The Second City's Black History Month Show Will Return for 2020

By: Jan. 09, 2020
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The Second City's Black History Month Show Will Return for 2020

The Second City has announced casting for the return of The Second City's Black History Month. Under the direction of Ali Barthwell, the show features ensemble members Robel Arega, Jillian Ebanks, Leila Gorstein, Collette Gregory, Bill Letz, and Max Thomas. John Love will serve as music director and Sam McNerland will stage manage. The show runs February 4-March 11 on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 8pm.

As The Second City is celebrating its diamond anniversary, the lauded comedy company will pull from decades' worth of iconic archival and classic sketches and songs created by some of the theater's most notable African American alumni, conceived and written by artists including Sam Richardson, Keegan-Michael Key, Amber Ruffin, Tim Meadows, Edgar Blackmon, and many more.

"I'm delighted to produce ongoing space for audiences to experience satire written by our African American alumni," said Director of Diversity Talent Inclusion and Development Dionna Griffin-Irons. "We get an opportunity to keep their dynamic stories and sketches alive by honoring their voices each year."

Re-imagined for 2020 and infused with a contemporary comedic spin, The Second City's Black History Month Show sets the stage for an uproarious night of laughter delivered by a new generation of rising comedians in a celebratory showcase of the incredible history and work artists of color have brought to The Second City's stages.

"I've been able to watch, work with, and learn from many of the theater's outstanding alumni over the last nine years. It's exciting to now collaborate with a fresh young cast on scenes written by some of The Second City's alumni," says director Ali Barthwell.

Tickets for The Second City's Black History Month Show are on sale now for $20 and can be purchased online at or by phone at (312) 337-3992. All performances will take place in the UP Comedy Club (230 W. North, 3rd Floor of Piper's Alley) with shows on Tuesdays/Wednesdays at 8pm running February 4-March 11.

About The Artists

ROBEL AREGA (Ensemble) is very excited to be in The Second City's Black History Month Show. Based out of Chicago, Robel is an actor, comedian, and writer. He is a junior writer for Cards Against Humanity, a 2019 Second City and NBCUniversal Bob Curry fellow, a finalist on the 2018 iO Saturday Night Live Showcase, and has been featured on VICE News for his involvement with the Chicago comedy scene. Robel was a featured Second City cast member of "Urban Twist" and is a cast member of the Annoyance Theater's Holy F*ck Comedy Hour, where he rose through the ranks on three Harold teams: "Snowball," "Pequod's Pizza Presents: The Harold (Lou Malnati's Presents: The Harold)," and "Lil' Tooties. "A former producer of the variety show The Arts & Culture Club and stand-up showcase BOMB A$$ $ET, Robel co-hosts a killer podcast with comedian and friend Jimmy Gribbin called 86K.

JILLIAN EBANKS (Ensemble) is thrilled to be performing in this show for a second year. An artist originally from New Jersey, she was awarded the 2018 NBC Bob Curry Fellowship. Most recently she performed with The Second City at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in America; It's Complicated! She is the co-creator and co-producer of B.A.P.S Comedy. With a degree in sociology she refuses to use, Ebanks hopes all her hard work pays off one day when Ben & Jerry's asks her to create her very own ice cream flavor. Also, like, an invitation to the Met Gala would be cool. Surprisingly, she isn't currently represented. Follow her at @Curlyhairnocare for pictures with hella filters.

LEILA GORSTEIN (Ensemble) is thrilled to be performing with The Second City Black History Month Show ensemble! Leila hails from Charleston, SC. and received her B.A. in Theater from Indiana University. She has trained at The Second City, iO, and The Annoyance Theater. Leila performed with Second City Theatricals aboard the Norwegian Breakaway and performs around Chicago with her independent team, "Brady," and with iO's "Artemis." She is proudly represented by Paonessa Talent. Thank you to Leila's comedy heroes, her parents. Follow her on the gram @lolgorstein.

