Chicago improv group visits Iowa City


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Angela Dawe was the funniest person in her group of friends. Now a part of one of Second City’s improv groups, she finds herself in the company of everyone’s funniest friend, making the laughs come naturally.

“That’s kind of what’s happening, and it’s just a blast. It’s also nice because there are no giant egos or nobody feels like he or she is the star,” she said. “That’s the really nice thing about being in an ensemble — we’re all there to support each other and to make each other look good.”

Fair & Unbalanced, Second City’s traveling show, is a greatest-hits performance from the troupe’s 51-year history. The comedy group replays some of the most popular sketches originally done by former members, including Steven Colbert, Steve Carell, and Tina Fey. The ensemble will perform a show at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday at the Englert Theatre, 221 E. Washington St. Admission is $22 for students, $27 for adults.

The traveling ensemble has become a closely knit group while performing and dealing with the problems that comes with a touring show. Dawe, 28, said one of the largest challenges is that every venue is different — each may have vastly different sizes and technical capabilities. It’s the job of stage manager Dawn Wilson to make sure everything is in place.

“She’s makes sure that we are all where we need to be, we have everything we need, and everything runs smoothly,” Dawe said. “Her nickname in the company is ‘Mom.’ I think we call her Mom more often then we call her Dawn.”

Wilson said she loves being able to hang out with a bunch of people who make her laugh while also having the chance to travel. She described her job as three parts: secretary, stage manager, and of course, mom.

“I think it’s really wonderful and very endearing,” she said. “I’m actually the youngest member of the company. I’m the youngest, but I’m kind of the one who keeps everybody on point as mildly as possible without having to be the jerk all the time.”

As the traveling stage manager, the biggest part of her job is to keep the show looking just as the director had envisioned. Wilson said that it’s one of those jobs that if you’re doing it right, no one should notice you.

“Working at Second City specifically, I have never felt undervalued,” she said. “It’s one of the most appreciative jobs I’ve ever worked, so it’s really great.”

Neither Dawe nor Wilson have been to Iowa City, but they expressed excitement about finally making it here.

University of Iowa sophomore Amber Bates is equally excited about the troupe’s visit.

“I didn’t know about it until I went with my friend to Chicago this summer,” she said. “We saw it in the city on the lakeside. It was the best part of the trip for me.”

Dawe said that many of the cast members in the traveling ensembles have hopes of one day locking in a spot at one of Second City’s resident stages, where big names such as Colbert, Carell, and Fey were discovered. For now, though, she said she’d love to perform with the touring group for as long as it would let her.

“It’s incredibly fun,” Dawe said. “I feel very lucky to be working with the cast that I work with. The great thing about being in an ensemble with Second City is everyone is really funny. I mean, it’s not the kind of job you pursue unless you’re naturally funny.”

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