Fifty Years of Second City

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More than 500 people have approached The Second City's co-founder Bernard Sahlins over the years to assure him that they were among the 120 present at the improvisational comedy troupe's opening night in two former storefronts on Chicago's Near North Side. They even remember the date: Dec. 16, 1959.

And who's to say? Perhaps half a century from now thousands will be moseying over to Andrew Alexander, The Second City's co-owner since 1985, swearing that they were among the 350 in the audience for the company's 50th reunion in expanded quarters a few blocks south of the original location.

The celebration, which begins Friday and runs until Sunday evening, includes panel discussions on such topics as "Voices of Diversity at The Second City," "Second City in the Sixties," "SCTV"—a nod to the TV series conjured by members of the company's sister site in Toronto—and of course live performances by some whose careers were launched in those two great big towns on great big lakes. Tina Fey, Shelley Long, Martin Short, Catherine O'Hara, Andrea Martin, Stephen Colbert and Steve Carell are among those Second City veterans who plan to attend and, if asked nicely, to improvise.

"This is an opportunity to put ourselves on display," said Mr. Alexander. "It's quite a different company than it was when we had our 25th reunion. The work hasn't changed dramatically and the core hasn't changed, but we've expanded in different ways."

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