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Published: Friday, 1/17/2003

Comedy troupe has role for its audience


Comedy improv takes the stage tomorrow night when a gaggle of actors from Chicago City Limits plays Sylvania.

Improv is based on banter between actors and audience.

Actors prompt the theatergoers, soliciting ideas, humorous moments, or places, and that information becomes the performers' springboard for spontaneous skits.

“I like it when an audience can just roll with it,” said Michael Leffingwell, one of seven troupe members who appear tomorrow in the Franciscan Center of Lourdes College.

In addition to five stage actors, the piano player and lighting operator have also honed their improv skills, he said. Both the music and the lights play off the skits, Leffingwell said.

The show's format includes a spoof of a televised game show such as Jeopardy!, in which the audience calls out answers.

It also features an extemporaneous musical, said Leffingwell, 25, who has been part of the touring company for two years.

Founded in Chicago in 1977, the troupe moved to New York City in 1979 and operates its own theater and school on First Avenue at 61st Street, doing five shows a week.

The touring company includes 11 actors who take turns doing five shows at a stretch, he said.

Trust in one's fellow actors is key to improv, he said, adding that troupe members are in their 20s and 30s.

Leffingwell, a native of Dallas, was a college student in New Mexico when he landed an internship at Chicago City Limits.

Leffingwell stayed on to take classes, usher in the theater, and do clerical work before being hired.

He'll join the permanent company shortly, he said.

Improvisational comedy troupe Chicago City Limits performs at 8 p.m. tomorrow in the Franciscan Center of Lourdes College, 6832 Convent Blvd., Sylvania. Tickets are $26 to $28; for people 16 and younger, tickets are $12. Information: 419-824-3999.

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