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INSTRUCTORS

Meet our instructors! All instructors of the iO Theater are veteran performers that have a vast experience in the art of improvisation and in our approach to teaching improv, which comes from our co-founder and improv legend, Del Close

Emily Anderson

Emily Anderson is an improviser, actor and writer based in Chicago. She performs regularly around town, most notable in Holy Fuck Comedy Hour at The Annoyance Theatre.

Ryan Archibald

A member of the late-great Harold team People of Earth, Ryan has been an active member of the iO theater his entire adult life and has taught, directed and performed improvisation all over the world. Ryan is a Second Citizen and a part of the Boom Chicago family in Amsterdam.

You can see “Arch” perform at iO in The Armando Diaz Experience3033, and Search Engine.

Dave Asher

Dave Asher is a veteran teacher, performer, and musical director at the iO Theater. Dave performed on the iO house team “Valhalla” before moving to Amsterdam to perform improv and sketch in “Boom! Chicago”.

Dave has music-directed with The Second City National Touring Company and has been the Music Director of The iO Theater since 2006. As an improv teacher, he has taught classes and workshops at iO since 2006 and is currently the director of the iO musical house team “The DelTones”.

Kyle Bethea

Bio coming soon.

Padraic Connelly

Padraic began taking classes at iO in 2001, and is an original cast member of the long-running show Whirled News Tonight. He performed with the Harold teams Ralphie’s Rug and Extra Billies, and toured with Mission:IMPROVable. Padraic has created and taught workshops for university theater programs, corporate clients, and youth and outreach programs. He is the current Artistic Director and an instructor at the CSz Theater Chicago, home of ComedySportz.

Derek Cox

Derek Cox is a Director of Photography and owner of Polymyth Productions in Chicago, IL. In his first year in Chicago, he produced over 100 comedy videos to build up a portfolio for his business. Since then, his clientele has included the likes of Above Average, Discover Card, and GE. He has directed and DP’ed award winning short films, web series, and features that have been screened internationally. His work has been featured on the front page of comedy websites such as Funny or Die and Cracked.com, and has won awards at LAWEBfest, the Vatican film festival, and the Chicago Regional Emmys. He’s also very proud of this TV Pilot he shot/co-directed called Old Town. Derek is an improvisor with the Harold team Denver at iO Chicago. To view more of Derek’s work check out polymyth.com

Mary Catherine Curran

Bio coming soon.

James Dugan

Bio coming soon.

Gretchen Eng

Native to Chicago, Gretchen Eng has been performing improv and sketch comedy since she was 16, as part of the selective Second City Teen Ensemble, directed by Jeff Award Winner, Billy Bungeroth. At Vassar College, she studied classical vocal performance while serving as president of the college’s oldest sketch comedy group, No Offense, for which she wrote, directed, and performed. Since then, she has primarily performed in long-form improv ensembles at several major comedy venues in the Chicago area, including house teams at iO Chicago, The Playground Theater, and in show runs at The Annoyance Theater and The Second City.

At iO, she currently teaches, coaches, leads workshops, and performs with the Harold Team Devil’s Daughter (Tuesdays) and The Armando Diaz Experience (Mondays). She has taught improv workshops for an array of corporate groups and children’s programs as well as the Cambridge Footlights International Touring Company in the U.K. She is on the faculty for the 16th Annual Würzburger Improtheaterfestival in Germany.

Dina Facklis

Bio coming soon.

Jill Fenstermaker

Jill Fenstermaker performs with the iO house team Revolver and coaches the iO team Big Spoon. She has performed and taught improv at universities throughout the Midwest and at theaters in North Carolina, New York, Texas and Alaska.

Jon Forsythe

Jon is currently a Level 1 teacher iO Chicago and he loves it very much. He can be seen performing every Tuesday night with the Harold team Sears Tower. His improv training was done at University of Florida’s TSF improv troupe, iO Chicago, Second City, and Annoyance Theater. He’s a former member of ComedySportz Chicago and the sketch group Pennybear, the latter of which went to the NY Fringe Festival in 2008. He was also an original member of the show FELT for which he played with for 10 years. He recently finished his classes at Columbia College Chicago and is working on completing his thesis short film to earn an MFA in film directing.

Jeannie Griggs

Bio coming soon.

Jeff Griggs

Jeff has taught and coached at iO for several years and is a long standing member of the house team, “Deep Schwa”. Among other groups, Griggs performs with “Meta Five” and “Aphasia” at venues and festivals around the country.

