A small, crowded theater full of college students buzzed with energy one April evening as everyone waited for the show to start. Most people had a beer or some sort of alcoholic beverage in hand, and the crowd happily talked over the music to their neighbors.
This is the usual scene at Studio Be’s weekly college night show, which features Columbia College’s Drop in $cience and DePaul University’s Cosby Sweaters improvisation groups. On this evening, April 22, the performance also featured an independent adult group, the Shock T’s.
The show runs from 10:30 to midnight every Thursday during the school year. The theater is BYOB and promotes itself on its Web site as “Chicago’s best BYOB venue.” Tickets are $5, and according to fans and actors alike, the show is a blast and is always packed.
“We’re the big money-maker for Studio Be,” bragged Ryan Barton, 20, of Chicago, who is an actor for Drop in $cience. “We almost always sell out the show.”
“It’s very hard to be this popular; we can’t even go to the grocery store without someone coming up to us and asking, ‘Would you like paper or plastic?’” joked Kenny Metroff, 27, of Chicago. Metroff is the head coach of Columbia’s Drop in $cience. He has been the head coach for two years, and has recently graduated from the Second City Conservatory.
Studio Be, located at 3110 N. Sheffield Ave, hosts many comedy events throughout the weekend. It is a small theater, seating less than 100 people on folding chairs, which are set up in three sections around the stage. The stage is on the same floor as the seats, only a few feet away, giving it a very personal feeling.
“I think it really works,” said Sachiko Yoshitsugu, 21, of Chicago. Yoshitsugu is a DePaul student and frequenter of college night. “You don’t expect it, walking behind those black curtains after you come in. I was surprised at how intimate the audience is with the stage. It really adds to the whole experience.”
The show’s setup changes from week to week. This time, the Shock T’s went first. This team was comprised of three actors improvising comical songs, with one playing guitar. They started off the show with a song called “Two Guys Tryin’ to Bang One Girl,” where the two males would trade off hitting on the female actress while singing.
Next was DePaul’s Cosby Sweaters. They performed a longer skit about a dysfunctional family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
“Now what does everyone want from Taco Bell?” the male actor playing the mother said in a mock feminine voice. “MOM! Why can’t you put the bottle down and just learn to cook!” said another actor playing the disgruntled son, who was obviously older and still living at home.
Drop in $cience went last, performing a series of skits where cast members were tagged in and out of the scenes. At the beginning, one of the actors asks for a topic. The audience shouted things ranging from “Madonna” to “breast implants,” but the topic chosen tonight was “waffles.”
The actor knelt down, put his jazz hands up in the air and said, “Blueberry!” The others join in one at a time, pretending to be a pile of waffles. “Chocolate chip!” said another. “Plain!” “Artichoke!” “Vodka!” All the while, one actor ran around the group saying “syrup” over and over again. All three groups were a hit with the audience.
After the show, many of the audience members and actors lingered in the theater, talking and laughing with each other. The energy in the room was strong, and almost everyone was finishing off their remaining liquor. Most of Columbia’s team went to a house party later, inviting members of the audience to come.
“They are a pretty tight group of friends now,” Metroff said. He added that working with such a large group of personalities can at times be difficult, but is extremely rewarding.
It took more than a half hour for the managers of Studio Be to get the last remaining actors and patrons to leave the theater.