Second City Network

7 Things I Learned in HouseCo

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The Second City Training Center is proud to help a select group of the Conservatory graduates develop into well-rounded performers as part of three elite House Ensembles: Moxie, Twisty, and Next. 

The HouseCo program holds auditions multiple times per year. The 8 cast members who are chosen each round complete an intensive four-phase cycle.  Eventually, they create their own original Second City-style revue, performed every Saturday night at 7:30, 9:00 and 10:30 p.m. respectively in the de Maat Studio Theatre.

Here are 7 things alum Alex Manich learned during his tenure. 

1. You’re Not Exactly a Second City Performer… Yet

Every person who has taken classes at The Second City has an aunt that’s told someone that they have a niece or nephew that performs at The Second City. My Aunt Debbie is probably doing this very thing right this moment.

Sometimes it’s while they’re introducing you, and other times you’re not even there to politely correct them by saying, ‘Well, I just take classes, performed in a Writing 6 show, finished Conservatory…” etc.  Getting on a HouseCo team just exacerbates the problem of explaining to people what it is you do every Saturday night. I used the farm team analogy, except that Second City has farm teams for farm teams, and some of those farm teams are on cruise ships.

In other words, don’t expect explaining “what you do” to get any easier.

2.  More Sports Analogies 

I played high school football, and when I finally quit, I thought my days of gravel-voiced alpha males were through.  I imagined directors to be soft-spoken, contemplative and sensitive people fostering our creative growth through positive reinforcement and heavy application of patchouli oil, but then I met Jim Carlson.

Unfortunately for HouseCo members in the post-Carlson era, Jim has moved on to the greener, more shallow pastures of Los Angeles, and all new HouseCo members will go without, what I assume was, the routine intimidation of all new ensembles. Jim was as close to a high school football coach a director gets without actually making you do up-downs.

Some things I learned in that first meeting with Jim Carlson:

  • Don’t play kids on stage. Kids aren’t funny. Or Interesting.
  • Loosen your tie. The funniest tie position is slightly down, slightly askew.
  • Don’t have any expectations.

Speaking of which…

3. Don’t Judge Your Audience

One of the cool things about HouseCo is that you’re going to be doing shows for real people. Your audience is going to be made up of all sorts of folks, from singles on an organized meet-up to intoxicated middle-aged men stumbling north up Wells from the Gold Coast. I fell into an early trap of judging what the audience would or wouldn’t “get” before we even took the stage.

This changed when we performed an improvised Tennessee Williams play to a 20-person Sweet 16 party. I was prepared for a room full of blank stares and cell phone screens, but they loved it! You can’t have any preconceived notions of what your audience will or will not like– just play to have fun and do the best show you can do.

4. Get a Good Tailor

You’re in it for the long haul, so make sure you’re taking care of yourself physically, and if you don’t, get a good tailor. I had the good fortune to tear my pants while playing Freeze. I say tear, but it was more like the seat of my pants exploded. This all could have been avoided with a gym membership and good discipline, or at the very least– a halfway decent tailor.

5.  Make Nice, Be Professional

HouseCo marked the first time I played on a team that wasn’t just my friends getting together in a dingy bar and boring the patrons. The guys have to wear suits.

Suits. 

And the girls have to wear whatever it is girls wear. Pant suits, I think. You also might be working with someone you’ve never met, and you still have to get along and do a good job. It’s just like a real job, except you’re less likely to tear your pants acting like a caveman.

6. The Old Town Ale House’s Juke Box is the Best

No better music to listen to while lying on a wooden church pew eating the random leftovers you found underneath it.

7. Be Grateful

I’m ashamed to admit there were a few times while I was performing in HouseCo that I was frustrated that every one of my Saturday nights was booked.

This is because I’m stupid.  

HouseCo is an amazing opportunity to perform* regularly underneath the Piper’s Alley rooftop. You give up your Saturdays to be directed by and perform with some of the most talented people in the city. Very few people get the opportunity, and it’s worth sacrificing a whole lot more than your Saturday nights. It’s worth sacrificing a perfectly good pair of suit pants.

*

Not as a Second City performer necessarily/but kind of/not really.

Alex Manich is a former House Company member at The Second City Training Center.  He can be seen performing with the iO Harold Team, Dutch, and can be heard hosting his weekly improvised podcast, The Overshare.” Follow Alex on Twitter @OvershareAlex.

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