Don't miss all the Geeky Goodness!

150 — Interview: Jill Olson of Chicago’s StoryTown and Funny Bones Improv

Jill Olson

Jill Olson of Funny Bones Improv and Storytown, Chicago

Improv artist making a difference in Chicago

Jill is the founder of Storytown, a Chicago improv troupe that performs every Saturday morning in an interactive show for young people.  Through Storytown , she works to cultivate creativity and arts appreciation while introducing audiences to story structure and problem solving. Storytown uses the core improvisation fundamental of “yes, and” so every suggestion and idea is accepted, embraced and developed. Storytown is a interactive improvisational musical that gives children hands on ownership of the arts. Children are encouraged to take an active role in Storytown. They can chose the location, design the backdrop, give suggestions for characters and plot, become characters themselves, and aide our performers in any way they can imagine.  Storytown becomes the canvas for their imaginations.

Jill Olson judging Comedy Criminals Improv Festival at Elkhart Civic Theatre in May

Jill Olson judging Comedy Criminals Improv Festival at Elkhart Civic Theatre in May 2015

Jill is also the current Chicago Director of Funny Bones Improv.  Through this organization, she is able to bring the magic of improv and laughter to children and their care givers in Chicago hospitals.  She is Improv Professor of Merriment with The Laughing Academy and Theater Teacher for Dream Big Performing Arts Workshop.  She has served as Program Coordinator for This Is ME and Child Whisperer for  The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival.  Jill Olson is originally from Towson University where she graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Theater Arts.  She moved to Chicago and studied improvisation and is a graduate of the Second City and iO Training Programs.

The Geeks met Jill Olson when she came to our theatre as a judge for our Comedy Criminals Improv Festival and Competition, and it was a blast getting to know her.  So, we couldn’t wait to have her as a Theatre Geeks guest.   In this episode she talks about the power of improv and theatre for kids (and adults).

Music provided by Music Alley.

149 Scenic Painter Jeff Barrick


Love of all art styles gives scenic painter Jeff Barrick a lot of inspiration to draw upon

Scenic painter Jeff Barrick working on the grand olio for Zombie Prom.

Scenic painter Jeff Barrick working on the grand olio for “Zombie Prom.”

Jeff Barrick is a scenic painter working at Indiana University South Bend, but who also creates wonderful backdrops for The Geeks’ home theatre, Elkhart Civic Theatre in Northern Indiana.  He has created backdrops and scenic elements for such diverse shows as Count DraculaAssassinsCompany and many others.

Collaboration with the set designer, (in this case, Geek John Shoup) is critical to successful design, but so is research.  Barrick almost always uses reference material for inspiration and design concepts.  Anything, from comic books to film, to wallpaper patterns to other set designs, can qualify.  Barrick takes these elements and imaginatively works them into scenic elements that fit the specific needs of a particular show.

Most recently, Barrick borrowed a graphic look from the cover of an old romance comic book to create the creepy grand olio (listen to the episode to learn what this is) for a production of Zombie Prom.

Spend some time with the Geeks (including honorary Geek Deirdre Lovejoy) to hear more about Jeff’s process for scenic painting.  And take a look at the following videos to see Jeff (and John) at work.

More of Jeff’s work can be seen Jeff Barrick, Muralist.


Music provided by Music Alley

148 Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival




Aaron Nichols

Aaron Nichols, Director of Audience Development for the Notre Dame Shakespeare Festival and other events at ND, joins us to talk Shakespeare, festivals and other things theatre.  Great conversation with the Geeks.