I climbed into the backseat of my Lyft, on the way to the Crowd Theater on a Friday night. The driver looked at my destination and was instantly excited.
“Oh! You must be going to the Co-Op at the Crowd, I love it there!” She was a musical director who had actually performed in the Co-Op last summer, and we chatted about our improv backgrounds and life in Chicago for the entire ride. I had never attended a show at the Crowd before being asked to write this review, and the Lyft ride was definitely a great introduction.
It was a decent-sized audience for a rainy Friday night, and as the host for the evening went into the usual pre-show spiel, I noticed something different. There was of course a rundown of the teams we’d see that night, as well as directions to the restroom and exits, but she also emphasized the importance of love, support, and acceptance at this show.
This is what sets the Co-Op, and the Crowd, apart from other theaters in the city. Teams are built with inclusivity in mind, with priority placement going to performers of color, non-male identifying performers, and LGBTQI performers. When sign-ups are over and the lottery is finished, the end result is 16 teams in which every member brings a unique point of view and experience, in addition to undeniable talent.
With a show that is so grounded in support and love, there’s a sense of comfort and trust onstage that makes it seem like these groups have been together for years, rather than the brief 10-week season. One team I watched was struggling to return to the same page after a few out-there plot twists in a scene. Two members finally just looked at each other and agreed to step out of the scene to start over, something that would be a huge rule breaker in any other show. In the Co-Op, the choice was met with laughter and applause from the audience. It was honestly my favorite part of the show.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit the Crowd yet, the Co-Op is an excellent starting point. Season 7 will feature 16 new teams and will kick off on July 16th. There’s a reason why the theater was nominated for Best Venue for Improv/Sketch by the Chicago Reader, and I can assure you it’s more than the chicken wings.