“Anytime/Anywhere,” Piven Theatre Workshop’s new improv series, opens Feb. 7 for a month-long run with a different collection of performers at every curtain.
Jennifer Green, Piven’s artistic director, says no work is newer or more thrilling than improv — “It’s being created before your eyes.”
In all, more than 60 performers will participate in the series.
Developing the new production has “been a journey,” Green says. “Last year we started pursuing what this technique looks like in adult performance,” rather than youth improv, which Piven has made a part of its training program for years. “This is a natural growth” of having improv become a performance-based piece, “and it’s important for our community.”
Improv in Chicago is well known for having a Second City or SNL feel. But Green says there’s “a super wide pallet for its use.” Improv helps actors deepen their inner creative wellsprings. With it, she says, “You can really reach in and exercise your creative center.”
Some groups will work in new improv forms, including one director’s conceptual form of operatic improvisation. These types of specialties, Green says, improve basic improv techniques and bring out the authentic acting values inherent in the style.
Piven Theatre Workshop, a staple of the Evanston theatre community, was founded 43 years ago by Joyce Piven and her late husband Byrne Piven. The couple included improvisation in their theatre since the early years.
This is the first time that Piven has put improv on the mainstage for a paying audience, but Green says there will be something for everyone. “My goal as curator is to get the voices of the entire community.” Participants will include visiting artists, current Piven students, and alums of the workshop — some who are now in their 40’s and haven’t worked together since the Piven Workshop they attended in their teens. “For them,” Green says, “improv is a reunion.”
Other groups include participants in the Piven Empowerment through Enrichment Program, or PEEP, which involves adults with developmental disabilities in theatre work. One evening will feature both PEEP and the Advanced Improv Ensemble working together onstage, exemplifying Piven’s goal of artistic training for all.
Evanston residents may find familiar faces on the stage, Green says. “You might see your neighbor, or the person who checks you out at the grocery store.”
“It’s a great way to get engaged with your own community, because anyone can be involved,” she added. “You can see it this year and be involved in it next year,”
“Anytime/Anywhere” runs Feb. 7 through March 1, with performances at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2:30 PM Sundays, at Piven, 927 Noyes St. $15 general admission tickets are available online.