Backstage at the Egyptian with Kiley Fitzgerald of The Second City

Interview with Kiley Fitzgerald from The Second City: It’s Not You, It’s Me

Conducted by Michaela Alcantar

Michaela: What got you into improv?

Kiley: I got into improve after seeing “The Kids in the Hall” while growing up. They are a group out of Toronto and I got to see them perform live once. After the show, I was so moved by what they did and so interested that I came home; and it was so long ago, that I had to Ask Jeeves and Dogpile info about them because Google wasn’t invented yet. And it turns out that they started by taking classes at Second City and they started out as performers there. So as I was living in Boston at the time, which is where I’m from, and I dogpiled how to get involved with improve. I think signed up for my first improve class four days after seeing that show and that is how it all started.

Michaela: Did you always wanted to be in theatre?

Kiley: I’ve always wanted to be a comedian since I was about 2 or 3 years old. I was doing small routines for my parents, for my parents’ friends; and the theatre part of comedy is something I came to later on when I was probably in my 20’s. It’s great, it’s really hard work and it’s great. I give it up to straight ahead actors, they are masters at what they do. I’m always in awe when I’m on stage with an actor because they really are amazing and I learn so much from working with them. So the theatre part came along later but now that I’m here, I don’t know how I am going to transition to the next part of this occupation when it goes to things like T.V. and not performing live because performing for a live audience in a theatre, a small theatre, there’s nothing like it and it’s my favorite thing about performing. It’s great and unbelievable; and I wish everyone can have a chance to try it.

Michaela: Who were your inspirations going into this career?

Kiley: My biggest inspiration I would have to say was Mike Myers. I saw Wayne’s World when I was in probably 7th or 8th grade. I thought to myself; not only is this what I want to do but, the way that he used language and the things he said like “this is what I can do”. He’s just, I don’t know, he really tapped into my 7th grade brain which I don’t know if I’m too far away from it still at this point in my years but he tapped into that. I just honestly fell in love with everything that he was doing when I was younger and vowed to sort of follow in his footsteps which he’s also a Second City alum so I loved, loved, loved him. I also really loved George Carlin growing up so those are my two biggest inspirations.

Michaela: What is it about being in an improv troupe that you enjoy most?

Kiley: So we are improv and sketch at Second City and I’m a part of other improv troupes and have been since 2001. An improv troupe is different than a sketch because you get one word from the audience and you make up an entire scene right there on the spot with your scene partner. You have no prior knowledge to what you’re gonna be talking about or where the scene is going to go. And with sketches, which we are doing a lot at the Egyptian, it’s written and rehearsed. A lot of the sketches that we do are written by a lot of alums that you will know the names of like Steve Carell and Stephen Colbert to name a few. Most of them are rehearsed but for improv, we know nothing going in and we have to rely on a basic set of rules that sort of help guide us to make good choices while we are on stage. The best thing about that is that not only do you have an enormous sense of trust for the people you’re on stage with but you know that they trust you just as much as you trust them. It’s because of that you really become close and become good close friends very quickly with people you improvise with. And the other part of it is because we get these suggestions from the audience, the chances are we are able to tailor a scene just for them; we are getting the idea from them so we are doing exactly what the audience wants us to do in that moment and enjoy it with us as a big group. No two shows will be the same.

Michaela: Where else have you performed at?

Kiley: I’ve perform at a few different theatres. I’ve been with Second City since 2009 and have performed with them when they used to do performances on the Norwegian Cruise line cruise ships. So I can say I’ve performed all over the world through Second City. I’ve perform at many in Chicago and when I was in Boston I was with a theatre called Improv Asylum.

Michaela: If you can improv with anyone on stage, who would it be and what topic would you want to act out?

Kiley: I would probably want to try to do an improv scene with Steve Carell from The Office. The Office is a show I can watch over and over again. He is also a Second City alum so I know we sort of speak the same language and I would want to see and feel what it would be like to do an improv with him. I think he is probably the funniest human to have exist. I don’t know, if I had to say it would be something like the improv class scene from The Office where Steve’s character would always bring in a gun to the scene and that is actually an improv tactic learned in improv classes. I know for a fact that he was probably told that in class to never do and that this is the only thing that this character wants to do I’m like, “I wanna be in that scene”.

Michaela: Is there anything that you would like the audience to know about the show?

Kiley: I want them to know that number one, we are super excited to perform, go outside the city of Chicago, and for us to see how our material hits in different places. It’s good for us, for our careers, just to see what people find, how they find it funny in different places, and what reads for people. We’re thrilled to be inside this historic, beautiful little theatre. It’s incredible, the outside of the Egyptian is incredible and we’re just excited to see how we get along as a cast and audience together in that space for that night. Everybody on these casts, it has been our longtime dream to come and perform with the Second City so they’re a part of it, they’re a part of our childhood dreams coming true. You remember every show you do, especially on the road and we are so excited to perform in this space.

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The Church Basement Ladies coming this April!

