Making it up as he goes
David Brian Stuart, the founder and executive producer of Improve Playhouse in Libertyville, has been acting since he was 7 or 8 years old. | Joel Lerner~Sun-Times Media
On the Web
Learn more about Improv Playhouse at www.improvplayhouse.com.
Updated: December 12, 2012 8:44AM
LIBERTYVILLE – David Brian Stuart is the founder and executive producer of Improv Playhouse in Libertyville. A veteran professional actor, Stuart trained at Chicago’s famed Second City and ran its suburban satellite until he realized that performing arts training needed to be more diverse. He recently answered some questions about his craft.
Q: How long have you been acting?
A: My parents were both in the business so I got an early start. I got my first professional check when I was 7 or 8 years old.
Q: What made you break off from Second City to do your own thing?
A: I saw that improv schools were myopic. They didn’t look beyond improv. At Improv Playhouse, we do so much more. We cater to both adults and families. Kids as young as 4 or 5 can take a class. We work with people who want to be professional performers and those who are completely new to it. We do corporate training, private parties. We also have American Camps Association (ACA) accredited camps in musical theater, improv and filmmaking for teens and tweens.
Q: How is improv used in corporate training?
A: The principles and rules of improvisation can be applied to any field to create an atmosphere of success. For example, if there’s a workplace where many voices need to be heard, we can apply the “yes, and ...” rule of improv where everything is accepted and we are open to all ideas. We have worked with top executives all the way down to the average worker, and they’ve all benefitted from working with us. Many companies are now looking for ways to upgrade their training in a cost-effective way and we’re able to do that.
Q: What is it like to run an improv in the suburbs? There aren’t many, right?
A: No, there aren’t. I really enjoy working in the suburbs, because not everyone is a 20-something looking to get discovered or get on “Saturday Night Live.” So it’s not as competitive, but the quality isn’t diminished at all.
Q: How does Improv Playhouse differ from other improvs?
A: My vision has always been to build a creative arts community as well as offer a professional environment to train in. I think we’ve stayed true to that. For instance, Appletree Theater in Highland Park closed in 2009, I believe. It was very abrupt and some people had already paid for classes that they now couldn’t take. We took on every student who wanted to still take the classes they had registered for and we didn’t charge them.