Second City alumni talk about their experiences, good and bad

Darcel Rockett and Tracy Swartz, Chicago Tribune
·4 min read

CHICAGO — We reached out to more than 100 Second City Chicago alumni of color and asked them to reflect on their Second City experience. The following responses represent a portion of the full interviews we conducted.

Rose Abdoo, started at Second City in 1988: “I know everyone’s experiences are very real and they’re very valid. … My personal point of view was, I never felt like I’m this, sort of, minority struggling to get my voice heard. Never once.”

Jayson Acevedo, 2017 Bob Curry fellow: “I’ve already moved on, but I think it starts with the youth. When I started (classes) when I was 16, it would have been nice to have the kind of representation that I have tried to create for others through my work and what I continue to do. So even hiring people of color to teach at a younger level would be essential, I think, to creating that relationship between other kids who look like their instructors. It would be nice to have a teacher who can speak Spanish, or it’d be nice to have a teacher who is cultured. It’s nice to have someone that looks like you, so that way you feel comfortable and you’re not afraid to express your ideas or even the life that you live that you might think might be different from others.”

Tina Arfaee, 2016 Bob Curry fellow: “I think I still wrestle with whether or not I want to go back. It kind of depends on, I guess, whether everything that they’re saying they’re doing is like actually coming to fruition.”

Ithamar Enriquez, started at Second City in 2003: “There were a few instances when I was put on the spot. One is that during a one-on-one meeting with one of my touring co-directors, they told me that I was doing a good job so far, but then they encouraged me to lean in more to the Latinx experience through my work. It’s as if that director wanted me to give them their perception of what the Latinx experience was, based on stereotypes or whatever that director found funny about my culture. It should be noted that this director was white.”

Calvin Evans, 2015 Bob Curry fellow: “I’ve had good experiences. I’ve been around people that have had conversations about them having a bad experience, and I think mine is unique or different in that I just had no expectations of moving up creatively in the building. I didn’t have any aspiration of being on stage there. I went for a reason. I got what I wanted out of it, and I appreciate it, but for the people that didn’t have a good experience, I definitely understand where they’re coming from, and I’m glad that they spoke up for the people that’s coming behind them.”

Rachel Allison Hall, 2019 Bob Curry fellow: “My experience with Second City has been bittersweet. I love it. Does it have a problem? Absolutely. Do I think it can be solved? Hell yeah, because Second City is too important to just go away, even for us comedians of color. It’s too important of a building, of an institution, and it can fix itself. It just has to acknowledge that there’s a problem.”

Greg Hollimon, started at Second City in the late 1980s: “It was good and bad, but ultimately, I had a great time. I saw the world. A lot of stuff you just have to let Teflon off you. I’ve worked with improvisers that I might have found a little bigoted about something, but by and large, it wasn’t like, Man, so many racist (expletive) white (expletive) at this place. No, that was never the case. It was a great place to work.”

Rolando Lepe, 2017 Bob Curry fellow: “Honestly, I had a good experience there. The people who really were treated inappropriately and things that happened to them … fortunately, I wasn’t one of those people. I’m just upset that when those things did occur, people didn’t believe them or didn’t take responsibility.”

Suzy Nakamura, started at Second City in the early 1990s: “I want to be clear. I had the (expletive) best time there. I think because I was so blissfully unaware and ignorant. There was a lot of (expletive) that went down that I was not privy to. I was so excited to basically work at my dream job. I thought it was so diverse, which it was. We should not take away from that.”

Andre Sampson, 2019 Bob Curry fellow: “It’s all much more positive than negative. Chicago was a foreign place to me, and comedy gave me a home and gave me something to pursue and develop and work on outside of work. And instead of just watching Netflix or going to the bar every weekend, I could go see a show, I could go do a show. And the highlight would definitely be the Bob Curry show — 300 people just cheering you on, laughing. Anything you say, it’s the warmest crowd you could ever experience.”


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