“Chicago is like the mother country of improv,” says Eli Galperin, one of the founding members of Altermania, an Israeli improv group hitting town April 14 as part of the Chicago Improv Festival. The annual event, this year dubbed “One World, Many Laughs,” will feature 90 ensembles from 11 different countries.
Founded by graduates from the Nissan Nativ acting studio, Altermania (“alter” is improv in Hebrew) performs largely long-form improv. Their current show, Opening the Rabbit’s Mouth, will introduce Chicagoans to some of Altermania’s signature improv games, including creating an entire sketch about the life of one lucky audience member.
Improv plays second fiddle to stand-up comedy in Israel, and Altermania hopes to change that trend.
“There is no audience for long-form improv in Israel; it must be a short-form sketch show, with little games. It’s much more difficult to get people to an hour-long show,” says Galperin.
But he and fellow actors Roy Zadok, Muli Shulman and Ma’ayan Weinstock are up for the challenge. Galperin, Zadok and Shulman founded Altermania after performing with Habima, the National Theater of Israel. The actors were looking for something challenging that they could call their own. They picked up a few female performers, and suddenly they had their act.
The group has performed throughout Israel, and is currently housed at the Tsavta performing arts center in Tel Aviv.
The actors are undeterred by the prospect of performing in English, a challenge for any foreign actor, but a particularly formidable one for improv comedians, who must constantly think on their feet. They plan to perform twice, once in Hebrew and once in English. Two of the actors will participate in “One World on One Stage,” in which improvisers from Canada, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands, Norway and the USA will all share the stage.
While in Chicago, the members of Altermania hope to soak up some of the rich improv history.
“We’ve never been to Chicago before – all of us want to see as many shows as possible, participate in as many jams as possible with groups from other countries and see what is going on in improv around the world,” says Galperin.
Altermania performs Tuesday, April 14, at 8pm at ComedySportz, 929 W. Belmont, and Saturday, April 18, at 9:30pm at Laugh Out Loud, 601 N. Martingale Road, Streets of Woodfield, in Schaumburg. Tickets are available at the theater box offices. The Chicago Improv Festival runs April 13-19. For more information and a complete festival line-up, please visit www.chicagoimprovfestival.org .