Besides acting and directing, Griggs has also written several stage plays that have been produced in theaters around Chicago. His book Guru: My Days with Del Close is available from Ivan R. Dee Publishing.

Noah Gregoropoulos

Noah has been performing, directing and teaching improvisation for over 20 years. He began teaching at iO in the late 1980’s, and in 1999 he took over the Performance Level workshops when his predecessor, Del Close, passed away halfway through a class session. Gregoropoulos has also taught improvisation at iO West, Second City and Columbia College. (Click on image for his full bio)

As an improvisational performer, he has played on several house teams and currently be seen at iO performing with his current Harold team, “Carl and the Passions” and in “The Armando Diaz Experience”.

Charna Halpern

Charna Halpern is the founder and Artistic Director of the iO Theater. She has been teaching performers how to work together for more than 25 years. Having founded the world famous iO (formerly known as the “ImprovOlympic”)in Chicago and Hollywood, Halpern’s theaters are the meccas of training in the art of improvisation and act as a recruiting stop for television shows like Saturday Night Live, CONAN, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and countless other shows, supplying Hollywood with writers and performers. She is the author of the improv training manuals Truth in Comedy and Art By Committee.

Matt Higbee

Matt has been a part of the iO family for alnost 10 years and has been teaching at iO for over 4 years.

At iO he has performed with several teams and can currently be seen performing with the Harold team “Beans” and with “The Armando Diaz Experience”.

Eleanor Hollingsworth

Eleanor Hollingsworth has a Theatre degree from College of Charleston and has been performing improv in Chicago since 2009. She studied at The Second City, The Annoyance, and iO. She has taught and performed improv around the world, and feels wildly lucky to call her Harold team “Big Spoon” home. You can also see her perform in “Improvised Star Trek”.

Michael Johnson

Mike Johnson is a Chicago native, a graduate of University of Illinois at Chicago and holds a degree in Finance, and has studied and performed improv for 14 years. He’s taken classes and performed at iO, ComedySportz, CIC Theater, The Annoyance Theater, The Playground Theater and Second City. At iO, Mike has performed with “Our Feature Presentation Presents the Improvised Movie”, “Dinner for Six”, “Sears Tower”, and last but not least a short stint as host of “The Jam”.

He coaches the Harold team “Meridian” and can currently be seen playing with “Dinner Bell” and “Felt“.

Kim Howard Johnson

Kim Howard Johnson is a founding member of the Baron’s Barracudas (the first house team of the ImprovOlympic–now the iO), co-wrote Truth in Comedy with Charna Halpern and Del Close, and wrote The Funniest One in the Room: the Lives and Legends of Del Close, the biography of his longtime friend. He has performed, taught, and directed improvisation and comedy for many years.

Neil Jacobsen

Bio coming soon.

Cesar Jaime

Cesar has been with the iO theater for over 15 years. In that time, he has had the pleasure – and honor – of studying and playing with some of the best improvisational teachers in he world, including the late Del Close.
He has coached and performed with numerous teams and also teaches improv around the country in academic and corporate workshops. (Click on image for his full bio)

He can currently be seen playing at iO with the teams “Felt”, “Heraldo”, “Smokin’ Hot Dad”,  and with iO’s longest running show, “The Armando Diaz Experience and Hootenanny”.

Katie Klein

Katie Klein is from Shaker Heights, Ohio. she began performing in Washington DC, with iMusical at the Washington improv theater and with friends at the DC improv. She loves performing and teaching improv around the country. She is currently on the Second City e.t.c stage and performs every Wednesday at iO with her pals in the Late 90’s and Virgin Daiquiri. She can also be seen playing at other theaters with her sisters in Superhuman and with her incredible husband Neil in Ed and Kath.

Kevin Knickerbocker

Kevin Knickerbocker began his theatre career at age five as Forgetty the Elephant in the Beaumont KIDmunity Players’ production of The Friendship Club. Around Chicago, he was a part of Susan at CIC, a cast member of The TomKat Project at the Upstairs Gallery and beyond, and directed John Reynolds’ A Slice of Life at the Annoyance. At iO he has been very, very proud to be half of Live! Tonight! With Kevin and Nick (Characters Welcome), as well as independent team DMNK and io Harold team Meridian.

Jaime Landolfi

Jaime began improvising with “Erasable Inc.” at the University of Maryland, College Park as she studied to become a veterinarian. She eventually made it to the promised land of Chicago and has been performing at iO since 2005. She can be currently seen laughing along with the Harold team, The Poem Highlander. When she is not at iO performing or teaching Level 2 (Character, Environment, Teamwork!!!), Jaime works as a veterinary pathologist, cheers for the Bulls, and tries to be the best mom to Aveline and wife to Rene that she can be!

