After premiering her sketch comedy show “Hate Mail” in Chicago last month, Emma Chapman is bringing it home.
The hour-long two-person revue will play one night only — at 10:15 p.m. Saturday, March 10 at The Improv Shop, 3960 Chouteau. It’s on the side stage, and admission is $6.
Emma, who grew up in O’Fallon, Ill., is excited about being able to perform for family and friends.
She graduated last year from The Conservatory at Second City Training Center. Not wanting to give up on her dream, Emma moved to Chicago in 2014.
Co-written with Alissa Skeen, “Hate Mail” is a sticky sweet look into the dark reality of avoiding confrontation.
Emma said it touches on the fear of confrontation, the dark side of anger, bravery behind a computer screen and bottling up emotions. The idea grew from a testy exchange about a broken item shipped to her residence.
Alissa and Emma discovered they were kindred spirits while studying at The Conservatory, which is the school part of the mecca of sketch and improvisational comedy. Their first original show was ‘Hell’s Belles” in 2016.
The Second City started a comedy revolution when it opened in 1959, growing to be the most influential comedy empire in the world. Alumni include Bill Murray, Tina Fey, Steve Carell, Stephen Colbert, Jordan Peele, John Belushi and many “Saturday Night Live” cast members.
Through Second City’s training center, she learned comedy is a very serious business.
She explained that the Conservatory Program is a highly competitive year-long course wherein students use improvisation to write a sketch show. A year of improv training is first and mandatory, then you audition. Only about 60 students make the first round, and then that’s cut down to about 40 students after a second audition, which is later.
Passion and commitment are necessary as well as good writing, acting and improv skills.
“This is hard work,” she said.
“Hate Mail” had a three-Friday night run at Judy’s Beat Lounge, one of the Second City Studio Theaters.
The times are changing, she said. Doors are opening for smart and funny women, not just for ‘female comedy.’
She credits one of her heroes, Tina Fey, who was part of Second City’s first equal-split cast (three men and three women), for paving the way and creating more opportunities.
“Women are being respected for their ideas. And there is not just one type of funny woman. There is not just one role,” she said.
Emma and Alissa collaborate on a podcast, “Blockbuster Babies,” in which they talk about movies that they should have already seen, like ‘The Godfather,” “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Citizen Kane.” This allows them to finally understand the film references people make, she noted.
“It’s super-fun,” she said.
If another opportunity does not come her way, she still plans to forge her own path.
“While that would be incredible, I’m always going to work on my own projects and inject my point of view and experience in my writing and performance. Sometimes that means getting it done yourself and underselling tickets — but it’s the dream.”
Currently, she works as a nanny for six children, then writes and performs at night. Her next step is to audition for the year-long Severn Darden graduate program, where a house ensemble creates a sketch revue with a director’s help.
In high school, she performed in plays and musicals, and on the speech team, her category was original comedy. She took part in the Missoula Children’s Theatre summer program and was in “The Music Man Jr.” at Looking Glass Playhouse.
Being able to follow her dream makes the sacrifices worth it, and so is inspiring others.
“It’s important to be dedicated, to become who you want to be,” she said.
(Some of this information appeared in a Belleville News-Democrat feature I wrote. – Lynn Venhaus)
Here is our Q & A with Emma
Q. Why did you choose your profession and want to pursue the arts?
A. Performing has felt “right” for as long as I can remember. It’s not too often that something simultaneously excites you and brings you peace.
Q. How would your friends describe you?
A. Kind, but neurotic in a way that rivals Monica Geller of “Friends.” I have been spotted lint-rolling sheets.
Q. How do you like to spend your spare time?
A. I’m an extroverted introvert, so I actually need a decent amount of time alone to recharge. I enjoy true crime/cult shows, podcasts, and books from the comfort of my room
Q. What is your current obsession?
A. I will proselytize to the masses in the name of the Netflix reboot of “Queer Eye” until I die.
Q. What would people be surprised to find out about you?
A. I’m terrified of statues and animatronics, just eerily real.
Q. What is at the top of your bucket list?
A. Traveling outside of the country.
More About Emma:
Birthplace: A very old Navy hospital in Portsmouth, Va.
Current location: Chicago
Family: Parents Keith and Maggie Chapman, Siblings Ben, 28, Mae, 18, and John, 14. Two Pitbulls, ZuuZuu and Rosie
Education: A handful of college credits from SIUE, BYUI and SWIC. A graduate of The Conservatory at The Second City Training Center.
Day job: Nannying six kids ranging in age from 18 months to 15 years, two Great Danes, and a gecko.
First job: Pier 1 Imports
First role: A background Christmas Tree in the second-grade play, “The Littlest Christmas Tree” at Estelle Kampmeyer Elementary.
Favorite roles/plays: Juliet Capulet
Dream role/play: The starring role in the “Jagged Little Pill” musical (this is rumored to be a real show eventually- what a world).
Awards/Honors/Achievements: Graduate of The Conservatory at The Second City Training Center, four original shows written and performed by myself and my writing partner, Alissa Skeen. “The Best” as awarded by the 4-year old I nanny after I bought her a corndog.
Favorite quote/words to live by: “It’s not personal, it’s strictly business” – Michael Corleone, “The Godfather”
A song that makes you happy: “Better Man” by Pearl Jam