I got my start in the festival theatre circuit back in 1990 when I was a production intern for the International Theatre Festival of Chicago. I had the chance to work on plays and productions from theatre companies around the world. It changed my life and my artistic vision as much as becoming an improviser did when I first started my theatre journey.
When I co-created the Chicago Improv Festival with Frances Callier, it was very important to me that we have at least one improv act from another country in CIF #1 (1998). That year, we had “On the Spot” an improv team from Montreal. I’ve been proud that every year since we’ve always at least one international team playing at CIF.
As the years progressed, we added more and more international teams or solo international improvisers playing at CIF. By the time we got to 5 countries playing at CIF, I came up with the idea of putting them altogether for a single jam show called “1 World on 1 Stage” and we’ve been doing it part of CIF ever since.
That first year was exciting for me as an improv geek to watch players from around the world not speak the same language or share the same national reference points, but by using gibberish, I found that all the improvisers shared the same culture and basic training of improv’s “Yes And” truism which went beyond words and into a singular understanding of play.
That first show was super fun for me, the players and happily for the audience too. It was if everyone was filled with the spirit of improvisation and the experience made us all feel lighter and brighter. We also all laughed a heck of lot too.
Ever since, every year, the “1 World on 1 Stage” is always one of my favorite CIF shows and seeing everyone play together always becomes one of the payoffs for me with all the hard work we do before and during CIF. Every year the show is amazing and wonderful and it reminds me why I keep doing this.
I’ve also experienced our audiences be blown away be what they see. I’ve had veteran improvisers tell me that they will always remember either playing in the show or watching it. I’ve seen the international improvisers make new friends with each other and with us, the Chicago improvisers.
That’s part of it too. Chicago is the birthplace and Mecca for modern improvisation and as such it’s both an honor and a duty to be able to help facilitate the artistic dialogue between Chicago’s improv community and the world’s improv community. It’s great to be part of that nexus point for this one special week.
This year, we’ve got more international improvisers playing at CIF than ever before. We’ve set a new CIF record with 10 countries participating in CIF 2013 (America, Canada, Finland, Germany, India, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Sweden, Switzerland, and Russia). This is as many countries as ever participated in the International Theatre Festival of Chicago’s biggest year and now we’ve matched them.
If you are looking for a great show to see tonight (especially since the Adsit & Eveleth show is sold out), come to The Playground at 7pm, for the “1 World on 1 Stage” show with players from all the countries playing together (the photo is of them in today’s rehearsal). They will be improvising in their language and in English, but don’t sweat it if you don’t know their language, just watch them play and you will understand what’s going on. After all, funny is funny, and humans are humans. Us humans, we all play, no matter where we come from or what language we speak. To play is universal and to play together is divine.
- Jonathan Pitts, Executive Producer & Co-Founder, Chicago Improv Festival