I uploaded episode #9 of the IRC Podcast yesterday. My guest this week is Lillian Frances who owns and runs the Laugh Out Loud Theater in Schaumburg, IL. She talks about auditions, teaching kids, using your warmups well, and yes-anding life. She performed at iO Theater and with many improv groups in Chicago. She was also a perfomer and assistant director for Boom Chicago in Amsterdam. She directed for Second City National Touring Company, the all women’ improv groups Jane and Sirens, and sketch shows with GayCo and Stir Friday Night.
This interview was a little different than the others, because we ended up talking a lot about what it’s like to run the business of a small improv theater. I really like how Lillie talks about her performers. It’s obvious that she has a lot of respect for her performers and trusts them in ways that not all improv directors do. It’s not surprising that several years after she first held auditions, seventeen of her first hires still work for her.
Last Saturday I got a chance to visit my friend Lillian Frances. Lillie and I were on a team called Frank Booth at ImprovOlympic in the 90s. I was on that team for about 4 years during which we probably performed over 200 Harolds together, mostly at iO, but we also performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and a few other places along the way. We created a show with our friend Tara Davis called the Frank Booth in the Blue Velvet Lounge where we combined torch songs and long form improv, setting scenes in the same lounge where Tara sang. Our swan song was a show called Therapy directed by Miles Stroth where we vented our real life foibles in front of an audience and then poked fun at ourselves through improv.
It’s been years since we’ve seen each other, but we still have a very strong connection. Lillie and I had similar sensibilities and even more similar ambitions. We both wanted to run our own theatres, we both loved improv and we were both frustrated by ImprovOlympic. Don’t get me wrong, it was a wonderful place to learn and grow as performers. It was the kind of frustration you feel when you love something and feel it could be even better if only you were in charge. A feeling that many, many performers have felt over the years as they passed through iO.
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