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Second City makes annual pilgrimage to Little Rock 

Chicago comedy troupe opens Wednesday at The Rep.

SECOND CITY: The Chicago comedy troupe comes to Little Rock.
  • SECOND CITY: The Chicago comedy troupe comes to Little Rock.

Returning to the Rep this month on their national tour is Chicago's famed comedy troupe The Second City. An institution of improvisational wit and satire, it is responsible for launching the likes of Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, among countless others, into our comedic awareness; it no doubt continues to be the starting point for many actors who are making the leap into show business. Culture snobs, take note: This could be a "before they were famous" opportunity.

Among the five players coming to Little Rock is Tim Stoltenberg. A native of Wisconsin, he went to school in Michigan and then moved to Atlanta, where he spent seven years in various theater companies, including Dad's Garage. The Second City came through town and discovered him, and he spent a few months performing on a Mediterranean cruise ship with a Second City troupe. Since then, he's spent the last three years improvising his way around the country, and will be in this year's fresh rotation of actors at the Rep.

"There's something amazing about being in front of an audience and being able to unite them in laughter," Stoltenberg said in an interview. "Being backstage and hearing the audience going crazy is an outstanding feeling."

And one that Stoltenberg must be used to, after 10 years of theater experience. His influences include, of course, Second City comedians who made their names during the 1970s and '80s such as Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd and John Candy. The classics, too, including Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton, were part of what drew him into the career he is making for himself.

For the past decade, The Second City has been producing revues all over the country, tailoring each show to its particular locale. "We try not to be too overt about it," Stoltenberg explains, "but we do like to sprinkle the acts with punch lines that are unique to Arkansas, or wherever we are."

Here's looking at you, Bill Clinton. The troupe's satirical routine always takes aim at politics, and will neither spare our hometown hero nor the sensationalism of the current campaign cycle. Stoltenberg's background in theater, however, will inform the show; he promises that there will be moments of "straight" acting in the show that the audience will find moving.

Accompanying Stoltenberg will be Lyndsay Hailey, Nicole C. Hastings, Barry Hite and Chris Witaske. The team has been together for five months, and he says that they are hitting their stride.

"Being able to be a part of something that is associated with so much talent is humbling," Stoltenberg says. "It's great to be able to follow ideas that were started by people like Tina Fey, and also to come up my own ideas that I can bring to the stage."

As for his own career and whether stardom is a possibility as it was for so many of his predecessors, Stoltenberg sounds humble but optimistic. "The opportunities that The Second City gives me are so great, and at the minute I stay busy just trying to be funny, and to keep people laughing," he says. "Who knows what'll happen, but for the time being it's a dream come true."

The Second City runs Wednesday, Oct. 12, through Sunday, Oct. 23; tickets are $25-$35. Curtain is 7 p.m. Wednesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, and 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays. The pre-show BrewHaha at 6 p.m. Oct. 12 includes pizza and beer; tickets (which include the show) are $30. Second City will be joined by Improv Little Rock for special sets after the Oct. 14 and 21 shows.

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