many things…from deep dish pizza to amazing restaurants, museums, architecture and theatre. You may not know that Chicago is also home to Sketchfest, the largest sketch comedy festival in the country. Over 8 days, more than 120 groups perform. Often there are three simultaneous shows. It’s popular with attendees and the media.
For several years, I’ve contributed behind the scenes, doing the program (including graphics, fake ads and appropriate Bible quotes) for one group: Best Church of God. This year, I’m also performing…with Funny Bones.
FB is an improv troupe that performs at hospitals for sick children, their caregivers and staff. (It’s heartbreaking to see kids with IVs in their arms or those who are attached to machines, yet rewarding and fun to bring smiles to their faces with our antics or as they participate in our games.) For Sketchfest, we put together a written show featuring some of our improvisers and those from FB New Orleans.
What it takes to put on one 35 minute performance…
–Sketches had to be written and agreed upon. There was at least one writers’ meeting plus however long it took to complete the sketches.
–Several two hour rehearsals, one four hour rehearsal, and a tech rehearsal on the stage the day of the show.
–We supplied our own props and costumes (from our closets, borrowed from friends/family or purchased on the cheap. Actors never know what they might need to wear in a show, so I’ve kept a lot of odd bits and pieces, just in case. Which came in handy: I needed a ninja costume, and fortunately had a perfect maroon kung fu-ish pajama/lounging set my great aunt had given me more than 10 years ago–who knows how long she had it; another ninja had two cheongsams.)
–FB’s founder interviewed a few of us and some kids answering zany questions and created several short videos to intersperse between our scenes.
–Our fearless leaders spent time making arrangements with Sketchfest and other decisions.
–However long each of us needed to learn our lines.
We don’t get paid, but there’s one great perk: a pass allowing us to see any other show that isn’t sold out.