Tag Archives: Chicago comedy
There’s no better gift than laughter. So, this holiday season treat all your loved ones to comfy seats at Studio5 in Evanston for “Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue”. Tickets are available at: http://www.studio5.dance/calendar
Ho! Ho! Ho! And then some!
Here’s where you can reserve your seats for any of our 7 shows at Studio5 in Evanston: https://www.tickettailor.com/events/studio5performingartscenter/790733/
Shows are December 29, 30 & 31 — and January 4, 5, 6 & 7.
Vic & Paul are back in Evanston — and ready to join with our friends Dana Olsen, Steve Rashid and the Studio5 All-Stars for “Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue.”
If the name sounds familiar, it’s because we were in Evanston last year to do this show — but the Omicron variant ran rampant while we were in rehearsals, making our show anything but “Post-Pandemic”. In fact, we had to cancel the show before it opened — on the same day that the Goodman Theatre and North Light were closing up shop.
Since then, Victoria and I have moved back to Evanston (for good!) and we’re back in rehearsals, polishing up an even better version of the show — with some new comic twists!
The Practical Theatre is back in operation on Chicago’s North Shore. And this time, we’re sticking around to keep the laughs coming on a regular basis.
But first — get your tickets for “Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post Pandemic Revue.”
Tickets go on sale Friday, October 28th.
For tickets go to: https://www.studio5.dance/calendar
“Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue” is a smart comedy cocktail, mixing music, variety, and vaudeville — stirring in everything from marriage to cancel culture, whoopie cushions, conspiracy theories, Greek gods, William Shakespeare and more. An intoxicating comic combination!
There’s no better place to enjoy a comedy revue with your favorite friends than Evanston’s own Studio5 Cabaret, which has comfortable seating, state of the art sound and lights, and acres of free parking!
Operated by Bea and Steve Rashid, Studio5 is located at 1934 Dempster Street in Evanston. (It’s on the southwest corner of Dempster and Dodge, adjacent to Dance Center Evanston.)
Go to http://www.studio5.dance to procure your tickets to the funniest year-end party of this malevolent, maddening year. We’ll be having great fun for 5 nights in Evanston — and we hope you’ll join us! The cast is Covid-free, socially-distanced — and ready to entertain as if they wanted to erase all the bulls*it of the past 20-something months! (And they certainly do!)
See you all at Studio5. It’s going to be an event to remember.
It’s time again for classic improvisational sketch comedy! Time to get out of the house and gather in a comfortable cabaret with fellow human beings for a memorable evening of laughter, music, and adult beverages.
The Practical Theatre returns to the Chicago area with the latest in a series of hit holiday shows, Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue, starring writer-actors Victoria Zielinski, Dana Olsen, and PTC co-founder, Paul Barrosse.
Great, groovy music is provided by PTC musical director and Studio5 impresario Steve Rashid and his Studio5 All-Stars: Rockin’ Ronny Crawford on drums, Jim Cox on bass, and Don Stiernberg on every stringed instrument known to man.
Vic & Paul & Dana’s Post-Pandemic Revue is a smart comedy cocktail, mixing sex, music, variety and vaudeville — while stirring in everything from marriage to quarantine to cancel culture, conspiracy, climate change, Olympian gods, William Shakespeare, Rod McKuen, Looney Tunes — and the fragility of major appliances. It’s an intoxicating comic combination!
There’s no better place to enjoy a comedy revue with your favorite friends than Evanston’s own Studio5, which has a cash bar, comfortable, socially distanced seating, state of the art sound and lights, and acres of free parking.
PROOF OF VACCINE REQUIRED: All Studio5 attendees will be required to show an ID and proof of a COVID vaccine. Photos of CDC cards are acceptable provided they are legible. Studio5 will be following local masking guidance at the time of performances. Tickets are non-refundable and non-exchangeable. Please be certain you can and are willing to comply with our policies prior to making your purchase.
Seating is intentionally limited to accommodate social distancing.
Studio5 Performing Arts Center, 60202
Opening night is just 32 days away. Tickets on sale now!
When I first wrote the history of The Practical Theatre for this blog, I finished by saying, “The Practical Theatre in Chicago in the 1980’s — that was Brigadoon: a magical place that existed for a brief time and vanished. And I got the girl.”