Michael McCarthy

Michael C. McCarthy has worked professionally as an actor, writer, director, producer and has been “special thank’d” in several small, independent films! His professional writing career began at the age of 24 when he became a staff writer for “Saturday Night Live,” followed by two seasons at “Sesame Street” (the antidote for SNL). After becoming frustrated with actors messing up his brilliant sketches (that damn Bert and Ernie), he began working as an actor/improvisor at The Second City in Chicago, including three shows on that venerable institution’s mainstage!

While at Second City, McCarthy started their writing program which currently boasts an enrollment of 1.5 million students. In Los Angeles he continued to write for the likes of “Drew Carey,” Chuck Lorre and many, many Comedy Central projects. He also continued to act in everything from “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” to “According To Jim,” to “The Gilmore Girls”—always playing a priest.

At The iO West Theater in Hollywood, McCarthy created a second writing program he called The Comedy Lab, with four separate classes teaching students how to compile exactly what literary agents want to read, thus increasing their chances of working professionally.

Former students include: Jon Favreau, Tina Fey, Brian Stack, Peter Murietta, Vanessa Bayer, Matt Walsh, Kay Cannon, Travis Bowe, and Matt Kuhn (and many, many more). And there’s more…

Susan Messing

Susan Messing, a New Jersey native, is a graduate of Northwestern University. She has performed for over 20 years with Chicago’s iO Theatre, and created and teaches their Level 2 Curriculum which is used in Chicago and LA’s iO West.

At the legendary Second City, Messing wrote and performed in two mainstage revues and directed their National Touring Company. Messing is a founding member of the infamous Annoyance Theatre where she has created roles in over thirty original productions, including “Co-Ed Prison Sluts”, “The Miss Vagina Pageant”, and “Your Butt”. In addition, she conceived, co-adapted (with Mary Scruggs) and directed the critically acclaimed “What Every Girl Should Know…An Ode to Judy Blume” for the Annoyance stage, where she also continues to teach.

You can see Messing’s critically-acclaimed show, “Messing with a Friend” every Thursday night at The Annoyance. Messing has been an adjunct professor for Loyola University, DePaul University’s Theatre School, and The University of Chicago, and The School of Steppenwolf. Her standup act with her puppet, Jolly, has been featured at the HBO/US Comedy Arts Festival in Aspen, and on Comedy Central’s Premium Blend and NBC’s Late Fridays. You can hear her voice on radio and tv ads. Susan has been cut from several blockbuster films, but her recent movie role in “Let’s Go to Prison!” as a bad stripper in a halo brace, made her very happy. Her daughter, Sofia Mia, is very twelve, very ridiculous, and very awesome.

Nick Mestad

Bio coming soon.

Nnamdi Ngwe

After performing and teaching in Denver, CO, Nnamdi moved to Chicago and has studied and performed at iO, The Second City, The Annoyance, The Playground Theater, and others.

He can currently be seen at iO performing with the “The Deltones”, “Chaos Theory”, and “The Armando Diaz Experience”. He is honored to be performing and teaching at iO.

Adal Rifai

Adal has been a part of the iO family for over 10 years and has been teaching at iO for over 5 years.

He has coached and performed with several ensembles at iO, and can currently be seen performing at iO with the Harold team “Revolver”.

Eddie Pina

Bio coming soon

Allison Ringhand

Bio coming soon.

Jessica Rogers

essica Kelley Rogers began performing in her hometown of Miami, Florida. After falling in love with improvisation at the University of Florida (Theatre Strike Force and A.C.I.I.), Jessica moved to Chicago to study and perform improv while pursuing her other passion, elementary education. A graduate of The iO (formerly the ImprovOlympic) and the Annoyance Theater, Jessica, an 8th grade math teacher, also teaches improv to adults at The iO and The Second City. Jessica has been directing The Second City’s Teen Ensemble since 2007.

The new Artistic Director of the Teen Comedy Fest (CIF Production), Jessica can currently be seen performing with The Playground’s Member Ensemble International Stinger. Since her move to Chicago in 1999, Jessica has performed in and taught at a variety of improv / comedy festivals around the country, including the Chicago Improv Festival. She has played with several improv ensembles at iO, The Annoyance, and The Playground. A former performer with The Improv Playhouse in Libertyville, she has worked with teens at the Audition Studio North, Beverly Arts Center, and several Chicago Public Schools. She developed curriculum for The Second City’s improvisation program and their Educational Touring Company, formerly EdCo. Jessica’s directing credits include teen and adult productions at Sketchfest, Donny’s Skybox, and The Bailiwick Theater.

