Photo by Clayton Hauck
Second City director Matt Hovde really likes sandwiches, but we didn’t talk much about that. Instead he spoke with Our Town about Let Them Eat Chaos, the open run Second City Revue he helped create. A longstanding tradition, the revue depends on both improv and scripted scenes, harnessing the collective creative energy of a cast of talented performers.
Our Town You deviate from tradition a bit with the show, for example, no musical number opens it. Why?
Matt Hovde From the very first rehearsal, the ensemble and I wanted to free ourselves from recent Second City trends. This is a veteran cast, and we felt ready to break free from old habits, no matter how successful. It came from a place of feeling like comedy can get stagnant when it gets too predictable, and we wanted to make sure we weren't putting up a show by some formula or set of rules. In a weird way, we developed the material by saying, "well normally we might push things in this direction, so...let's go the opposite way."
OT How did you come up with the title?
MH As usual, it was the result of several days of brainstorming terrible ones to try to find a good one! We had been playing around with a theme of Chaos early on, in the sense that it represents unpredictability, or maybe even an attitude of rebellion. Plus, it's a great way of describing improvisation, which is a huge part of our process. Once the show started to take shape, it felt right to connect the title to those ideas. Luckily, someone in the cast thought of a nice turn of phrase which captured those themes in an intriguing way.
OT You use a very spare set. Why that choice?
MH It really started on day one, when I asked Alison Riley, our Producer, to tear out the old set and leave us with an empty, raw stage upon which to play. I just felt that if we were going to embrace the idea of creating something that might be a little different, the best way to do that would be to start boldly and maybe a little recklessly; to demonstrate to ourselves and the audience that we weren't going to rely on old tricks. I think sticking with a sparse, empty look put the emphasis on the actors in a refreshing way, and reinforced the idea that improvisation is the art of creating something from nothing.
OT Describe your directing style.
MH Oh, that's hard. I have a strange fascination with the maniacal, mad genius kind of directors, because I don't think I am those things. I hear stories of Del Close throwing chairs, and other directors yelling through megaphones or conjuring up trippy metaphors for art and I think "I wonder how that works?" I guess my style is "not that."
OT Can comedic timing be taught?
MH I think that timing can be improved. Most comedians kind of have it already, and with training (and trial and error) they can refine it. Improvisation is great training for timing.
OT back to the show. What aspects of Let Them Eat Chaos have audiences responded to?
MH A lot of people seem to be intrigued by the particular way we blend improvisation into the show this time around - it's kind of hard to tell at times where the improvisation has ended and a scripted scene begins, which was something we thought was fun to play around with. And I think a lot of folks like the emotional, thoughtful parts of the show - it's not as raucous or overtly political as some previous shows. It's definitely a relationship driven show, and people seem to be responding very well to that.
OT What are you working on next?
MH I've returned to my role as Artistic Director in our Training Center, which I'm always thrilled to do after directing a show. I get so enthusiastic about this art form it's ridiculous.
Purchase tickets to "Let Them Eat Chaos" here.
A writer with an MFA in Creative Writing from The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, Sarah Terez Rosenblum freelances for sites like Pop Matters and
afterellen.com Her debut novel, “Herself When She’s Missing," was called “poetic and heartrending” by ALA Booklist. Sarah is also a figure model, Spinning instructor and teacher at Chicago’s StoryStudio. Inevitably one day she will find herself lecturing naked on a spinning bike. She's kind of looking forward to it actually.
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