Don’t miss the national touring show that millions of American’s have fallen in love with!  Let’s hear it for the boys! Fans of the musical comedy series Church Basement Ladies will finally get to know more about the men of East Cornucopia Lutheran Church, in the new production Rise Up O Men.  This sidesplitting, uplifting peek into the lives of the rural Norwegian Lutherans who audiences first fell in love with in 2005 is the sixth chapter of the story begun in the original Church Basement Ladies

Rise Up O Men features familiar faces: Mrs. Mavis Gilmerson, Mrs. Vivian Snustad, and Mrs. Karin Engleson who would never leave the basement kitchen unattended, of course (who would make bars for the youth group meeting?). But as they busy themselves with preparations for their churches participation in the town’s 1964 Centennial Celebration, we get to see their coming and goings from the eyes of the menfolk, who have their own problems to solve. Karin’s husband Elroy, farmer Carl and Great War vet Arlo are joined in brotherhood by series staple Pastor E.L. Gunderson. Their camaraderie unites them as they deal with furnace salesmen, looming retirement, rival Protestant denominations, the Pastor’s bad jokes, and Arlene’s even-worse cooking.  The series of Church Basement Ladies productions are inspired by the bestselling book Growing Up Lutheran by Janet Letnes Martin and Suzann Nelson. 

Tickets go on sale to Friends of the Egyptian Theatre on Tuesday, February 19 at 10 AM. Tickets go on sale to the public on Friday, February 22 at 10 AM!

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Backstage at the Egyptian with Jon Secada

Interview with Jon Secada

Conducted by Michaela Alcantar

Michaela: Who were the people that influenced you to go into a music career?

Jon: My first inclination to want to be a musician started with my high school music teacher. She inspired me at the time to want to study music at a University level.

Michaela: What was your first major concert like?

Jon: My first major concert experience was working with Gloria Estefan as a background vocalist, where I had the opportunity to also be featured as a soloist.

Michaela: What gave you the idea to fuse together pop, soul, and Latin percussion?

Jon: My fusion influences came from being raised in South Florida. The diverse ethnic and pop culture nature of Miami was the platform of my music.

Michaela: How was it working with so many talented performers throughout your career?

Jon: One of the highlights throughout my career has been the opportunity to collaborate with so many Artist. The great things have been that each experience has been unique in and of itself.

Michaela: What got you into your humanitarian work with children, education, AIDS research, other causes, and finally creating your very own “Jon Secada Charities”?

Jon: I always felt that being a successful public figure carried an inherited responsibility to give back and try to be an example, especially for a younger generation.

Michaela: Is there a project, performance, or collaboration that, still to this day, stands out to you personally?

Jon: I think that of all the collaborations I’ve been a part of, singing in a live concert performance with Pavarotti in his home town in Italy will always stay in the forefront of my mind.

Michaela: What kind of performance should the audience be looking forward to?

Jon: My concerts at this stage of my career are a journey of just about everything that’s been a featured part of what I’ve done. My song writing experience, my recording career, collaborations and theatrical shows. The audience should walk away with a pretty good sense of almost 30 years of my musical history.

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Love at the Egyptian: Doug & Wendy Schnorr

We have been married for 39 years and a few years ago, Doug came up with the idea to not give gifts for our anniversary, birthdays, or holidays, but instead, to go do things together. (He says that it was because he could never come up with any good gift ideas.) We go to plays, concerts, musicals, ball games, etc… We have a subscription to and try to support many local venues. We have really enjoyed coming to various shows at the Egyptian Theater. We were trying to recall exactly when it started and think that it was when we went to see Jersey Boys on the spur of the moment. We have been having fun ever since! 

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Backstage at the Egyptian: Ron DeStefano of Shades of Buble

Interview with Ron DeStefano, Performer and Co-Owner/Creator of SHADES OF BUBLÉ

Conducted by Michaela Alcantar

Michaela: What got you into music?

Ron: My family is very musical: my mother played guitar since I was a toddler and led a church choir, and my sister can pretty much play any instrument she picks up. As far as my personal musical journey, I’ve been involved in music in some capacity since I was five years old.  That’s when piano lessons began, and they continued all throughout high school. I played piano for my church youth choir, and one day when the soloist caught sick they asked me to pinch-hit and sing; everyone including me was surprised at the tenor voice that came out! Around that time, I auditioned on a whim for the school musical (“The Wizard of Oz”), accidentally landed the plum role of The Scarecrow, and I was officially bitten by the theatre bug.  Piano lessons transformed into voice lessons, and things snowballed until I ended up landing a voice scholarship to Florida State University to pursue a career in the arts.

Michaela: Was music/performing always your career path?

Ron: It definitely was not.  For all the love of music in my family, it just wasn’t considered a career path. My family is full of ‘brainiacs,’ and I was following in the footsteps of my father, intending to become a research scientist in the pharmaceutical industry. I mentioned that I was accepted to college on a voice scholarship, but that was actually secondary to my main pursuit: a degree in chemistry. I got bachelors’ degrees in both subjects during the four years I was there, and it was on a quick summer theatre job before heading into graduate studies for a PhD that I met Melissa Giattino. She convinced me to put grad school on hold for a year, move to NYC to pursue Broadway, and the rest is history. I never got that PhD, but meeting Melissa was life-altering: she is the co-creator of Shades of Bublé as well as dozens of other creative collaborations we’ve embarked upon since that fateful summer.

