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Phoning it in

This weekend is the IO (formerly ImprovOlympic) 25th anniversary. There’s a big show Saturday night at the Chicago Theatre, and then a party afterwards. My mainstage schedule will keep me away from most of it, but with any luck I’ll make it to the party for a little bit.

With this big celebration comes many IO alums in town, one of whom is Rachel Dratch, who came by Second City last night and played our set. I had met her a couple of times before, beginning with a phone conversation almost 10 years ago. In March of my senior year of college, I came to Chicago for a few days to check it out, since I was planning to move here after graduation. I stayed with my friend Allie, who had been in Chicago for about 4 months by then. One night we went to Second City to see Pinata Full of Bees (which, I realized years later, was actually well into its transition into the next show, Citizen Gates), and when we got to the lobby where the actor photos are, Allie said “I didn’t know Rachel Dratch worked here.” Allie had moved to Chicago to do theatre, and when she moved her grandmother had given her the name and phone number of the granddaughter of a friend or something like that…who was also an actress in Chicago. Allie had never contacted her, but it turns out that person was Rachel Dratch.

So the next morning, Allie decides to call Rachel. It was clear from Allie’s side of the conversation that Rachel didn’t really understand the tenuous connection between the two of them. And then Allie says something to the effect of “My friend Molly is visiting and wants to do Second City. Would you talk to her?” She handed me the phone, and I managed to squeak out an awkward conversation. To her credit, Rachel was very nice on the phone, despite the fact that we were calling her the morning of her day off. She told me to take classes at Second City and IO, at the same time if I could, but if not to start at IO. Which is what I ended up doing.

I came very close to telling Rachel this story last night; I kind of wish I had. Another time perhaps. Or maybe I’ll have Allie call her and tell her.

Anyway, Rachel was a lot of fun to play with. It’s always exciting to have celebrities play the set, but it’s even better when that person is a Second City alum. The audience gets so excited when they’re introduced because they’re seeing someone famous, but I’d like to think that they’re also excited by the realization that they’re watching a show at an institution where people like Rachel got their start.

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