20th Anniversary of the Chicago Improv Festival!


Executive Producer Jonathan Pitts stepping down from festival at the end of the year

Chicago, Ill. – Chicago Improv Festival Productions is proud to announce that the 20th anniversary of the Chicago Improv Festival will be taking place from March 27-April 2 @ Athenaeum Theatre, 2936 N. Southport Ave; and Stage 773, 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

As it does every year, the Chicago Improv Festival will present diverse improvisers on its stages regardless of race, creed, religion, shape, size, sexual preference or ability. “That’s why the theme for this year’s festival is ‘No Ban on Fun! Everyone Welcome! With Liberty and Laughter for All!’’” says Jonathan Pitts, Chicago Improv Festival’s Co-Founder and Executive Producer.

“It’s the 20th annual Chicago Improv Festival, and just like we have for 20 years, we aim to celebrate the art of comedic and theatrical improvisation. We create because to play is a divine right of being human. We laugh because it’s part of what makes us human. The ability to play together is a pact between improvisers and audiences that the Chicago Improv Festival has presented in every performance throughout our history,” Pitts said.

In honor of the 20th anniversary of the festival, original festival co-founder Frances Callier will return to perform with Angela Shelton in their improv duo Frangela. The pair currently serves as regular pop-culture pundits on NBC’s The Today Show and Dateline, Fox’s Mike and Juliet Show, CNN’s Showbiz Tonight and Headline News and Fox News’s Red Eye and The Big Story, MSN’s The Big Debate, and are regular contributors on NPR’s Day to Day and Off Ramp.

“This festival would not exist today if it weren’t for the foresight and enthusiasm of Frances Callier,” Pitts said. “It just feels right to have Frances return again this year to help us commemorate how far we have come in 20 years and welcome in a new era of the festival.”
In addition, Jon Barinholtz (Superstore) and Rob Belushi (How I Met Your Mother, Sorority Row), will be returning to the festival with their improv show, Sheldon. More headliners will be announced in the coming weeks.

This year’s festival will be significantly different from previous years because almost all of the shows will be concentrated at two venues within walking distance of each other: Stage 773 and the Athenaeum Theatre. Improv shows of similar styles — such as musical improv, dramatic improv, two-person shows, etc. — will be grouped on the same stages at the two venues. A few one-off shows will also be held at the Annoyance Theater and Second City’s e.t.c. theater.

This year’s festival will welcome more than 150 improv groups from all over the United States, as well as Amsterdam, Canada, Germany and India and more, a testament to how popular improv has become throughout the world. “When I first started the festival 20 years ago, I don’t think there were 150 improv acts in the entire country, much less at one festival,” Pitts said. “It’s truly amazing.”

Pitts, who founded the festival with Frances Callier in 1997, has also announced that he will be stepping down as executive producer of the festival at the end of this year. “It’s been an honor to be of artistic service over these last 20 years to Chicago’s improv community, as well as the national and international improv communities, but the time has come for me to focus on my own playing, creating, teaching, and directing, as well as put my energies into producing the Chicago Podcast Festival,” Pitts said.

Pitts will remain the Executive Director of Chicago Improv Festival Productions, the non-profit organization that runs the festival, but he will pass the running of the festival on to Jessie Kunnath, who has previously helped produce both the Chicago Improv Festival and the Detroit Improv Festival. John Hildreth will again serve as this year’s artistic director. “I am excited about taking over the mantel of running this festival and take it into its next 20 years,” Kunnath said.

“2017 is an especially good year to celebrate improvisational comedy,” Pitts said. “If you need a break from the constant churning headlines, come to the Chicago Improv Festival. If you need to gather with people to laugh and have fun, come to the Chicago Improv Festival. If you need to see how we are all making do, how we are all making through, in short, how we are all improvising in these trying times, come to the Chicago Improv Festival.”


DATES: March 27-April 2, 2017
Ticket prices range from $5-$25.

For details, visit http://chicagoimprovfestival.org

A complete list of groups and shows will be released in the coming weeks.
To schedule an interview with one of the artistic directors or performers, please contact Lauren Carrane at 954-554-0336 or email Lauren@sharppencilmaketing.com.