Michaela: How did you all meet each other?

Ron: Shades of Bublé was cast through a series of very intensive New York City auditions. We hired a casting director to scour the ranks of performers to find dashing, talented men who could sing this very difficult music. It’s one thing to croon and sing pop like Bublé does, but our show has the added pressure of doing it in three-part harmony while dancing intricate choreography.  Not for the faint of heart! But we found a group of exceptionally talented individuals, all who bring their own personality to the show.

Michaela: What gave you the idea to form Shades of Bublé? / Why did you decide to form Shades of Bublé?

Ron: Melissa and I had been performing another show we created in 2010 entitled Two on Tap for about five years. It’s a duo song-and-tap-dance show, in the vein of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers… or Mickey Rooney and Judy Garland.  We’d had a very successful time touring both on land and at sea, but we had aspirations to create a new show that capitalized on more current music… one that a larger demographic could enjoy and could really travel to some of the nation’s beautiful performing arts centers. Melissa originally came up with the idea of exploring the Bublé catalog, but I dismissed it, not knowing the breadth of music he’s both recorded and performed.  But a few months later when the idea came up again and she showed me all the various genres of music he’s sung (from big-band Sinatra covers to Motown to Rock to Contemporary Pop), I was sold on the idea of creating a fresh headliner variety show featuring all of these great tunes!

Michaela: How long have you been performing as a group?

Ron: The show debuted to a sold-out crowd in Northport, Long Island (NY) in April of 2015.  That’s when it all began!

Michaela: How has your experience as a band been so far?

Ron: Incredible.  Our group has really had the opportunity to see the world while singing this music. We were immediately grabbed by both performing arts centers AND the cruise lines, so we’ve toured to dozens of states and wonderful exotic places as well… Japan, Chile, Hong Kong, Argentina, Colombia, Taiwan, the Caribbean, China, and ANTARCTICA!

Michaela: What do you like most about being a tribute band?

Ron: The beauty of singing the music of a known artist is having people come to the show already being fans of the songs, even though we haven’t stepped onto the stage. Sometimes that’s a blessing and a curse, though, as Michael Bublé has some ardent fans who have definite ideas of how his songs should be performed. But what’s so nice about our show is, right from the start, we set out different expectations: we’re not trying to imitate Bublé, we’re celebrating his amazing career and elevating the music with three-part harmony.  So even the most die-hard fans are won over pretty quickly with the elegant, exciting, and exceptionally FUN show we’ve created!

Michaela: What were you feeling when you had your first sold-out in 2014-2015?

Ron: It was surreal, nerve-wracking, and totally wonderful. We had no idea what we had created, so as the audience poured in, we were pacing wondering if the audience would even enjoy what we were about to do.  But after the first number “Feeling Good” ended, the cheers that erupted from the show were deafening. And they didn’t stop until the end, when we received an amazing standing ovation! It’s all caught on video, and we watch it from time to time to relive the memories!

Michaela: What other places have you performed at/in?

Ron: More performing arts centers than we can count, sized from 350 seats to 3500 seats. And as we mentioned before, some wonderful luxury cruise lines, including Royal Caribbean, Celebrity, Holland America, Oceania, and even a British line called P&O. We’re hoping to have our debut on Princess and Norwegian soon, as we bet we’d be a hit on those lines as well! And of course, we’re always looking to visit more of the US… we made our Montana debut a few months ago, and it was amazing to travel those highways and see those unending vistas!

Show at the Egyptian

Michaela: What do you think about the theatre?

Ron: We’ve actually only seen photos from the website, but it looks extraordinary; we can’t wait to see it in person.  From the ornate decorations we’ve seen online to the amazing staff and technical crew we’ve interacted with by phone and via email, it’s going to be a spectacular show!

Michaela: What are you looking forward to in your performance?

Ron: We love singing this music, from the big epic numbers like “Feeling Good,” “My Way,” and “Cry Me A River” to the gorgeous ballads like “Home,” “At This Moment,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You”… that goes without saying. And we love being able to do what we love for a living… that’s nice, too.  But when it comes down to it, we always love the audience the most. The connection that’s made across the footlights during a show is just something that’s new and exciting every time it happens, and we can’t wait to meet all the people who come to experience what we’ve created.

Michaela: *What would you like the audience to know about the show?

Ron: It doesn’t matter if you’re a Bublé fan or you’ve never heard of him. It doesn’t matter if you like Sinatra and Bobby Darin, you’re fan of Van Morrison and Billy Vera, or you listen to adult contemporary pop. And it doesn’t matter if you’re 18 years old, 80 years old, or something in between.  If you’re a fan of good music and can get into a fun group of guys performing some of best songs of the last 100 years in a sometimes-thrilling, sometimes-beautiful, and always musically-satisfying way, we KNOW you’re going to have a great time at our show. See you at the theatre!

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