By Tyler Allen
Explore Big Sky Associate Editor
BIG SKY – Saturday, Jan. 11 was an uproarious night in Big Sky. The Second City touring troupe performed at the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center and gave the audience a sidesplitting comedy.
The six actors’ ability to improvise with the frenetic pace of the skits left the full house in stiches. From the moment the house lights went dark, until the final curtain call, the Big Sky audience was delighted by the comedy troupe’s performance of classic Second City material, and its skewering of the daily news.
WMPAC Director John Zirkle said Second City – which opened its doors in 1959 – embodies the professionalism clearly evident in the Chicago improv scene, and is impressed with the speed, intellect and wit of the actors. That’s why he brought the touring act to Big Sky for the second installment in WMPAC’s debut season.
Riffing on the Affordable Care Act, the National Security Agency and ski school – thanks to a suggestion from the audience – the actors deftly transitioned between their scripted bits and improvised jokes. Each scene ended with abrupt lighting changes and a cacophony of sound by musical director Dane Halvorson as the comedians hurriedly prepared the next scene.
Explore Big Sky had the opportunity to catch up with Asher Perlman, who’s been with the touring company for a year and a half:
Explore Big Sky: How many performers tour with the company?
Asher Perlman: There are six actors, one musical director, and a stage manager.
EBS: What is the age range among the performers?
AP: Our youngest member is 24. The majority of us are in our late twenties or early thirties.
EBS: Has there ever been an audience that seemed impossible to elicit laughter from? What did you do?
AP: Audiences can be surprising and tough to read. Sometimes a small, spread-out house turns out to be super excitable and happy to be there. And other times, a sold out house ends up being incredibly reserved. But the other thing is that just because an audience isn’t vocal, doesn’t mean that they aren’t still having a great time. So, I just try to put on the best show I can every time, and trust that the audience is with me.
EBS: Does the joking stop when the team boards the tour bus, or is it constant laughter wherever you go?
AP: We tend to have a great time no matter what. Everyone is so positive and ready to laugh. Traveling with this group is really a dream. Everyone is so much fun on and off the stage.
EBS: Do you tailor each performance to the region of the country you’re in?
AP: We always try to throw some fun, local humor into our shows. Some scenes have specific lines that are easily amended to be specific to a venue or town.
Seven other national and international acts are coming to Big Sky this winter, including the Portland Cello Project, the Moth, Brubeck Brothers Quartet and Ukrainian pianist Antonii Baryshevskyi, among others. Visit warrenmillerpac.org to buy tickets and learn more information.
Second City was generously sponsored by American Bank.