COLETTE GREGORY (Ensemble) is an award-winning writer, comedian, and cultural sensitivity consultant. Based in Chicago, Gregory has performed on The Second City Mainstage, toured to colleges and military bases throughout the country using humor to teach sexual assault prevention with Catharsis Productions, and produces SHADE: An Actually Diverse Comedy Show at the world-famous Steppenwolf Theatre Company. Gregory has a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Bachelor of Music in Music Theatre Production from Northwestern University, as well as a Master of Arts and Master of Education in Counseling Psychology from Columbia University-New York. You can catch her performing around town on RIFF: Chicago's Music Improv Party, her sketch team "Bosses and Bonnets," and as a writer-correspondent on Good Evening with Pat Whalen.

BILL LETZ (Ensemble) is a southside Chicago native who loves being a part of this city's wonderful comedy community. He is a proud graduate of The Second City Training Center's Conservatory and Musical Improv programs, as well as iO's training program. He has been a part of many great shows and teams, but some of his favorites include "Daffodil," "Ghost Car," "Tubbs Ave," "pH," and "The Treehouse Pipers." Letz is currently an understudy for The Second City Touring Company and is very grateful to be a part of this show. Thanks to Bill and Meth and his family and friends for all their support.

MAX THOMAS (Ensemble) is a stand-up, actor, writer, director, impersonator, sketch performer, and spoken word improviser with the improv team "PREACH" who was raised on the Southside of Chicago and grew up on Jimi Hendrix, Rick James, & Soy Milk. Thomas has been featured at Zanies, The Comedy Store, Jokes and Notes, The Second City Chicago & Hollywood, Laugh Factory, Steppenwolf Theater, Black & Funny Festival, Detroit Improv Festival, Boston Improv Festival, The Hideout Chicago & Boston, The Revival Theater, and the Lollapalooza Festival impersonating Barack Obama for FuseTV. His acting credits include Chicago P.D., Hotdate, Studio B, Autumn Daze, and Othello. Thomas was recently nominated for a 2019 Jeff Award for his performance in the play In the Blood by Suzan Lori-Parks.

ALI BARTHWELL (Director) is a writer, performer, and teacher. Brathwell's work has been featured in Vulture, the Chicago Tribune and the A.V. Club. She was a member of The Second City Touring Company and a member of the Cards Against Humanity Writers' Room. She appeared on Netflix's Easy and Win It All and Huffington Post's Here to Make Friends. Her favorite member of The Avengers is Black Panther.

ANTHONY LEBLANC (Director Consultant) is currently an Artistic Director for The Second City and the onset acting coach for the hit Nickelodeon TV show All That. Originally from Beaumont, TX, he performed with his sketch group "Boxaganga" while obtaining a Computer Science and Physics BS at Loyola University New Orleans. He directed The Second City e.t.c.'s Soul Brother, Where Art Thou?; the 105th Second City Mainstage revue The Winner...of Our Discontent; The Magic Negro and Other Blackity Blackness as Told by an African-American Man Who Also Happens to be Black at the Alliance Theater in Atlanta, Georgia; the Helen Hayes nominated Nothing to Lose (But Our Chains) at Woolly Mammoth Theatre; and The Second City's Generation Gap at the Kennedy Center. LeBlanc also wrote and performed in two Second City Chicago Mainstage revues, America: All Better and Taming of the Flu. He is also part of Columbia College Chicago's theater department faculty, teaching in the Comedy Writing and Performance Major. He hopes that his sketch directing helps him one day realize his dream of working for NASA, programming A.I. computer systems. He thanks Mom, Dad, David, Katie, Kennedy, Matt, his friends...and of course...Stephen Hawking.

SAM MCNERLAND (Stage Manager) is a Chicago based lighting designer and stage manager. He currently works with The Second City Touring Company and The Annoyance Theater. Recently, McNerland worked internationally at the 2019 Edinburgh Fringe Fest. Other notable shows include Steamworks: The Musical, Dysfunctional Family Affair, Queer Eye: The Musical Parody, and Dave Maher Coma Show.

John Love (Music Director) is a musician/actor based out of Chicago, IL. He moved to Chicago from Arenzville, IL, and started taking improv classes at The Second City, finishing both the Writing Program and the Conservatory Program. More recently, Love has found himself sporting the title of "Music Director" around the building at The Second City and other various venues in Chicago. Original music has also been a newer venture for John, as he plays piano for a collective in Chicago called "North and Wells." He gives all of his love and appreciation to his family and friends, especially his Momma, his sister, and his dear friend KB.


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