Intended as a riff on stand-up comedy and the upstairs locale, the two-letter name will signify a new 300-seat theater carved from the space that used to house the long-running production of “Tony n’ Tina’s Wedding.” But the ambience, said Second City president Diana Martinez, will be very different from that former pasta-and-comedy attraction.
“Up” is slated to open up officially on Dec. 1.
(The Second City is partner in the Tribune's “Chicago Live!” stage and radio show.)
Second City said Monday that stand-up comedians, programmed by The Improv comedy club, will anchor the space on many weekends. That will put Second City in direct competition with the Zanies comedy club down the street. For the first time.
“Zanies and Second City have been friendly neighbors for 33 years,” said a Zanies spokesman. “Competition is good for everyone.”
Nonetheless, Up is not going to be all stand-up. The first marquee attraction will be a new, scripted show called “Second City’s History of Chicago” created in collaboration with the Chicago History Museum and intended as a tourist-oriented brunch attraction in the vein of the popular gospel brunch at the House of Blues — except that the food on offer at Second City will not be grits and greens but Lou Malnati’s pizza and Vienna hot dogs. Another show in line for the space is “Sex, Love and the Second City,” a scripted piece focused on relationships and romantic travails.
Both of these shows are designed to offer alternatives to the sketch-comedy revues on the mainstage and at the adjacent e.t.c. space, both of which typically sell out on weekends.
The new space, Martinez said, will also allow Second City to expand more into family programming, creating improv shows aimed at children and school groups.
Although it has in the past made some noise about leaving, the development of this new theater cements a dominant role for Second City in Piper’s Alley, which recently lost its AMC Loews movie theater after a 20-year run. Aside from some street-level retail and the parking garage, Second City now rents almost all the usable space in the complex. There are no plans, Martinez said, to take over the former movie theaters.