That was true. I did get the girl. And because I emerged from that life-changing experience with Victoria Zielinski as my wife and collaborator, the Practical Theatre was ultimately due for a renaissance.
Alas, the PTC revival would take more than two decades.
The PTC had to wait as Vic and I raised our three wonderful daughters: Maura, Emilia and Eva. But by 2010, the year of our 20th wedding anniversary, with our girls old enough to spare their parents for a few hours a day — Vic and I began to consider whether we were still comedians who had something to say.
We decided it was time to bring the Practical Theatre back. Thus was born “The Vic & Paul Show.”
Inspired by the classic work of Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Vic and I began improvising extended comic scenes in our kitchen, including…
- A dull, dispirited married couple that die in a car wreck and wind up stranded in Limbo.
- A sad sack single guy from Cleveland trying to pick up a Chicago cougar in a hotel lounge.
- A frontier bartender serving a whiskey tasting to a dusty California cowpoke.
There were times when our improvisations were so lively, so passionate, and so LOUD – that our girls would rush downstairs to see if we were okay. Were we really fighting? Arguing? Drunk?
They’d never seen us performing comedy sketches.
We polished our routines, edited our scripts, and wrote some songs. A Practical Theatre revue had to include music. That meant involving our long-time music director, Steve Rashid. We booked a series of shows in a tiny local bar called Push Lounge in Woodland Hills, California.
That leap of faith launched a tour that took “The Vic & Paul Show” to Chicago’s Prop Theatre and Mayne Stage in Rogers Park, to Cleveland’s 14thStreet Theatre — and iO West in Hollywood.
After that, we renewed a collaboration with our fellow Northwestern graduate and Mee-Ow Show alum, Dana Olsen, starting with Mr. Olsen’s Neighborhood at The Wilmette Theatre in 2012 — followed by “Mr. Olsen’s New Year’s Rockin’ Neighborhood” at 27 Live in 2013.
Then, Vic and Dana and I spent a solid year writing new material for “The Vic & Paul & Dana Show.” We were delighted that Steve Rashid and Rockin’ Ronny Crawford joined us for a Hollywood run at iO West in November 2015.
That show in LA revived a PTC comedy tradition that launched North Shore runs of “Mr. Olsen’s Holiday Party” in 2016, “Mr. Olsen’s Champagne Celebration” the following year and “PTC Radio Theatre On The Air” in 2018 – all staged at Bea and Steve Rashid’s fabulous Studio5 theatre in Evanston.
The Practical Theatre is alive and well at Studio5.
The PTC’s “Big Holiday Bag O’ Fun!” is the latest comedic chapter in a very funny history.
“Big Holiday Bag O’ Fun!” is a compendium of The Practical Theatre’s funniest sketches, dating from our “Mee-Ow Show” days at Northwestern University to “Bag O’ Fun” – our first improvisational comedy revue staged in the summer of 1980 at Evanston’s Noyes Cultural Arts Center – through “The Vic & Paul & Dana Show”.
Plus a few new bits written right up to opening night.
Brigadoon is back.
See you at Studio5!
It was the first time I performed in a comedy revue while wearing a bowtie.
I wore a faux bowtie t-shirt under my jacket for “Goodtimes” — my first-ever comedy revue in Cleveland in 1975. That’s me on the far right. I was still in high school. (In fact, my high school drama director, Mary Ann Zampino, is seated above me.) But, 43 years later, the bowtie was real.
At the suggestion of our musical director Steve Rashid, in cahoots with Chicago FM jazz station WDCB, we took up the creative challenge of adapting what we’ve been doing in our popular holiday shows for an audience of radio listeners.
First — we scheduled shows on December 28 and 29, 2018 at Studio5 in Evanston, Illinois.
Then, two months before those curtains were scheduled to go up, Victoria Zielinski, Dana Olsen and I began the process of becoming The Practical Radio Theatre Company of the Air.
The Practical Theatre has played a lot with comedy revue formats since our first improvisational comedy revue back in 1980 — but this was the first time we were having fun with the radio show format.
