Second City returns with big laughs, high hopes


Getty Images

Nearly a month after closing due to a fire, The Second City reopened for its regular scheduled performances at the Mainstage, 1616 N Wells St., on Sept. 17.

By Gretchen Sterba Metro Reporter

The doors to The Second City’s Mainstage Theater, 1616 N Wells St., reopened on Sept. 17, three weeks after the building suffered damage from an Aug. 26 grease fire that started at its neighboring emporium, Adobo Grill. The fire injured four firefighters and a Second City employee and damaged offices in the facility, temporarily displacing classes and performances to spaces offered by nearby companies until the theater could be repaired. The reopening of the Mainstage Theater was marked by a special performance for the Chicago Fire Department to thank the firefighters who helped contain the fire, preventing damage to the company’s theaters and training center. The troupe resumed its regular performance schedule for the weekend. Alannah Courtney, a senior theatre major and conservatory student at The Second City, said returning to the building felt like a “homecoming” celebration. “I personally–and I think others, too–have taken Piper’s Alley for granted,” Courtney said. “To have that safety net taken from underneath you kind of shakes you up a little bit. I hope we have a deeper sense of gratitude for what that building symbolizes for us. We almost lost it.” Anne Libera, assistant professor in the Theatre Department, has worked at The Second City since 1987, developing its Comedy Studies program, which became Columbia’s Comedy Writing and Performance bachelor’s degree

major in 2013. Libera said she was unnerved by the fire because of the sense of family and community The Second City brings her, so she and other members of the troupe’s community started the social media hashtag #SecondCityFamily for fans, students and employees of the theater to comment on the fire. “Anyone who’s ever worked at The Second City or been a student at The Second City has this deep, familial attachment to the building,” Libera said. “After the fire, we were all getting emails from people checking in and posting on Facebook about it. It was amazing to see all The Second City family—all the people who worked there with their cast and the number of people who met husbands and wives there—but also for whom this place is very deeply a home of an artistic nature.” Robin Hammond, publicity and communications director of The Second City, said she was thankful The Second City community reacted quickly to the fire. “There was never a moment with our company where the people were like, ‘Well I guess that’s it, I’ll just go home,’ ” Hammond said. “Everyone immediately sprung into action and started looking ahead.” Hammond said even though the fire was unfortunate, it helped to further unite The Second City fans. “I think it made us stronger as a company and a community,” Hammond said. “This is our home. To see the cast in the space where everybody feels comfortable and at home—I can’t wait.” The Second City ‘s UP Comedy Club will begin performances on Sept. 22 and The Second City e.t.c.’s performance of “Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?” is set for Sept. 24.