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I.O, I.O., It's Off To Work We Go...

By Margaret Hicks in Arts & Entertainment on May 22, 2006 3:12PM

Charna.jpgWe here at Chicagoist have taken an improv class, or two, or twenty. We actually made most of our friends through these classes, and were just young enough to get caught up in the politics of it all.

Chicago, more than any other city, is the home of improvisation. We were living the dream; the heart of the art. That's why we were dejected and disheartened when we were ousted from the Mecca of Chicago improv, Improv Olympic (now known as I.O.). Charna Halpern, owner of I.O., was on the receiving end of most of our ire; we knew everything she was doing wrong, how we would fix it and what names we would call her while cleaning up her mess.

But of course, a few years and countless improv institutions later, we realize that Halpern is not only an amazing business woman, but an activist, a mother figure and a relentless self-promoter in regards to the talent that has come out of her institution: Chris Farley, Mike Myers, the Upright Citizen’s Brigade, Tina Fey, Rachel Dratch, Horatio Sans and on and on and on.

Despite the loss of her partner and artistic guru, Del Close, and the 25th anniversary "debacle", Halpern continues to expand, opening new spaces, fostering young talent, and now, promoting a new book (with accompanying DVD), “Art By Committee: A Guide to Advanced Improvisation”.

So sure, we’ll eat some crow in the name of Charna, as long as she’ll get us more stage time.

You can see Charna Halpern on Tues., May 23, at Borders Bookstore 1700 Maple Ave., Evanston, IL. (847) 733.8852.