The venerable Players Workshop is reborn

Chicago institution
that helped train
Bill Murray, Bonnie Hunt,
David Mamet, Amy Sedaris
reopens “for people
from all walks of life”
after 15-year break

Players Workshop, the original Chicago school of improvisation founded in 1970, is reopening its doors just in time for a 50th anniversary celebration next year.

New owner Jeff Rogers, actor, creative director, and motivational speaker (Class of ‘89), has brought back founder Josephine Forsberg’s daughter Linnea Forsberg (‘70) and former teacher Doug Voegtle (‘81) to recreate the safe learning environment for which Players Workshop was famous.

The improvisation school started by Chicago theater icon Jo Forsberg (a founding member of The Second City who left the company to open her own school), continues to offer individuals and teams from all backgrounds the opportunity to enhance everyday life with newfound creative skills via classes and workshops.

Bill Murray in "Where the Buffalo Roam"
Bill Murray in “Where the Buffalo Roam”

Bonnie Hunt (’85), actress, director/writer, and graduate of Players Workshop says, “I’m forever grateful for all I gained from the Players Workshop experience — so many life enhancing skills, like listening, observing, teamwork, confidence, slowing down yet thinking fast, the value of every idea, and the joy of observing and celebrating all the characters in your life.”

Past graduates of Players Workshop also include familiar names like Bill and Brian-Doyle Murray, Amy Sedaris, David Pasquesi, George Wendt, Harold Ramis, Shelley Long, Bob Odenkirk, and David Mamet, to name a few. The school estimates that it taught the art form to tens of thousands of people since 1970.

“Josephine let me paint because I couldn’t afford classes,” says David Pasquesi (’82), from Veep, Lodge 49, and At Home With Amy Sedaris. “I found something in improvisation that I had not been exposed to before… and I really liked it. I still like it for the same reason: It’s an adventure.”

“Mom always felt that the lives of our students could be a work of art — that the skills we learn through the tenets of improvisation can be used to create a better life experience,” says Linnea Forsberg, an instructor at the original Players Workshop from 1970 to 2004.

“If you’re feeling a sense of overwhelm, and who isn’t these days, improvisation is the way to get your mojo back. Our core curriculum, which encourages people to play fearlessly, listen fully, and live in the moment, is a valuable foundation for all adult learners, no matter their vocation. Improvisation is a life skill which is now being taught in MBA programs at Duke, MIT, UCLA, and Stanford and at major companies like Google, Pepsi, Motorola Solutions, and GM.” says Rogers.

Players Workshop started the relaunch with a successful “taste of improvisation” class through the Old Town School of Folk Music this summer. OTSFM and Players Workshop are hoping to expand this partnership and provide more improvisational offerings.

While Players Workshop has operated in a handful of theater spaces throughout Old Town and Lincoln Park, new classes will be offered at the Pendulum Theatre, 1803 W. Byron Street, #216, Chicago, IL starting September 16th, 2019.

“My job is to create a safe space where people can take chances while they learn about themselves, their classmates, and about an art form that frees creativity while encouraging better communication and awareness of self and others,” says Doug Voegtle, the new Education Director at Players Workshop. Doug served as a workshop facilitator from 1981 to 1996 when its home was a storefront space on Lincoln Avenue.

Founded in 1970 and headquartered in Chicago, Illinois, Players Workshop is a for-profit school that creates a safe atmosphere where adults from all walks of life are encouraged to learn improvisational theatre skills and apply what they learn to their everyday life, work and play. All workshop facilitators are graduates of the Players Workshop. More information is available here.

Send your improv news to Reel Chicago Editor Dan Patton,