Patrick Rowland

Patrick has been performing for the iO Theater since 2009. He is a graduate of the Second City and iO Chicago Training Centers. Patrick, a founding member of 3Peat and can be seen also performing with The Armando Diaz Experience, Deltones, and Musical Armando. His solo sketch was featured in the TBS Just For Laughs Festival in 2013. He teaches improvisation at iO Chicago, Second City, and The Playground Theater.

Stacey Smith

Stacey is a loud Long Islander who can be seen performing regularly at CSz, at iO with The Musical Armando and The Deltones, in various projects with The Second City (most recently Life Hacks, The Really Awesome Improv Show and #DateMe in the UP Comedy Club) or with her various independent teams (Stacked, Brouhahaha and Smith&I) around town and/or at festivals.

She is an instructor in the A-E Program, Youth&Teen Program and The Wellness Program at The Second City and recently created her own program called S.H.E (Sisterhood. Humor. Empowerment) for female identifying students ages 8-18. In addition, she also teaches and iO and The Playground Theater and recently got hired as Head of the Training Center at CSz Theater Chicago. She is also the Creator/Executive Producer of the Chicago Musical Improv Festival. Recently, Stacey performed two contracts for The Second City aboard the Norwegian Breakaway.

Tim Soszko

Tim Soszko makes his living performing, writing, teaching and directing. He is thrilled to be teaching at iO Chicago. He tours with his sketch and improv groups, The Deltones, the tim&micah project, and Briko, all over the world. Tim also teaches at Second City, Columbia College, The Actors Training Center, Barrel of Monkeys, and Elmhurst Children’s Theater, to name just a few places. And finally, being an accomplished voice over actor, you’ve probably heard Tim’s voice on many TV and radio commercials as well as video games. Tim loves his family and chocolate pudding.

Craig Uhlir

Craig Uhlir has been learning/playing at iO since 1996. He was on teams with names like “Varmit” and “Spank” until becoming an early member of the house teams “Deep Schwa” and “Valhalla”, and later with “Prime” and the legendary two-person show, “Middle Age Comeback”. Hes also has hosted iO’s “Jam” on at least three separate stints starting all the way back in ‘97. (Jam!) Craig has played with ComedySportz Chicago, toured with the Second City (culminating with a tour of Kuwait and Iraq for the USO), and he has spent time in Las Vegas performing and teaching for The Second City at the Flamingo.

He can currently be seen at iO performing with his Harold team, “Deep Schwa”.

Farrell Walsh

Farrell Walsh is honored to be an instructor at iO. Farrell has studied at both iO and The Annoyance Theater. He is a founding member of the iO house team “Revolver”, was considers himself very lucky to be part of the cast of iO’s last incarnation of the legendary long-form show, “Close Quarters”. Outside of iO, Farrell is the Artistic Director at CIC Theater, and is part of CIC’s house ensemble “Rainbow Deli”. He also makes up one half of the sketch group “White Fudge”.

He can currently be seen at iO performing with “Revolver”, “The Scene”, and with “The Armando Diaz Experience”.

Mary Cait Walthall

Mary Cait Walthall is a performer, writer, and director who has performed with various companies around town, including the Neo-Futurists, the Annoyance, and Baby Wants Candy. She recently returned from post-graduate level training in devised performance practice and physical performance techniques at the London International School of Performing Arts. She has been performing on iO’s stages for 6 years, and she  currently performs with Super Human on Thursday nights. You can also catch her on the Improvised Star Trek podcast (http://www.theimprovisedstartrek.com/)

Rob White

Originally from Pittsburgh, Rob has been performing at iO since 2005. He’s been lucky to perform in several great shows including: “Close Quarters” , “Our Feature Presentation Presents the Improvised Movie” , and “Dinner for Six”.

Rob can currently be seen performing at iO the iO house team “Revolver” and with “Whirled News Tonight”.

Shane Wilson

Shane Wilson has been performing on the iO stage since 1998. A founding member of Whirled News Tonight, he also was part of the long-running Harold team Space Mountain.
He is the co-creator of The Green Mill Radio Hour with the Swing Shift Orchestra, the ensemble Second Floor Adriana, and the revue Small World. He created and directed Raconteur for The Playground Director’s Series.

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