BEMIDJI -- If irreverent satire or cutting-edge improvisational comedy tickle your fancy, you're in luck this weekend -- assuming you're willing to drive to Grand Rapids or Bemidji.
The Second City, the grand wizard of contemporary comedy, is scheduled for Friday and Saturday performances, with a Saturday workshop for aspiring comedians thrown in for good measure.
The touring troupe will appear Friday at the Myles Reif Performing Arts Center in Grand Rapids and Saturday at the Paul Bunyan Playhouse in Bemidji. Show time at both is 7:30 p.m.
And both theaters confirmed earlier this week that tickets -- at $20 a pop -- are still available, although full houses are expected by show time.
The improv workshops, conducted by cast members, are scheduled for the Black Box theater on the Bemidji State University campus. Reservations can be made by calling (218) 751-7270. Admission is $20.
Karen Millar-Moe, Paul Bunyan Playhouse executive director, said this week the workshops have attracted heavy enrollment from area high school and BSU students, although a few openings remain.
"Improvisational comedy is still a very popular attraction among students in our area," she said.
The playhouse, best known for its professional summer theater season, offers a variety of performances on a sporadic basis throughout the year.
"The community has told us that it wants to laugh so this is what we decided to do," Millar-Moe said with a chuckle, in reference to the playhouse's decision to book The Second City.
"Our audiences have said they don't want only serious drama, but they want some comedy, too," she added.
The Second City, founded in Chicago in the late 1950s, is one of the most recognizable names in the comedy-entertainment industry.
Its alumni list reads like a who's who of American comedy, including Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, John Belushi, Elaine May, John Candy, Martin Short, Chris Farley and hundreds of others.
Over the years, the company has expanded to several other U.S. cities and its "SCTV" comedy show, popular during the 1970s, originated from its Toronto outlet.
But audiences should be warned: "No topic or subject matter is off limits for The Second City."
As any fan of the television show knows -- its reruns are still shown on cable networks across the country -- The Second City has a well-earned reputation for irreverent humor.
The touring show features some of the most memorable comedy sketches and songs from comedy's 40-year history, and a closing act that highlights the troupe's specialty: improv comedy.
Questions and suggestions from the audience will be turned into comedy routines during the show's final act, Millar-Moe said.
For ticket information, call the Reif Center at (218) 327-5780 or the playhouse at (218) 751-7270.
The playhouse also has scheduled auditions for its six summer productions, which include "The Robber Bridegroom," "The Beauty and the Beast" and "The Wizard of Oz."
Auditions will be conducted Feb. 16-17 at the Guthrie Theatre in downtown Minneapolis and Feb. 23-24 at BSU.
Audition appointments for Twin Cities actors can be scheduled by calling (651) 222-1302 from 1 to 4 p.m. Saturdays and for area actors by calling (218) 751-7270 from 2 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays through Fridays.
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