In her decade as executive director of the Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival, and years more performing with and managing the Cupid Players, Jill Valentine has seen a steady rise in the prevalence of women comedians.
“With so many comedy institutions in Chicago, we are training more comedians every year,” Valentine says. “Ten years ago you might be the only woman in class. Today the classes are strewn with women and you can see a lot more female teachers too.”
And while the Sketch Festival of course showcases the talents of some of those women, Valentine wanted to create a forum in which female comedians could perform across a variety of genres.
When Stage 773, the production company behind Sketch Fest, took over the Theatre Building at 1225 W. Belmont in 2010, renovated and reopened last year, Valentine decided the time was right. And so: the first annual Chicago Women’s Funny Festival makes its inaugural run at Stage 773 on June 6-10.
“This is definitely a male dominated art form so it’s important for women to know that there are actually a lot of us out there doing it,” Valentine says.
Unlike its sister festival, CWFF won’t confine itself to sketch comedy, but will also include improv, stand-up, solo performance, burlesque, storytelling, and other forms. “To host all different art forms will be a really exciting mash up,” Valentine says.
The full lineup will be announced April 16. Highlights include Messing with a Friend with Susan Messing, Off Off Broadzway, Mary Kay Letourneau Players, Ladies of The Cupid Players, Puterbaugh Sisters Variety, Sherra Lasley’s one woman show Sherra: Secret of the Ooze, The Art of Making Bad Decisions Cabaret and Feminine Gentlemen (featuring Valentine and festival associate producer Liz MacArthur).
“It will be amazing to see all of these talented ladies under one roof celebrating and supporting each other,” Valentine says. “I’ve seen The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival grow over the years and we hope for this festival to do the same.”
“We’ve learned a lot over the years as The Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival has grown, and we’re using that knowledge to put up a supportive, well-run festival just like we’ve always done. But since we won’t be focused on just sketch comedy, we’ll be learning a lot over the next few months.”
The Chicago Women’s Funny Festival is taking applications through April 1.