John Hildreth Named Chicago Improv Fest Artistic Director

Theatre professor John Hildreth brings his Chicago improv expertise to a new gig as the Chicago Improv Fest's artistic director.

The 19th Chicago Improv Festival runs May 2-8, and this year, Columbia College Chicago's own John Hildreth will be at the helm as the new artistic director. A professor in the Theatre Department (with many classes focusing on—surprise!—improv), Hildreth has a long history in the comedy scene himself, from his 80’s college comedy group Avant Garfield to his time with Second City (where he still teaches). Here, Hildreth shares some of his thoughts on Chicago comedy and what he has planned for this year's fest:

What are your responsibilities as artistic director?

As artistic director, my duties are to get the world's best improv onto the best Chicago stages.

Do you have plans to involve your Columbia classes in the fest at all?

Yeah, I do. I'm looking to get some Columbia groups performing. Submissions are open, and I know there are plenty of improvisers and improv teams. They should apply. Interested improvisers can apply here.

So what's your vision for the fest this year?

The vision is a big tent. And under this tent, everyone is going to get to play. We're going to see all different types of improv from all different places—and all different types and places in Chicago, from the storefront theaters all the way up to the premier performance spaces. There are a lot of new companies and spaces. We're going to get as many people involved as possible, and show everything that Chicago improv is about.

What is Chicago improv about to you?

Everything! That's what Chicago improv is to me. The best of everything.

It is diverse—so many different types of improv, so many different people improvising. So many different spins and takes on it. All different types of classes. The workshops are going to be amazing.

What do you think makes Chicago such a good improv city?

I think it's all the resources here! All the theaters and all the different places to receive instruction. All the different types of improv currently going on. We've got it all; this is the town. If you have a new idea or a new form, rent that storefront theater and start selling tickets. That's a really great environment for trying new things and getting new people involved.