Second City to debut new Training Center soon


Courtesy Second City

Renderings of The Second City expansion of its Training Center depict bleacher seating in its main lobby where students can relax and work. The expansion is expected to be completed by the end of December. 


Comedy students are likely to feel more at home in the soon-to-be-expanded Training Center at The Second City comedy club, taking over space formerly occupied by AMC Loews Piper’s Alley movie theater complex. 

The Second City announced on Oct. 8 it will expand the second floor of its Training Center, located at 230 W. North Ave., to include more classrooms, programs, theaters and improv performances. 

Anthony LeBlanc, associate artistic director of the Training Center, and also a teacher, director and actor on the main stage of The Second City, said the Training Center’s expansion will benefit students by adding more communal space and programs.

“We are collaborative by nature,” LeBlanc said.

LaBlanc said students will also have plenty of space to hang out between classes or to work on projects in the school—things the building currently lacks adequate space for.

“We have gotten so large we constantly [have] to turn away proposals for shows over things students would like to try out,” LeBlanc said. “Now with more theaters, there will be more performance spaces available for students to put up their own independent shows [and] improv groups.”

The location will add 25,000 square feet to the center, nearly doubling the school’s size. LeBlanc said there had been a lot of discussion as to whether the company would take over AMC after it became vacant, especially because the club’s 2009 expansion proved to be successful.

Kerry Sheehan, president of the Training Center, said the lobby of the old movie theater will be converted into a bar and restaurant while the theaters themselves will be transformed into classrooms and two cabarets. She also said new workstations with computers and flat screens will be added to give students more resources.

LeBlanc explained that the style of cabaret theaters are a mix between vaudeville style and typical theater—which means more theatricality with dance and music. Having these small and intimate raised stages will bring a stronger sense of collaboration and performance, he said.

“We are running at capacity right  now. [This will] give us the opportunity to expand programs,” Sheehan said.

She said the specific classrooms will be dedicated to certain programs offered, like production, acting, writing and lighting. Each classroom will include the appropriate features to help students in that field and have more technology than before, Sheehan said.

“[It will be] a more professional environment,” she said.

The expansion will also inform students of The Second City’s history and capabilities, said Tyler Dean Kempf, a professor in Columbia’s Television Department and teacher at the Training Center. Kempf teaches “History of Sketch Comedy on Television” and “Comedy Writing” at Columbia and “Musical Improv” at the club.

“The expansion is exciting because it is going to give us room to offer more classes,” Kempf said. “We have many students that want certain classes, but we just can’t offer [them] because we don’t have the classrooms available.”

He said they will soon be able to do that, and the specialized classrooms will strengthen the learning environment, giving students a more professional feel of how experts practice—something LeBlanc also said is important.

“It can give them more context for the work they do,” Kempf said. 

The expansion has begun and is expected to be completed by the end of December.

“We are giving a lot more real estate to collaboration and making it a second home.”