To begin the process, we focused on sorting through which of the sketches and songs in our repertoire would work best on the radio. Most PTC sketches feature a lot of words (some might say too many) — and the material we developed for The Vic & Paul Show and The Vic & Paul & Dana Show is particularly loquacious. So, that was good. Certain beats needed some tweaking, especially topical jokes that had to be updated, but it was creatively stimulating to take a fresh look at some of our favorite sketches.
One of the happiest re-discoveries was the revival of the “Marine Comedy” sketch, which made its summer of 1980 debut in the running order of Bag O’ Fun– the PTC’s first improv comedy revue. I play a boot camp drill sergeant leading a group of comedian cadets through their comic paces. The call and response of a veteran DI grilling his green troops lent itself well to radio. But keeping in mind that the live cabaret patrons aren’t the primary audience we must serve — how do you simulate a pratfall for the radio?
Questions like that lead to the biggest revelation in our writing and rehearsal process: the sound effects.
Of course, we agreed right away that we wanted to employ traditional hand-made radio show sound effects: the kind we remembered so fondly from the classic radio shows of the 1930’s and 40’s. (And no, we’re not thatold.) My dad, who was born in 1927, introduced me at an early age to the classic radio shows of his youth: classics like “Fred Allen’s Alley” and “Fibber McGee and Molly.” Fibber McGee’s closet – the quintessential old time radio sound effect – would not have been as famously funny in any other medium.
Steve Rashid’s son, Daniel, embraced the critical job of making the sound effects come alive. Daniel’s a fine young actor — and he’s also a drummer. That’s good. Radio sound effects punctuate moments in the sketches like drum fills in a song. Plus, the gig requires imagination and ingenuity – and Daniel showed plenty of both. As everyone came up with more ideas for sound effects, Daniel’s SFX job grew and grew and…
With about a month to go before opening night, we began to develop some sketches specifically for radio, including two episodes of “Fred Knoblock: Secret President” — a retro radio mystery about a former Walmart greeter pressed into service as a body double for a thinly disguised Mango Mussolini.
For the past few years, we’ve normally featured a corps of dancers in our revues – and Victoria insisted that we include a dance number in the show. But how do you perform dance on the radio?
Dana came up with a script that evolved into one of the show’s freshest and funniest sketches — in which Daniel and his brother (also a drummer) put thimbles on all their fingers and became a tap dancing troupe breaking out show-stopping moves. It became the sound effects highlight of the show.
As occupied as we were with the creation and execution of all the sound effects, another vital radio show element never troubled me: the music. That’s because maestro Steve Rashid was in charge, and the band he assembled was first class.
Steve was on keys, of course, as well as harmonica and trumpet. His Studio5 All-Stars were composed of the great Don Stiernberg on guitar and mandolin, the flawless Jim Cox on upright bass, and Steve’s son Robert on drums and percussion. (Tap-dancing thimbles, too!)
Among the musical wonders Steve performed were the composition of theme music for the show, Practical Radio Theatre On The Air, and all the shows within the show, including “Middle Aged Jeopardy”, “Fred Knoblock: Secret President” and “This Old Man”.
We also brought in two more musical ringers: vocalists Paul Marinaro and Eva B. Ross. Paul is a Chicago jazz favorite with a rich, dynamic voice that makes the Great American Songbook come alive. Eva is an up and coming singer-songwriter who shares Steve and Paul’s passion for jazz.
Whether singing solo or in duet, Paul and Eva gave us two more musical aces in the hole.
So, on the day after Christmas 2018, we returned to the familiar cabaret confines of Studio5 to prepare for a presentation that was not at all familiar to us. We had just two days to set up the sound and lighting and stage the material we’d developed over the previous two months.
Luckily for us, we had audio master Sam Fishkin handling the complex task of not only making sure that the cabaret audience could hear everything – but recording it all for the radio, too. And making the lighting of the show seem effortless, as usual, was Charlotte Rathke. It’s a joy to work with two pros that do beautiful work and never miss a cue– especially when so much of what you’re about to do onstage is new for everyone involved.
I’ve often said that The Practical Theatre Company is like Brigadoon, the mythical village in the classic Broadway musical. We appear for a brief time – and then we vanish. What follows are some glimpses into the process and performances that brought Practical Radio Theatre On The Air to life over four magical days in Evanston. (Many of these photos were taken by guest vocalist Paul Marinaro — a man of many talents.)